It’s no secret that the same paycheck will go much further in some parts of the country than others. GOBankingRates surveyed the costs of groceries, utilities, transportation, health insurance and housing in America’s 100 biggest cities and found that 13 of them require annual incomes of at least $80,000 to get by on the 50/30/20 strategy. That’s a financial rule that requires 50 percent of income to be budgeted for necessities, 30 percent for splurges and 20 percent for savings.
Click through to find out how much it costs to live comfortably in major U.S. cities.
13. Nashville, Tenn. — $80,548
50 percent for necessities: $40,274
30 percent for splurges: $24,164
20 percent for savings: $16,110
The median household income in Music City is $49,891, which is a difference of $30,657 — or 61.4 percent — between what you’d need to live comfortably in Tennessee’s capital and what the typical resident actually earns. The region is home to 1.8 million people who make up a diverse and well-educated workforce.
12. San Diego — $83,257
50 percent for necessities: $41,628
30 percent for splurges: $24,977
20 percent for savings: $16,651
San Diego is the first of six California cities — nearly half of the entire list — that require you to earn at least $80,000 a year to live a comfortable life. There’s a 22.2 percent difference between what the typical resident earns and what the typical resident needs to enjoy a cozy life in the SoCal destination city. The median household income in San Diego is $68,117, which is $15,140 short.
11. Miami — $85,101
50 percent for necessities: $42,550
30 percent for splurges: $25,530
20 percent for savings: $17,020
Nowhere in the top 13 is there a bigger gap between what residents need and what they earn than there is in Miami. The median household income in the glamorous hot spot is a not-so-glamorous $31,642. That’s $53,459 — or a whopping 168.9 percent — short of what residents there would need to satisfy the 50/30/20 rule.
10. Honolulu — $85,367
50 percent for necessities: $42,683
30 percent for splurges: $25,610
20 percent for savings: $17,073
In Honolulu, the median household income is a respectable $77,161, which is just $8,206 — or 10.6 percent — less than what’s needed to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. Just one other city enjoys a narrower gap. The island paradise is a tourist hot spot, and every year, millions of visitors contribute billions of dollars to the economy.
9. Anaheim, Calif. — $86,721
50 percent for necessities: $43,360
30 percent for splurges: $26,016
20 percent for savings: $17,344
The second California city on the list is Anaheim, where there’s a big 40.3 percent gap between the $61,826 median household and the $86,721 you need for a prosperous life there. That’s a difference of $24,895. The median home value in the hot Anaheim real estate market is $590,800, according to Zillow.
8. Los Angeles — $87,260
50 percent for necessities: $43,630
30 percent for splurges: $26,178
20 percent for savings: $17,452
Close on the heels of its Southern California neighbors of San Diego and Anaheim is Los Angeles, where the median household income is $51,538. The $35,722 gap between what typical residents earn and what they need represents a difference of nearly 70 percent. In 2017, the combined economies of Los Angeles and Orange County passed the $1 trillion mark.
7. Boston — $88,967
50 percent for necessities: $44,484
30 percent for splurges: $26,690
20 percent for savings: $17,793
In Boston, you can still live well on less than $89,000. The problem is, the median household only earns $58,516. That’s a difference of $30,451 — or 52 percent. Several booming neighborhoods are driving economic growth that the city hasn’t experienced in a generation, much of which is driven by a robust and diverse field of tech-related startups.
6. Seattle — $89,248
50 percent for necessities: $44,624
30 percent for splurges: $26,774
20 percent for savings: $17,850
Like most of the cities on this list, Seattle is on the West Coast — and it’s the final city where $90,000 will get you by. The median household income, however, is just $74,458. That’s $14,790 — or just shy of 20 percent — less than the salary needed to live comfortably. Seattle has experienced stunning growth in recent years, adding 220,000 jobs in the last decade alone, thanks to the presence of Amazon and 30 other Fortune 500 companies that call the city home.
5. Washington, D.C. — $90,811
50 percent for necessities: $45,405
30 percent for splurges: $27,243
20 percent for savings: $18,162
The nation’s capital marks the beginning of the cities that are so expensive that even a $90,000 salary won’t be enough to ward off financial anxiety. But the median household there earns just $72,935, which means the typical resident will come up $17,876 — or nearly 25 percent — short every year.
4. Oakland, Calif. — $95,611
50 percent for necessities: $47,806
30 percent for splurges: $28,683
20 percent for savings: $19,122
Although you need $95,611 for a smooth life in Oakland, the median household income is just $57,778. That’s a painfully large gap of $37,833, or 65.5 percent. Even though the economy is strong in Oakland, the city is facing a fiscal crisis. A $100 million budget shortfall is expected next year if the city moves forward without budget cuts or tax hikes.
3. San Jose, Calif. — $99,431
50 percent for necessities: $49,716
30 percent for splurges: $29,829
20 percent for savings: $19,886
No city on this list has a median household income higher than the $90,303 found in San Jose. Even still, that’s $9,128 — or 10.1 percent — less than what is needed for a cozy life in the Bay Area city. Thanks largely to the tech industry, San Jose boasts the fastest-growing economy in all of California.
2. New York — $99,667
50 percent for necessities: $49,833
30 percent for splurges: $29,900
20 percent for savings: $19,933
The only top-four city not located in California is New York City. You can get by there on less than six figures — but not by much. The median household income, however, is just $55,191. That’s a difference of $44,476 — a crushing 80.6 percent wealth gap. The Big Apple’s housing market has taken a hit recently, and the median sale price for an apartment in Manhattan dropped below $2 million for the first time in two years.
1. San Francisco — $123,268
50 percent for necessities: $61,634
30 percent for splurges: $36,980
20 percent for savings: $24,654
New York City flirts with the six-figure mark, but San Francisco blasts past it and then some. The median household income of $87,101 isn’t nearly enough for a secure life in the tech capital of the world. In fact, it’s $36,167 — or 41.5 percent — short. The city’s powerhouse economy, however, isn’t limited to tech. According to Forbes, the 30 financial institutions that call San Francisco home make the city one of America’s biggest financial hubs — and it’s also a major international tourist destination.
Click to find out if your city’s cost of living is expected to soar this year.
About the Author
Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street’s investment community in New York City.