HARLINGEN — A great place to live. Fairly-priced homes. Low cost-of-living expenses.

Recent online headlines name Harlingen as an affordable city in which to live, work and retire.

Several websites such as Insure.com, a major insurance carrier, the financial news website Kiplinger.com and cbsnews.com, hold Harlingen to be the lowest cost of living area in the country.

These websites specialize in conducting research that ranks areas based on the prices of housing, utilities, grocery items, transportation, health care and miscellaneous goods and services.

Kiplinger.com mentions how groceries to gas prices are the lowest in Harlingen compared to other areas in the country.

However, it also mentions 29.8 percent of residents live below the poverty line.

Local experts agree there is more to the numbers reported by these online sources.

Realtors Outlook

According to data provided by the Harlingen Board of Realtors, it is estimated that Harlingen currently has more homeowners than renters.

“Affordability in Harlingen and Texas has always been lower than the rest of the country, and it is a good thing. When people look to move, they want to ensure that they are financially comfortable and can live within their means,” Sue Ann Taubert, President of Harlingen Board of Realtors, said.

“Low cost of living is attractive to new homeowners, young couples, and in our field, to new businesses that want to relocate to a more affordable area,” Taubert said.

Education

Pat Hobbs, Executive Director of Workforce Solutions Cameron, said the city has more jobs available than people to fill them, but most available jobs are white collar.

“Our economy is built on four industries: health, retail, education and government. Most of our jobs are in those industries, but most people work in the lower end of each of those industries,” Hobbs said.

The Harlingen Economic Development Corporation’s data shows 35 percent of jobs are blue collar and 64 percent are white collar.

“Now if you want a job you have to have the credentials in an occupation that is in demand. It is not that easy anymore. In school you must do research on which jobs will be viable 10 years from now,” Hobbs said.

“Right now we are pushing everyone toward a four-year bachelor’s degree but those jobs are not in demand anymore,” he said.

According to Hobbs what is in demand is technical workforce opportunities.

He said for the past 20 years there has not been much training in those areas because school systems are pushing students toward four-year bachelor’s degrees.

Hobbs said liquefied natural gas industries are coming this way and job opportunities will open up, but higher wages would make a difference.

According to him, a welder in Cameron County makes less than a welder working in Corpus Christi.

“Low wages are not something we want to be famous for, but right now we are. Companies take advantage of it. Lower wages mean more profit but that is something we need to change,” he said.

Retirement Area

In essence, numbers show Harlingen to be one of the most affordable areas to live in.

Yet, data also show those who can afford living above the poverty line are people with college degrees and not technical jobs.

SmartAsset.com, a financial advising website, released a study that factored in expenses for housing, food, health care, utilities and more to determine where $1 million covers retirement costs for the longest time period.

The study found $1 million lasts 31.68 years of retirement in Harlingen.

The city ranks number one out of 268 cities included in the study nationwide.

Data demonstrate Harlingen to be the perfect place for retirement, however according to job opportunity numbers, future generations might have to retire somewhere else.

By The Numbers

– As of the 2017 U.S. Census, there were 68,150 people, 22,844 households in Harlingen.

– Winter Texans are a significant contributor to its economy.

– The median income for a household in the city was $30,296, and the median income for a family was $34,015.

– Males had a median income of $27,014 versus $21,795 for females.

– About 19% of families and 25% of the population were below the poverty line.

SOURCE: Harlingen Economic Development Corporation website