You Now Need To Make $300k To Feel Like You’re Making $100k In These Three Cities

The famous Painted Ladies houses of San Francisco

Once upon a time, a six-figure salary was the ultimate symbol of financial success, but in today’s world, earning $100k may not be as impressive as it once was. 

In an era with sky-high inflation and astronomical housing costs, $100,000 a year isn’t what it used to be. In fact, one survey recently found that 60% of millennials making $100,000 still live paycheck to paycheck. 

Another study found that a $100,000 salary in New York City only comes out to making $35,791 when adjusted for cost-of-living and taxes

This raises an interesting question. If you live in an expensive city like New York, how much money would you need to make to actually feel like you’re making $100,000? 

Cities where $300k is the new $100k

SmartAsset provided some additional perspective on the true value of a six figure salary in the United States.

According to new cost-of-living and taxes adjustments, there are three cities in the United States where a person needs to make $300,000 a year to feel like they’re making a $100,000 a year salary. 

SmartAsset found that residents of Honolulu, New York City, and San Francisco  need to make $300,000 a year to feel like they’re at a $100,000 salary. Residents in these three cities are taxed roughly 40.5% or higher. The cost of living in these three cities is more than 82% above the national average.

Here’s the income needed to feel like you’re making $100,000 in the 15 most expensive cities in the United States right now, according to SmartAsset’s adjustments for cost-of-living and taxes. 

Note that most of these cities are on the coasts. 

  •  Honolulu, HI – $312,400
  • New York, NY –  $312,000
  • San Francisco, CA – $310,700
  • Oakland, CA – $245,600
  • Los Angeles, CA (Tie) – $245,300
  • Long Beach, CA (Tie) – $245,300
  • Washington, DC – $244,700
  • San Diego, CA – $235,600
  • Boston, MA – $226,600
  • Seattle, WA – $212,900
  • Arlington, VA – $210,100
  • Portland, OR – $201,200
  • Stockton, CA – $189,100
  • Newark, NJ – $183,100
  • Sacramento, CA – $182,800

Where do you have to earn the least to feel like you’re making $100,000?

So where does making $100k actually feel like making $100k? There are still plenty of cities where cost-of-living is relatively affordable. 

Memphis, Tennessee, is the most affordable city on the SmartAsset list, with workers needing a pre-tax income of just $117,100 to feel like they’re making six figures.

El Paso, Oklahoma City, Corpus Christi, Lubbock, and Houston, all in Texas, round out the top six. Meanwhile, Arlington, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, also all in Texas, tie for seventh place, with St. Louis, Missouri, coming in at number ten. These cities boast low costs of living, low tax rates, and affordable housing options.

Living in High-Cost Cities: The Financial Struggles of Balancing City Living and Saving for the Future

Living in a city where the cost of living is high can make saving for the future feel like an impossible task.

As someone who has lived in a few different cities with varying costs of living on the coasts, I can tell you that it’s not just about paying higher prices for basic necessities like housing, food, and getting around town.

It’s about feeling like you can never get ahead, no matter how hard you work or how much you earn. Rent creeps up every year, sushi dinner dates are expensive, and going to sports games or concerts can eat into how much you’re actually putting away for the future. 

When every dollar you earn is stretched thin just to cover the basics, it can be hard to find any money left over to put towards your long-term financial goals, like saving for retirement or buying a house. Even if you are able to save a little bit each month, the high cost of living can make it feel like you’re barely making any progress, leaving you feeling frustrated and discouraged. It’s a constant battle between wanting to enjoy the benefits of city living and wanting to secure a stable financial future.

Life if the big city is exciting and full of opportunity, but those opportunities can evaporate your hard earned dollars like water in a desert.

This is why it’s important to keep your eye on the prize when it comes to saving and spending, especially when you’re in the early years of your career

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.