If you can make it here

LIHUE — Mia Custer understands that living in paradise isn’t easy.

“It’s tough for sure,” the Lihue resident said. “It was better when I was a kid and my parents paid for everything but, I don’t know, I just work a lot really.”

Custer, who works for Sell Everything Hawaii, is one of the many Hawaii residents who understands the difficulties of making ends meet in Hawaii.

So is Etang Pajarillo of Eleele, a farmer and vendor at the local farmers market.

“If you want to make a comfortable living, here, can,” Pajarillo said. “You just have to spend wisely, and budget.”

Pajarillo, who learned her trade of farming from her father, said the secret to getting by on Kauai is to work hard.

“You just need to keep on working,” Pajarillo added. “There’s no such thing as retirement. Main thing — no pio (shut off) my light.”

A national study conducted by moneyrates.com ranked Hawaii the worst state to try and make a living.

Oregon and Maine rounded out the top 3 for the dubious distinction.

Each state was analyzed on average wages, state tax wages, cost of living, unemployment rate, and the incidents of workplace illness, injury and fatalities, by the website that monitors bank rates, personal finance, savings accounts and investing.

A big reason Hawaii earned the No. 1 spot was because it has the highest cost of living out of any state.

Hawaii also has one of the highest income taxes of any state with workers in Hawaii receiving the equivalent of 55 cents for every dollar they make when adjusted for taxes and the living cost, according to the report.

Kauai Juice Company Owner Kristal Muhich said she loves having a business on Kauai but has experienced cost challenges of running it.

“Since I started with no capital I learned how to get creative and make up for the lack of finances by just physically working harder and longer,” Muhich said. “Our taxes and insurance costs are the hardest to stay on top of.”

The average income is $46,230 in Hawaii. Meantime, the average value of a house in the state is $537,300 which is simply too high for some buyers, according to moneyrates.com.

Kalaheo resident Barbara Anderson, who has lived on Kauai for 30 years, said she learned to adapt to the price of paradise.

“I think it’s a struggle, fortunately my husband and I were able to buy a home and settle here but for your kids,” she said. “They’ve gone to the Mainland because it’s very difficult to settle down to buy a home, to raise a family.”

Anderson said she has been fortunate with her employment but sees friends struggle.

“For a lot of people that I know that live here, they’re working two or three jobs and they don’t see their significant other or children as much as they would want to and be able to be with them,” she said.

Gabriel Zingaro, a manager for Kauai Pasta, said high costs are a huge part of trying to run a business and living on Kauai.

“It’s been both enjoyable and difficult at times and it really depends on the lifestyle you wish to lead,” Zingaro said.

The other top 10 worst states to make a living included West Virginia, Vermont, California, Montana, South Dakota, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

The top 10 best states to make a living including Texas, Washington, Wyoming, Virginia, Illinois, Delaware, Ohio, Colorado, Utah and Michigan.

Residents like Anderson say costs can be overcome.

“You’ve just got to persevere, that’s what it’s all about,” Anderson said. “We stay here, like most people do, we stay here because this is our home. I mean there’s no place more beautiful.”


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