Families Need Over $300,000 A Year To Live 'Comfortably' In Some Cities — Can You Guess Which City Tops The List?

A recent study by SmartAsset reveals that in the wealthiest urban centers across the U.S., families need to earn upward of $275,000 annually to live comfortably. In several cities, this requirement skyrockets beyond $300,000. 

This substantial income requirement is based on the 50/30/20 budget rule. This rule defines a comfortable lifestyle as one where only 50% of income is allocated to essential expenses such as housing and utilities, 30% is available for discretionary spending on items like entertainment and dining out, and the remaining 20% is set aside for savings and investments.

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Leading the pack is San Francisco, where a family of four requires a yearly income of $339,123 to maintain comfort, according to SmartAsset’s data derived from the MIT Living Wage Calculator. Hot on its heels are San Jose with $334,547 and Boston at $319,738, highlighting the acute cost of living crisis in these areas. Arlington, New York City, and Oakland also necessitate incomes over $300,000, highlighting the economic pressures prevalent in these high-demand areas.

Beyond these top contenders, several other cities demand incomes of at least $275,000 to sustain a balanced lifestyle. For example, in Aurora, Colorado, a family would need $280,467 a year. 

While the required income to live comfortably in some of the wealthiest U.S. cities often exceeds $300,000, the median household incomes in these areas tell a different story. In San Francisco, although families need around $339,123 annually, as per the study, the median household income in 2022 was only $136,689, according to census data. Similar disparities are evident in other major cities, highlighting the gap between the average earnings and the income needed to maintain a comfortable lifestyle in America’s priciest urban centers.

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Cities like Houston present a somewhat lower threshold of $175,219 for a family to live comfortably, yet this figure still greatly surpasses the national median family income of $92,750.

This list includes the top 20 most expensive U.S. cities: 

  1. San Francisco: $339,123
  2. San Jose, California: $334,547
  3. Boston, Massachusetts: $319,738
  4. Arlington, Virginia: $318,573
  5. New York City, New York: $318,406
  6. Oakland, California: $316,243
  7. Urban Honolulu, Hawaii: $299,520
  8. Irvine, California: $291,450
  9. Santa Ana, California: $291,450
  10. Portland, Oregon: $289,786
  11. San Diego, California: $289,453
  12. Chula Vista, California: $289,453
  13. Newark, New Jersey: $285,043
  14. Jersey City, New Jersey: $285,043
  15. Seattle, Washington: $283,712
  16. Aurora, Colorado: $280,467
  17. Long Beach, California: $280,218
  18. Anaheim, California: $280,218
  19. Los Angeles, California: $276,557
  20. Washington, D.C.: $275,642

These findings emphasize the ongoing challenges families face in securing financial stability amid the escalating costs in major U.S. cities, particularly those on the coasts with booming housing markets. The need for substantial incomes to manage a feasible budget forces many to reevaluate major life decisions around homeownership and lifestyle spending.

With rising costs, especially in these major cities, seeking professional financial advice can be beneficial for families at any stage. A financial advisor can help you create a budget, manage debt, plan for major life events, and ensure you’re on track to meet your financial goals

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