15 U.S. Cities Where A $100,000 Salary Doesn’t Go Far

Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California to illustrate a city with a high cost of living

There’s no denying it: A dollar just doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. A recent study found that 60% of millennials making over $100,000 are living paycheck-to-paycheck as members of the American middle class. In many American cities, you need a side hustle just to pay rent and live comfortably, let alone save up for a home or plan for retirement.  

Depending on where you live, you’re probably getting squeezed for increasingly expensive housing, food, transportation, and healthcare. That dreamy $100,000 salary probably doesn’t feel like the six figure income you always aspired for, especially when adjusted for taxes and other market-specific cost-of-living factors. 

SmartAsset recently crunched the numbers to create a list of what $100,000 feels like in 76 of the largest U.S. cities

To do this, they calculated the after-tax incomes in these cities and then adjusted those figures for the cost of living in each city using their Paycheck Calculator. According to the website, this tool calculates a true take-home pay after accounting to federal, state and local taxes. They then divide this by a cost-of-living number calculated from data from the Council for Community and Economic Research.

U.S. cities where $100,000 doesn’t go far

The results show where people are taking a serious haircut on their $100,000 a year salary thanks to taxes and a high cost of living, which is only increasing with inflation. 

In fact, there are 10 cities on the list where $100,000, after taxes and cost-of-living adjustments, feels less than $50,000 a year. 

These are the 15 cities on the list where there are serious inflationary headaches. Here are the 15 cities at the bottom of the list, where $100,000 doesn’t go that far, in descending order: 

  • Baltimore, MD – $58,995
  • Sacramento, CA – $57,669
  • Newark, NJ – $57,082
  • Stockton, CA – $55,962
  • Portland, OR – $54,333
  • Arlington, VA – $49,989
  • Seattle, WA – $48,959
  • Boston, MA – $46,588
  • Oakland, CA – $46,198
  • San Diego, CA – $46,167
  • Los Angeles – $44,623
  • Washington, DC – $44,307
  • San Francisco – $36,445
  • Honolulu – $36,026
  • New York – $35,791

$100,000 feeling like $35,791 in New York City stings. That sure doesn’t leave much for extra circulars, especially if you’re looking to enjoy its legendary food, shopping, and entertainment scenes. 

A big appeal for these fast-paced cities on the coasts is the diverse array of culture, entertainment, and job opportunities, with earnings well beyond a modest $100,000 a year. Coastal cities often attract young college graduates at the beginning of their careers in specific sectors. That said, the exciting urban atmosphere and professional aspirations of a career-driven city like San Francisco, Washington D.C., or Los Angeles also come with expensive price tags, especially when it comes to housing and taxes. 

U.S. cities were $100,000 goes the furthest

On the other side of the coin, these are the major U.S. cities at the top of the SmartAsset list, where $100,000 goes the furthest.

To no surprise, many cities where $100,000 actually feels closer to a $100,000 salary are in Texas, Tennessee, and the Midwest, famed for lower living costs and taxes.

These are the cities where you’ll be holding onto your money the longest. 

  • Nashville, TN – $77,782
  • Fort Wayne, IN – $78,309
  • Columbus, OH – $78,574
  • Jacksonville, FL – $79,019
  • Tulsa, OK – $79,527
  • St. Louis, MO – $79,921
  • San Antonio, TX (Tie) $80,124
  • Fort Worth, TX (Tie) $80,124
  • Arlington, TX (Tie) $80,124
  • Houston, TX – $81,171
  • Lubbock, TX – $83,350
  • Corpus Christi, TX – $83,443
  • Oklahoma City, OK – $84,498
  • El Paso, TX – $84,966
  • Memphis, TN – $86,444

So what’s the big deal about $100,000?

If you’re seeking happiness and thinking about how it correlates to your financial situation, a study found that 20% of the participants did not experience a rise in happiness even after their income reached $100,000. On the other hand, the researchers found that happiness generally continued to increase with rising income for the remaining 80% of participants.

Living in a high cost of living city can put a major strain on your wallet, leaving you with more bills than thrills.

But sometimes you have to be in the right place at the right time. Depending on what you want in life, the risk of city-living can be worth the reward, especially if you aspire to a career with earnings that go far beyond the $100,000 mark. 

B. Carlisle

Contributing editor at Wealth Gang. An entrepreneur at heart, he's passionate about meaningful ways to leverage technology and social media for business opportunities and side hustles.