Sat. Mar 25th, 2023

A six-figure salary has long been seen as a marker of financial success. But with the ever-rising cost of living, $100,000 doesn’t offer much by way of financial security in a number of big U.S. cities. 

In fact, in the priciest locales — New York, San Francisco and Honolulu — $100,000 buys you the same quality of life as someone making $36,000 per year almost anywhere else in the nation, according to a new analysis from personal finance website SmartAsset. 

For the report, SmartAsset used its paycheck calculator to remove state, federal and local taxes from a $100,000 salary, then adjusted the remainder based on each city’s relative cost of living.

The place that offers the biggest bang for your buck? Memphis, Tennessee, where a six-figure earner would have the equivalent of $86,000 left after taxes. Tennessee has no personal income taxes, leaving the hypothetical worker with $74,500 after federal taxes. But Memphis’ low cost of living makes that equivalent to take-home pay of $86,400 elsewhere around the U.S.

Most locals make far less than that amount, it’s worth noting. The median household in the Memphis metro area earns $55,000 per year, lower than the national median of nearly $70,000.

Texas was another major winner in SmartAsset’s rankings, with seven of the top 10 cheapest cities in the calculation: El Paso, Corpus Christi, Lubbock, Houston, San Antonio, Fort Worth and Arlington. 

On the other end of the spectrum, New York ranked dead last in affordability, with a $100,000 salary in the Big Apple equivalent to just $36,000 in take-home pay elsewhere in the nation. 

California features heavily on the least-affordable list, with the 10 priciest cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego and Oakland. About 4 in 10 households in the state make over $100,000, census data show, but the price of housing in the state has skyrocketed to the point where a four-person family making six figures qualifies for federal assistance in San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area.

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