Report: Average Salary Nowhere Near Enough to Live in Major U.S. Cities

Nick Kangadis | March 18, 2024
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Comfort. We all feel it from time to time, whether it be something a first class seat on an airplane or something as small as a snack that gives you the warm fuzzies because it reminds you of a better time, everyone enjoys feeling comfortable.

But if you live in a major U.S. city, you’re probably living paycheck to paycheck, and that’s not comfortable.

According to a recent study by financial tech company SmartAsset, you better be making better-than-average money if you live in a “major U.S. city.”

For context, SmartAsset took “99 of the largest U.S. cities” and applied the “50/30/30 budget” method to determine the average salary needed for both individuals and families with two children to live in “sustainable comfort.”

The “50/30/20 budget” is when “50% of your salary should be allocated to your needs, such as housing, groceries and transportation; 30% toward wants like entertainment and hobbies; and 20% toward paying off debt, saving or investing.” They then applied the local cost of living in the respective city to determine the final average salaries and combined salaries in order to live outside of the “paycheck-to-paycheck” realm.

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SmartAsset reported the following results for all cities, on average:

On average, an individual needs $96,500 for sustainable comfort in a major U.S. city. This includes being able to pay off debt and invest for the future. It’s even more expensive for families, who need to make an average combined income of about $235,000 to support two adults and two children without the pressure of living paycheck to paycheck.

And those combined family incomes don’t apply to the top six most expensive cities to live in “comfortably.” In each of those cities, “a family must make over $300k to raise two kids comfortably.” And each of those cities? Run by Democrats.

For a single person, the most expensive city to live in is — no surprise here — New York City ($138,570)…well, unless you’re being subsidized by the government, like the criminal invaders currently are. Even if you live in one of the major U.S. cities on the low end of the study, an individual would need to make at least $75,000 a year to live comfortably (Houston, Texas). In fact, four of the bottom five cities are in Texas.

So what have we learned here? Major U.S. cities are no longer financially amenable to the average person, even on the low end. The average salary of individuals in the U.S., in 2024, is $59,428 according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).


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