Saturday, May 18, 2024

Top 10 cities with the lowest and highest salaries needed to live comfortably

SmartAsset determines the average salary needed to live alone or support a family comfortably in major U.S. cities.

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While cost of living premiums and inflation metrics capture the price increases in goods and services, they do not necessarily account for all the additional costs needed to live comfortably – such as a buffer from the stress of living paycheck to paycheck.

The 50/30/20 budget recommends that for sustainable comfort, 50% of your salary should be allocated to your needs, such as housing, groceries and transportation; 30% toward wants like entertainment and hobbies; and 20% toward paying off debt, saving or investing. Applying the local cost of necessities and taxes to this rule, SmartAsset derives the pre-tax salary needed to live comfortably in 99 U.S. cities.

Key findings

  • On average, an individual needs $96,500 for sustainable comfort in a major U.S. city. This includes being able to pay off debt and invest for the future. It's even more expensive for families, who need to make an average combined income of about $235,000 to support two adults and two children without the pressure of living paycheck to paycheck.
  • A family must make over $300k to raise two kids comfortably in six cities. Two working adults need to make a particularly high combined income in San Francisco ($339,123); San Jose ($334,547); Boston ($319,738); Arlington, VA ($318,573); New York City ($318,406); and Oakland, CA ($316,243) to raise two children with enough money for needs, wants and savings.
  • It takes the most money to live comfortably as a single person in New York City. This breaks down to $66.62 in hourly wages, or an annual salary of $138,570. To cover necessities as a single person in New York City, you'll need an estimated $70,000 in wages.

Top 10 cities with the lowest salaries needed to live comfortably

table showing salary needed to live comfortably in 15 U.S. cities

SmartAsset

1. Houston, Texas
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $36.10
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $75,088
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $175,219

2. El Paso, Texas
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $36.18
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $75,254
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $180,461

3. Lubbock, Texas
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $36.24
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $75,379
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $181,043

4. Toledo, Ohio
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $37.26
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $77,501
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $208,416

5. Laredo, Texas
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $37.72
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $78,458
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $179,046

6. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $38.30
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $79,664
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $237,952

7. Lexington, Kentucky
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $38.46
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $79,997
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $196,102

8. Tulsa, Oklahoma
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $38.98
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $81,078
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $199,430

9. Wichita, Kansas
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $39.04
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $81,203
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $186,784

10. Cleveland, Ohio
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $39.32
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $81,786
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $217,984

Top 10 cities with the highest salaries needed to live comfortably

1. New York City, New York
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $66.62
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $138,570
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $318,406

2. San Jose, California
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $65.74
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $136,739
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $334,547

3. Irvine, California
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $60.96
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $126,797
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $291,450

4. Santa Ana, California
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $60.96
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $126,797
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $291,450

5. Boston, Massachusetts
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $60.08
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $124,966
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $319,738

6. San Diego, California
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $59.04
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $122,803
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $289,453

7. Chula Vista, California
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $59.04
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $122,803
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $289,453

8. San Francisco, California
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $57.48
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $119,558
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $339,123

9. Seattle, Washington
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $57.40
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $119,392
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $283,712

10. Oakland, California
Hourly wage needed for a single adult: $57.10
Annual salary needed for a single adult to live comfortably: $118,768
Combined salaries for two working adults with two children needed: $316,243

Data and methodology

SmartAsset used MIT Living Wage Calculator data to gather the basic cost of living for an individual with no children and for two working adults with two children. Data includes cost of necessities including housing, food, transportation and income taxes. It was last updated to reflect the most recent data available on Feb. 14, 2024.

Applying these costs to the 50/30/20 budget for 99 of the largest U.S. cities, MIT's living wage is assumed to cover needs (i.e. 50% of one's budget). From there the total wage was extrapolated for individuals and families to spend 30% of the total on wants and 20% on savings or debt payments.

This story was produced by SmartAsset and reviewed and distributed by Stacker Media.