If you’ve visited the majestic seaside city of San Diego in southern California, then you’re well aware that it’s one of the most scenic, clean, and pleasantly-temperate cities in the entire country. However, you probably already realize that it’s not cheap to live, stay, or play in San Diego. So, today we’re going to take a look at what’s inside the wallet of the average San Diego consumer, from credit score to debt, real estate, and income.



We may think of San Diego as a second-city to Los Angeles or San Francisco, but the city actually holds 1.37 million residents, making it the 8thlargest city in the entire United States! While southern California used to be known as a retirement mecca, San Diego is now a relatively young season, with a median age of 34.9 years and 25% of residents younger than 25 years old.


Credit and credit scores in San Diego

While San Diego may be one of the nicest cities in the country and has one of the most expensive real estate markets, credit and credit scores are lagging far behind. In fact, San Diego residents rank as having the lowest average credit scores among the top 20 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S.

The average credit score in San Diego is now only 678 out of a possible 300 to 850 range (Vantage Score by Experian). When it comes to FICO Scores, San Diego ranks only slightly better with a 696 average credit score, which is just 18thout of all California cities.

Just as concerning is the distribution of credit scores across San Diego residents.

53.5% of San Diego residents have a poor credit score (550-649) or very poor score (350-550), and just a little more than one-third of the population of the city (36.2%) have excellent credit scores, defined as 750-850.

What’s the possible reason for relatively low credit scores in such a wealthy and high-income city? It could be just that, as the high cost of housing, homes, and living have forced more residents to take on a higher proportion of credit card balances and other debt, driving their scores down.


Debt levels in San Diego

As mentioned above, San Diego is surprisingly awash in debt – and their credit scores are suffering because of it. If we tally up all household debt, we see that the average San Diego is $28,240 in debt. Of that, $8,665 is average credit card debt, which ranks 35th-most out of all U.S. cities.

But this is especially true for Millennials and younger San Diegans. In fact, the average San Diego consumer who is between 18-34 years old holds $2,989 in debt, which is the fourth highest percentage of all U.S. cities.

High debt loads and credit card balances contribute to lower credit scores in San Diego.


Employment and Job Growth

The thriving economic climate in San Diego reflects in their unemployment rates. In fact, San Diego now has a 3.7 unemployment rate, which is lower than the U.S average of 3.9. However, it’s interesting to note that while the U.S. unemployment rate has dropped from 4.1% to 3.9% over the last year, San Diego’s unemployment rate has actually risen, from 3.4% over the same period.

It’s worth noting that tourism is a major draw for the city of San Diego, bringing in 34.9 million visitors each year, spending $10.4 billion and creating 183,000 jobs, directly or indirectly.


Where are residents employed?

Where do San Diego residents go to work every morning? There are nearly 1.5 million non-farm jobs in the San Diego community, and here is how they break down:

  • Government 254,400 employees
  • White Collar (professional & business) 252,500 employees
  • Trade, transportation, and utilities 219,800 employees
  • Education and health services 216,300 employees
  • Leisure and hospitality 198,800 employees
  • Manufacturing 114,300 employees
  • Construction 81,900 employees
  • Financial 75,300 employees
  • Other service jobs 56,800 employees
  • Information tech 23,600 employees

Interestingly, the fastest growing sector over the last year has been Education and health services, which added 3.7% more jobs over the last year, followed by manufacturing at +2.9%.



Approximately 50% of all adult San Diego residents are homeowners, with the other 50% renting or living in some other housing arrangement. That’s significantly lower than the U.S. homeownership average of 64.9% but consistent with homeownership rates among high-cost major metropolitan cities.


Rental Market

The median monthly rent in San Diego is now $2,995, making it one of the top 25 cities in the country for high costs of rent.

Just to lease an apartment, the average rent is an astounding $2,168 in San Diego, which is up 7% since last year. That’s an exorbitant amount considering that the average San Diego apartment is only 828 square feet!


The San Diego real estate market

San Diego holds one of the hottest – and perpetually most expensive – real estate markets in the entire U.S. In fact, the median list price in San Diego is now $735,000! Obviously, with prices like that, keeping a great credit score is important when buying a home in San Diego, and buyers with top-flight Fico’s often save the most.

Last year, the median list price in San Diego was $759,000, so homes have risen approximately 3% in value based on that data.

There are currently 3,089 homes for sale in the San Diego region, which is up a concerning 17% since just this time last year.

The median home size for all current listings is 1,538 square feet, so the price per square foot is approximately $470.



The average weekly wage for all San Diegans is approximately $1,148, which is marginally higher than the average U.S. weekly wage of $1,055.

But the average household income for all San Diego residents is $100,830, which is still 8% lower than the California state average.


How much do people get paid in San Diego?

It’s definitely not cheap to live in San Diego, one of the best cities in the U.S., so let’s take a peek at the income that San Diegans take home. In total, the average hourly wage for all occupations in the San Diego area is $27.93. Breaking it down by occupation, we find:

  • Financial managers $68.58/hour
  • Registered nurses $47.33/hour
  • Accountants & Auditors $41.86/hour
  • Chemists $41.66/hour
  • Electro/Mechanical Techs $29.63/hour
  • Construction laborers $22.12/hour
  • Security guards $15.02/hour
  • Retail salespersons $14.84/hour
  • Cooks, fast food workers $12.53/hour

Expenses and spending

We’ve looked at what’s in the average San Diegan’s wallet, but let’s look at what’s going out from their wallets! A breakdown of the average San Diego resident’s annual expenditures looks like this:

  • 35.9% Housing (rent or mortgage)
  • 13.3% Transportation
  • 12.5% Food
  • 12.2% Personal insurance & pensions
  • 6.6% Healthcare
  • 19.4% All other expenses

Over the last calendar year, prices paid for all items and goods have gone up by 2.2% in San Diego, with food costs alone jumping up by 3.4%. However, energy costs have gone down 0.3% over the last year, resulting in savings.


If you’re a San Diego resident and want help improving your credit score, qualifying for a home loan, or just saving a lot of money, contact Blue Water Credit for a complimentary credit repair consultation!