Home Money Consciousness 15 US Cities Where People Can Earn Six Figures & Still Be Broke
Money Consciousness

15 US Cities Where People Can Earn Six Figures & Still Be Broke

SimiJanuary 30, 2018

Earning six figures a year is a dream for many. It is the reason why people slog their way through college and why they battle crippling student loans their whole life. It is why they struggle through internships, which are basically indentured labor. Financial security is a goal that most of us have. We want to reach the end of the month and not be exasperated at the notion of paying bills. If we are lucky enough to land a job that provides us with a six-figure salary, then that is even better. But six figures are not necessarily as much as you would initially think.

There are some cities where the cost of living is so high, six figures are only enough to make ends meet with a small bit of money left open for wiggle room. The list which follows identifies 15 cities that are expensive enough to make a six-figure earning person still feel incredibly broke come to the end of the month. This is done by looking at the tax climate and cost of living in American cities.

Cities where the percentage of income remaining after expenses, is quite frankly shockingly low, have then been ranked further. The moral of the story being, that if you are looking for a good quality of life and having your buck stretch as far as possible, these cities are probably not the place for you. Without further ado here are the 15 most expensive cities to live in in the USA.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

15. Atlanta, Georgia

During the American Civil War, Atlanta was all but burned down. Since then, it rose like a veritable phoenix from the ashes and became largely considered the ‘’New South” capital. Atlanta is the actual capital of Georgia and is the 9th most populated metropolitan area in the United States. This city has been dubbed ‘’too busy to hate”, as it has a colorful and influential history regarding civil rights.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

In the 1960’s Atlanta played a vital role in the Civil Rights Movements as many of the movement’s leaders were from Atlanta. These include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph David Abernathy. The views of its people may be progressive, but this is generally quite relative as the comparison is made to other ‘’Deep South” cities and states. Atlanta is also a transportation hub as it is home to the busiest airport in the world. This is none other than Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Atlanta may be an international contender in the transportation sphere, but it also has one of the largest income gaps in the United States. The poverty rate in Atlanta is as high as 22.5%. Contrastingly, 48.3% of the people in this city have at least a bachelor’s degree. Meaning that 8.6% of the households earn more than $200,000 a year.  While 11.2% of the households in the city earn less than $10,000 a year.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

If one were lucky enough to earn six figures in this city, the battle is not won yet. Atlanta has the 17th highest rental prices in the country and the price of food here is actually higher than the national average. Couple this with the fact that Atlanta has some of the highest crime rates in the United States, this city is not necessarily the best option. Even for people who exist in the higher income bracket.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

14. Miami, Florida

The ‘Capital of Latin America’ was named the richest city in America by UBS in 2009. It is a major port on the Atlantic Coast and is the eighth-most populated metropolitan area in America. Since 2012 it has been classed as an Alpha Minus World City and was even declared the cleanest city in the United States in 2008. This was because the city had notably clean air, streets, drinking water and it has citywide programs that deal with recycling.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The GDP of the city of Miami sits at $257 billion, making it the 11th highest in the country. However, this value is not necessarily the best indicator of the economic history of the city. It has had some major economic setbacks which have left large portions of the population below the poverty line and even homeless. This was especially evident when the housing market crashed in 2007. The ramifications of this persisted all the way into 2012 when Forbes named it the most miserable city in the United States.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The city of Miami has an incredibly diverse economy and there is a fair amount of the population who earn 6 figure salaries. These earnings do not really stretch that far. When determining the cost of living in a city, bestplaces.net looked at how a city deviates from the national average which is 100. A city scoring above this value is one where the cost of living is higher than national averages.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The overall score that Miami was awarded was 122.80. This is clearly significantly higher than the average for the country. This trend is seen in almost every category, excluding only utilities which is 99. The largest contributor to this high cost of living is possibly housing which received a score of 157. This value was trailed by transportation at 112, health at 108, miscellaneous at 106, and groceries at 105.6.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

13. Los Angeles, California

With nearly 4 million people living here in 2016, the City of Angels is second only to New York City in terms of population size. In Southern California, it is the center of commerce, culture, and finance. The city has a long history with Spain as it was claimed in 1542 by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. It was only a few hundred years later in 1781 when it was officially founded as a city. Since then, it was a part of Mexico until the Mexican-American war in 1848. At the end of this war, the area was purchased in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and it thus became apart of the United States.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The city has been stretching and growing since 1913 when the aqueduct was completed which provided the city with water from Eastern California.  It has a diverse economy and is part of a statistical area that has the third-highest Gross Metropolitan Product in the world. The economy in this city has incredible range and is known for its role in entertainment, technology, music, and fashion as well as aerospace, finance, law, and healthcare.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

With the sheer number of fortune 500 companies based in Los Angeles along with the other mega-corporations, it is no wonder that a large percentage of the population earn $100,000 and above. In some cities this may make for a very wealthy person, this place is not Los Angeles.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Again, looking at the city in relation to a national average of 100, Los Angeles scores 166.20. This is more than a 50% deviation from national values in terms of cost of living. Like Miami, the major contributor is housing.  The score for housing is an enormous 314. With the second-highest being utilities at 110, it is abundantly clear where the majority of a person’s salary goes. The lowest scores are health and miscellaneous which are 93 and 91, respectively. These may not be as high as housing, but they aren’t that much less than the national average either.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

12. Seattle, Washington

Prior to its settlement of Europeans in 1851, the area around Seattle had been occupied by Native Americans for at least 4000 years. Since July 2013 it has experienced nationally significant growth. Before the 19th century, the most prominent industry was logging. That was eventually overtaken by shipbuilding. This was due to Seattle’s proximity to Alaska. This feature became very important during the Klondike Gold Rush. In the 20th century, this city saw another industry growth within its borders.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Microsoft based itself in Seattle in the 1980s and a few years later Amazon was founded here in 1994. This constant state of innovation and change in terms of its economy has resulted in it being in the top five fastest-growing major cities in America since July 2013. As of July 2016, its growth rate was at 3.1%. In 2010, its Gross Metropolitan Product was $231 billion, thus securing it as the 11th biggest metropolitan economy in America.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Seattle is one of the few cities that was able to partially withstand the Great Recession. It has an abundant number of start-ups, with a lot of these businesses having a clean and green technological focus. It has even been named as the ‘smartest city’ in America dues to its various environmentally friendly policies and companies. As of 2017, 5 of the Fortune 500 companies have their headquarters in Seattle.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The strength of the economy in Seattle along with the presence of multi-million-dollar companies has made for a relatively good job market. This allows for a significant number of six-figure earning families. But, when observing the cost of living in this city, it is clear that a large portion of this is spent on housing. Seattle scores 176.50 in comparison to a national value of 100. Housing comes in at 315 with the closest second being health at 116. The only value which lies below average is utilities at 94.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

11. Brooklyn, New York

This borough may have the motto ‘’Unity makes strength” and yet it has still maintained its uniqueness in comparison to the other boroughs in New York City. In terms of area, Brooklyn may be the smallest, but it is also the most populated borough and had over 2.5 million residents in 2016. Prior to the 1st of January 1891, it was an independent incorporated city. It was only in the 1890s when through the use of public relations and political campaigning, Brooklyn was joined with other boroughs, cities, and villages to from the city that is known today as New York City.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

In the years following the new millennium, Brooklyn has experienced a process of gentrification. This is comparable to the Renaissance and involves the influx of artists and intellectuals. These new inhabitants uplift an area culturally which in turn, boosts the economy. While gentrification is able to turn the tides for a city, or in this case a borough, it has an exclusionary result. Once the area has been gentrified, prices begin to rise. This is mostly in the form of housing costs. Brooklyn has not been exempted from this trend.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The economy in Brooklyn is closely tied with that of Manhattan. This is primarily due to its proximity. More than 50% of Brooklyn residents work in Manhattan. This means that when Manhattan thrives, Brooklyn and its residents thrive with it. There is also an overflow of industry between the boroughs.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

A fair amount of the residents in Brooklyn benefit from the high salaries offered in Manhattan. This borough may have been an affordable place to stay in the past, but currently, the cost of living is significantly higher than the national average. Overall Brooklyn scores 188, again with the biggest contributor being housing which has a score of 337. The other categories may not come close to this value, but they all sit between 7 and 28 points above the national average of 100.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

10. Santa Cruz, California

The city of Watsonville is predominantly dependant on agriculture and its related services. This is due to the climate which averages around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year. The produce grown in this area includes raspberries, broccoli, lettuce, cauliflower, strawberries and natural plants. With a population of only 51 199 in 2010, obviously, not all of these are consumed by the townspeople. Cities in California which receive these fruits and vegetables are Castroville, San Jose, and Santa Cruz.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Despite the fact that the major agricultural companies in Watsonville spend upwards of $280 million a year on the production and distribution of these goods, they are not even able to meet the current demands. With numbers such as these, it is clear as to why Watsonville is such an important city in the American agricultural industry.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The climate in this area of the United States may be perfect for farming but it is also a large draw for holidaymakers. The town receives many people each year from more inland regions who are in search of a coastal town. For those that are interested in making this holiday destination a permanent residence, the average household income and associated cost of living of Watsonville should first be considered.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

If monthly income after taxes is $6,291 and monthly expenses are $5,962. Then a resident of this town would be spending 95% of their income only on living expenses. When comparing this to the cost of living scores, it seems as if a large majority of this is going to housing costs. Housing scores 255 which is significantly higher than 100, which is the national average. Overall, the Watsonville cost of living score is 150. Utilities and miscellaneous are the only categories that are less than the national average, these are 93 and 97 respectively. Groceries, health, and transportation all fall between 100 and 105.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

9. Boston-Cambridge, Massachusetts

These cities make up a Metropolitan Statistical Area in Massachusetts. Combined, they have a population of just under 5 million, making it the 10th largest metropolitan area in America in 2010. This classification is done by looking at counties. For all intents and purposes, one could look at data regarding Greater Boston and then extrapolate this information for these cities.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Boston is the capital of Massachusetts and is one of the oldest American cities. It was founded in 1630 by English Puritan settlers. Its name appears countless times in the topic of the American revolution as key events such as The Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre, and the Siege of Boston all took place here. Cambridge is a city North of Boston and was named after Cambridge University in England. It is home to two of the oldest and most renowned universities in the country. These being the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard. It is only the fifth-most populated city in Massachusetts and has 105,162 residents as of 2010. Newton is a small city which is only a few miles west of Boston. It has 85,146 residents and is the 11th most populated city in the state.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The Greater Boston Area boasts the 6th biggest economy in the country and is worth over $363 billion. The economy of this area is clearly largely influenced by the numerous universities which are within these cities but there are other contributors. These include financial services, tourism, and biotechnology.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

When looking at this metropolitan area, the income a household has after tax is $6,204. Monthly expenses amount to $5,867. This means that a household will spend 95% of its income on living expenses. When the cost of living is so high in a city, it really doesn’t matter if a person is earning 6 figures.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

8. Honolulu, Hawaii

On the island of Oahu, this city is not only the capital of Hawaii, but it is also the largest city in the state. It secured its name in history books when it became the target of the Japanese attack on the 7th of December 1941. The attack happened in the early hours of the morning and was on the base Pearl Harbor very close to the city. It was named the 2nd safest city in the United States in 2015 and it had high liveability rankings.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Each year, tourism contributes $10 billion to the Hawaiian economy. Millions of people flock to the volcanic islands for a beach holiday which is like none other. They do not all stay in Honolulu but the majority of them pass through here at some point. This means that the biggest airport in Hawaii is in Honolulu.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

This means that many of the large Hawaiian airlines have their headquarters are in this city. These include Aloha Air Cargo, Island Air, and Hawaiian Airlines. Military research, manufacturing, development, and defense all still play a rather large role in the economy of the city. Its location in the Pacific Ocean has also made it a center for trade which is being done from East to West and vice versa.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The average household income after taxes sits at $6,098. While 95% of this is spent on living expenses which sum up at $5,796. This is reflected in the overall cost of living rating for Urban Honolulu which is 199.80. As with previous cities, this is largely due to the housing which scores at 342. Other relatively large contributors to this elevated cost of living are the price of groceries and utilities. Groceries have a score of 152 and utilities come in at 165. All the other categories fall well above the national average of 100.  

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

7. Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, Hawaii

These form another Metropolitan Statistical Area in America. According to the census done in July 2016, this area had a population of 165,474. Kahului is on the island of Maui. It is home to the main airport of the island, Kahului Airport. The city is not a tourist destination, but it does have some attractions. These include Maui Arts and Culture Centre, Alexander and Baldwin Sugar Museum, and the Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary. Some of the larger employees in Kahului are Macy’s, Walmart, Maui Electric Company, and Aloha Air Cargo.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Wailuku is also on the island of Maui and is found West of Kahului. This city was once a tourist destination at the beginning of the 20th century. This is not the status quo in the present-day and the city does not even have hotels anymore. Notable employees here include Maui County, Pacific Whale Foundation, Maui Ocean Centre, Kaiser Permanente, Towne Island Homes, The Maui News, and the Maui Memorial Medical Centre.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

With a population of 11,704, Lahaina is the most populated place in West Maui. It is the site of 2 major beach resorts Ka’anapali and Kapalua. This used to be the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii, during the years from 1820 to 1845. This means that Lahaina boasts countless ancient sites. Apart from tourism, some of the larger employees here include Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, the Old Lahaina Luau, Longhi’s, Safeway, and People Who Clean.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The average monthly income in the metropolitan statistical area after taxes is $6,098. Monthly expenses come in at $5,796. This means that households that earn upwards of six figures will still spend 95% of their income just to cover basic living costs. This translates to a cost of living score of 181 in Kahului, 179 in Wailuku, and 209.50 in Lahaina.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

6. California-Lexington Park, Maryland

These two cities make up an MD Metro Area in Maryland. The population is 109,614 and they have a poverty rate of 7.85%. Lexington Park is in St. Marys county and in 2010 had a population of 11,626. The Patuxent Naval Air Station is based in Lexington Park which has made it one of the fastest-growing micropolitan areas in the United States. Since 2000 it has grown by 14.6%. The military base contributes $3 billion to the economy of Maryland, which adds up to 75% of the economy of the total state. This same base also employs over 20 000 people in Lexington Park. The general landscape surrounding the area is mostly countryside and farmland. Property prices have dropped in recent years, coming down from $337,501 in 2007 to $ 252,100 in 2014.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

California in the states of Maryland was named after the state of California and has experienced continued growth due to the overflow from neighboring Lexington Park. The Patuxent Naval Air Station also employs workers from California, these are both in defense and technological positions. Since 2000 the population of California has grown by 27.4% to a number of 11,857.

Photo Credit: Bayshore Home Sales

When looking at houses with an income over six figures annually, monthly income after taxes would be $6,014. With monthly expenses being $5,727, households living in this micropolitan area would on average spend 95% of their income on living expenses.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The overall cost of living score for Lexington Park is 112.10. This value is only slightly higher than the national average of 100. The most notable category that sits above the national average is housing which sits at 131. This is followed by groceries at 111.2, utilities at 105, miscellaneous at 102, and transport at 101. Health is the only one which is below 100. California has similar scores and has an overall score of 113.90.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

5. New York/Jersey City:

These can also be considered the New York Metropolitan Area and it’s the most populated in the United States. The population of 20.2 million people in this area span over the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. The economy in this Metropolitan area is the biggest in the country and even ranks on a national scale. The GMP was $1.6 trillion in 2015, if this value was considered to be a GDP then it would be the 9th highest in the world.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

New York City is by far the most populated city in the entire United States. The population measured at over 8.5 million people in 2016. This city has an enormous and incredibly diverse economy. Countless Fortune 500 companies have their headquarters and over the years, New York has made a name for itself as a center for trade, finance, business, art, technology, and many others. The city of Newark is the most populated in New Jersey. It had a population of 277,140 in 2010 and has long been a center for the railway, air, and shipping. White-collar jobs dominate the economy and the employees of these amount to about 100,000.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Jersey City is the 77th largest city in the United States and is also the fastest-growing municipality in the state of New Jersey. In 2016, it was estimated that the population of Jersey City came up to 264,152. This city boasts at least 100,00 jobs both in the public and private sector.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Considering the strength of the economy of this metropolitan area, it is no wonder that there are a fair number of households who earn upwards of 6 figures. This money is only just enough to cover the cost of living. If the income of a household is $6,370 each month after tax and the same household’s monthly expenses amount to $6,101, then these households would be spending 96% of their income to keep the household running. Only 4% of this sizeable salary is actually leftover at the end of each month.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

4. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California

This is also known as the San Francisco Metropolitan area and is the 11th most populated area in America. Once the GDP of 2015 was adjusted for inflation, it was ranked as the 4th highest metropolitan in the United States.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

San Francisco is actually called The City and County of San Francisco and is a hub in terms of commerce, culture, and finance in the region that is Northern California. Nationally, it is the 13th most populated city and comes in number 4 when looking at the state of California. As of 2016, the population was estimated to be 870,887. Tourism, finance, and technology make up the bulk of the economy in San Francisco.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Alameda county houses the city of Oakland, which is the most populated in said county. This port city on the West Coast is also the 8th most populated city in the state of California. At least 99% of the goods that are heading into California via shipping containers, enter the state via the port here. The 3rd largest city in Alameda county is Hayward. The population of this city amounted to 149,392 in 2014. Prior to the 1980s, the economy in Hayward was mostly based on its salt production and canning industry. Presently, the economy is dominated by retail and manufacturing.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

A six-figure household in this metropolitan area would have $6,291 in terms of income each month, this value is post taxation. Monthly household expenses amount to $6,023. These values show that a household here would spend 96% of their income on basic monthly expenses. San Francisco scores 272.60 on the cost of living scale, Oakland has 179.30, and Hayward 169.20. All of these are substantially higher than the national average of 100.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

3. San Jose-Santa Clara, California

These 3 cities combined make up a Metropolitan Statistical Area in California which had a population of just under 2 million in April 2010. This area has shown a population growth of 7.7% in the years between 2010 and 2016. The GDP per capita for this statistical area amounted to $127,595 in 2016.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The City of San Jose is overall the 3rd most populated city in California and is also the biggest city in Northern California. This city has its home in Santa Clara County which ranks as one of the most cities nationally and statewide. San Jose is home to Silicon Valley which inevitably has accelerated its economy to dazzling heights. Sunnyvale is also in Santa Clara County and has a population of 140,095, making it the seventh-most populated city located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sunnyvale also forms part of Silicon Valley. Along with aerospace and defense companies, there are also other huge technology companies that have headquarters here.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Santa Clara is Southeast of San Francisco and is also located in Santa Clara County. Its population is the 9th biggest in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a size of 116,468 people. Silicon Valley Power is located in Santa Clara. The electricity rate in this city is considerably lower than the rest of Northern California due to the 147 megawatts of electricity that this company produces and supplies.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Being such an affluent county, there are obviously countless households that are afforded a six-figure income. They are however not afforded the lifestyle which one would assume. Assuming the monthly income after taxes is $6,291 for each household. If expenses for the same household are $6,212 each month then even a 6-figure income household will spend 99% of their income on living expenses.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

2. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut

This Metropolitan Statistical Area also includes the Greater Bridgeport area. Fairfield county is completely encompassed in this area and has a population of just under a million people as of 2015. There are 23 towns included in this statistical area.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Bridgeport is the biggest city in the state and has a population of 151,276 according to a census done in 2017. This 5th most populated city in New England is only 60 miles away from Manhattan. The dominating industrial sector in Bridgeport began its decline in the middle of the 20th century. The economy is now more service orientated. Education, healthcare, and finance are currently the cornerstones of this city’s economy.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Stamford is another city if Fairfield county and is even close to Manhattan, located only 30 miles from the world-renowned borough. It is the 7th biggest city in New England and also forms part of the Greater New York Metropolitan Statistical Area. Stamford is home to a few Fortune 500 companies, as of 2017, there are 4 of these. Settled in 1649, Norwalk is now the 6th most populated city in the state of Connecticut. Famous companies like Priceline Group, Xerox, Pepperidge Farm, and Frontier Communications all have their home right in Norwalk.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Being part of the Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes the Big Apple along with Wall Street, the area obviously is home to a fair amount of 6 figure earning households. The last point had these same households spending 99% of their income on living expenses. The leap made from that percentage is incredibly substantial. If monthly income after taxes is $6,297 and monthly expenses are $ 6,436, then shockingly these households cannot even afford the cost of living. They would need to spend money they do not have simply to cover their cost of living.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

1. Washington DC Metro:

This is the Washington Metropolitan area and includes part of Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia. It boasts some of the richest and most educated citizens in the entire United States. It is the 6th biggest Metropolitan in America and houses over 6 million people. The capital district of Washington D.C. was officially formed when the Residence Act was signed in July 1790. This district is under exclusive jurisdiction and thus does not actually form part of a state. Legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government are all based here. There are also 176 international embassies here along with countless historical monuments. In 2010, the Gross State Product of this district sat at $101.3 billion.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Business service and professional jobs together make up the diverse economy in Washington. In the Washington Metropolitan area, the 2nd biggest city is Arlington which is found in Arlington County. On the bank of the Potomac River, Washington D.C is but across the way from Arlington.  This city has some of the lowest unemployment rates in the state of Virginia. The economy is quite diverse, but there is a large portion of the workforce which is employed by the federal government.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Alexandria is on the same side of the Potomac River as Washington D.C and is only 7 miles to the south of the home of the American Government. The government influence is quite strong in the workforce and economy of this independent city. A large amount of the employees works for the federal government and its related services, in the military or at private companies that are contracted by the federal government.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Being such a highly educated region and also the home of the government of the United States, it is to be expected that many households earn above the 6-figure income bracket. But, along with this high earning potential comes an even higher cost of living. Using the same methods as previously used, any six-figure-earning household would need to spend 105% of their earnings on living expenses.

Advertisement