Hitting a six-figure salary has long been seen as a marker of financial success. But with the ever-rising cost of living, $100,000 can fall far short of financial security in many of the nation’s largest cities.
In fact, in the priciest locales — New York, San Francisco and Honolulu — $100,000 gets one the same quality of life as someone making $36,000 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 winner? Memphis, Tennessee, where a six-figure earner would have the equivalent of $86,000 left after taxes.
Tennessee doesn’t have personal income taxes, leaving the hypothetical worker with $74,500 after federal taxes are taken out, but Memphis’ ultra-low cost of living makes that equivalent to take-home pay of $86,400 elsewhere in the country.
Of course, most locals make far less than that amount, with the median household in the Memphis metro area earning just $55,000.
Texas was another major winner in SmartAsset’s rankings, holding 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 worst 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.