A new study from the ominously named CIA Landlord Insurance, a UK-based firm, places Lisbon among “the least financially viable cities to live in the world,” behind only Rome and London.
The insurance company takes as its basis average rent, living expenses and salary data from Numbeo.com, which states the average one-bedroom apartment in Lisbon city center is €858 euros, while a three-bedroom is €1,712.
That makes Lisbon’s rent, on average, about 72% lower than in New York, according to Numbeo, a Serbian crowd-sourced cost-of-living database that had over 3,000 entries about Lisbon over the past 12 months.
But the average monthly salary in Lisbon, after tax, is €1,032, according to Numbeo. And a single person’s estimated monthly cost of living in Portugal’s capital, not counting rent, is €566.
CIA Landlord Insurance takes the average salary and subtracts the cost of a three-bedroom rental and the estimated monthly cost of living for one person and ends up with a negative balance of £975, or about €1,148, per month.
Even Paris, apparently, is more financially viable, with the average person only ending up with a negative balance of €900 every month, according to the insurers.
It’s unclear how the average-earning Lisbon city center resident can expect to fill what CIA Landlord Insurance calls “a gap between salaries and bills.”
As many immigrants to Lisbon find out, quite a few Portuguese live in homes they have inherited from their family — before a few years ago, no one wanted to live here, so houses and apartments were plentiful and cheap.
But that’s changed drastically, and most empty places in Lisbon have been turned into luxury apartments for sale or, usually, far less luxury Airbnbs, often completely unregistered.
Now, foreigners account for a huge proportion of the city, it’s true, but not all of them are “entrepreneurs” and/or working for Silicon Valley startups or London marketing agencies, and many of them are earning right around the average, or less.
And not all of Lisbon’s residents can work two jobs. And not all of them are living off mom and dad or a dead grandma’s stash of wealth.
The question of where the money comes from arises often when one lives in Lisbon. But the money is here.
A drive around the country’s highways — many of them with outrageously expensive tolls — will demonstrate the abundance of luxury SUVs from Mercedes and Jaguar, with Portuguese license plates. We even have Tesla taxis in Lisbon (and even used Teslas start at around €50,000). These drivers aren’t known for carpooling, either, and Portugal’s gasoline is among the highest in Europe now, according to Cargopedia.
Perhaps most of the people driving such ostentatious displays of prosperity are saving money by living in the countryside in large communes with like-minded vegan savers.
Perhaps some are Californians who moved here and are saving “so much money here, it feels criminal.”
Perhaps everyone but you bought Bitcoin at the right time.
And perhaps it’s time to move?
So what are the most financially viable cities to live, you ask? Bern, in Switzerland, takes top marks, with an average monthly salary of €5,030 leaving its residents, on average, €1,422 euros a month after covering rent for a three-bedroom apartment and living expenses, according to CIA Landlord Insurance. That’s followed by Derby and Coventry in the U.K., Canberra in Australia, Stoke-on-rent in the U.K., and Washington, D.C., the U.S. capital.