The rising cost of living continues to take a bite out of American’s budgets. From groceries and utilities to transportation and housing, earning enough income to live comfortably as a single person in the U.S. is more difficult in these 25 U.S. cities, according to a recent SmartAsset report. 

In fact, to live comfortably in 99 of the largest U.S. metro areas, you’ll need a median income of $93,933. In New York, the amount is $138,570. 

Comfortable is defined as earning enough income to cover a 50/30/20 budget, where 50% of your income each month pays for necessities, 30% covers discretionary spending and 20% is set aside for savings and investments or paying down debt. 

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more – straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice – straight to your e-mail.

New York the most expensive city for singles

  • New York City tips the scale as the city where you must earn the most money to live comfortably. To cover basic necessities as a single person in New York City, you’ll need an annual salary of $138,570, and an estimated $70,000 in wages.
  • An individual needs $96,500, on average, to live comfortably in a major U.S. city. That figure is even higher for families, who need to earn an average combined income of about $235,000 to support two adults and two children.
  • To raise two kids and still live comfortably in six U.S. cities, a family must earn over $300k. The six cities are: 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). 
  • Seven cities where a single person must earn the most to live comfortably are located in California. Texas claims four cities where a single person can earn less and still live comfortably, while the remaining six cities are located in the Midwest. 

Using the MIT Living Wage Calculator, Smart Asset gathered data for 99 of the largest U.S. cities. We’re looking at the ten cities with the highest and the lowest annual salary needed for a single adult to live in sustainable comfort using the 50/30/20 budgeting rule.

Top 10 cities with the highest salary needed to live comfortably

Swipe to scroll horizontally

Rank City Hourly wage needed Annual salary needed
1 New York, New York $66.62 $138,570
2 San Jose, California $65.74 $136,739
3 Irvine, California $60.96 $126,797
4 Santa Ana, California $60.96 $126,797
5 Boston, Massachusetts $60.08 $124,966
6 San Diego, California $59.04 $122,803
7 Chula Vista, California $59.04 $122,803
8 San Francisco, California $57.48 $119,558
9 Seattle, Washington $57.40 $119,392
10 Oakland, California $57.10 $118,768

Top 10 cities with the lowest salary needed to live comfortably

Swipe to scroll horizontally

Rank City Hourly wage needed Annual salary needed
1 Houston, Texas $36.10 $75,088
2 El Paso, Texas $36.18 $75,254
3 Lubbock, Texas $36.24 $75,379
4 Toledo, Ohio $37.26 $77,501
5 Laredo, Texas $37.72 $78,458
6 Milwaukee, Wisconsin $38.30 $79,664
7 Lexington, Kentucky $38.46 $79,997
8 Tulsa, Oklahoma $38.98 $81,078
9 Wichita, Kansas $39.04 $81,203
10 Cleveland, Ohio $39.32 $81,786

From metro areas on both coasts to the Midwest, weigh the pros and cons

The difference between the priciest places to live and cheapest places to live in the U.S. is glaring. While employers in high-cost cities typically offer higher-than-average salaries, rent and housing costs can make it difficult to pay for essentials, while also paying off debt and saving for a rainy day. 

On the other hand, high-paying Jobs can be harder to come by in lower cost areas, even if housing and other expenses are more affordable. 

Related Content

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *