You Need to Make $110K to Live Comfortably in San Francisco

You Need to Make $110K to Live Comfortably in San Francisco

When you graduated from school, you probably fantasized about moving to the big city, renting that spacious loft à la the one on Friends, and spending your days working hard and your nights playing even harder.

Then reality hit. The working hard part probably came true, but the cost of rent, food and having a social life likely left your bank account a little worse for wear — leaving you wondering how much you actually need to make in order to enjoy living in the city you now call home.


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Well, a new study may have some answers for you. The folks at GoBankingRates crunched some numbers and came up with the salary they think you’d need to earn in order to live comfortably in the 50 biggest cities in America.

They came to each figure by looking at the dollar amounts required to cover the cost of necessities (things like rent, utilities, transportation and healthcare), and assumed that 50% of your paycheck would go toward these, while 30% would cover discretionary spending and another 20% would go into savings (a budgeting framework also known as the 50/20/30 rule). They also looked at the median income in each city to determine which cities ranked best and worst when it came to the cost of living.

Not shockingly, the places where you’d need to make the most to live comfortably were on the East and West Coasts. Taking the top salary spot was San Francisco, where you’d have to earn a hefty $110,357 (that’s $55,179 for necessities and $33,107 for discretionary spending, while saving $22,071). This isn't exactly surprising, considering the median home value there now tops $1 million. Unfortunately, the median income is only $81,294, which means many of the city’s residents are probably pinching their pennies, and then some, in order to live there.

No. 2 on the list is San Francisco’s Silicon Valley counterpart San Jose, California, where you need to make $87,153 to live comfortably, followed by New York City ($86,446); Oakland, California ($80,438); and Washington, D.C. ($80,273).

So where do you need the least amount of income in order to, say, not be wracked with guilt for buying a double espresso every day?

That would be El Paso, Texas, where your take-home pay has to be $40,393 — that includes spending $20,197 for necessities and $12,118 for discretionary costs, while saving $8,097. The median income there is almost $43,000, which means many residents make more than they have to in order to keep to the 50-20-30 budget. (Rounding out the top five cities where the lowest salaries are needed: Detroit, Michigan; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Wichita, Kansas; and Fresno, California.)

So does that mean all the cities that require the highest salaries also offer the worst cost of living? Not exactly. According to GoBankingRates, the city with the biggest difference between its median income and its comfortable salary calculation is actually Miami, where you should earn almost $76,000, but where the median income is just over $31,000 — that’s a gap of nearly $45,000. Virginia Beach, Virginia, meanwhile, is where the cost of living seems to be the best: the city has a surplus income of almost $14,000.

Does this info sway your big-city dreams — or does it only motivate you further to be savvier about salary negotiations, cutting costs and saving more?

RELATED: 5 Things You Didn't Know You Should Negotiate in a Job Offer


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