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Revealing the Cost of Comfortable Living Across America

Living in the United States, the cost of living can vary greatly from city to city, ranging from the bustling streets of New York to the tranquil small towns of Texas. Each place has its unique charms and challenges. However, for those seeking a comfortable life, understanding the necessary income in different cities is crucial. Through SmartAsset's use of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Living Wage Calculator, we can gain insight into the income levels required for a comfortable life and uncover some interesting trends and disparities.


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Meeting the criteria for a comfortable life entails having an annual salary adhering to the 50/30/20 budgeting rule. The 50/30/20 budgeting rule divides income into three categories:

- 50% for necessities such as rent, food, and utilities.

- 30% for discretionary spending like entertainment, travel, and personal expenses.

- 20% for savings and debt repayment.


This budgeting rule aims to help individuals balance their expenses while ensuring they have enough savings and debt repayment capacity.


According to SmartAsset's latest data (as of February 14, 2024), pursuing a comfortable life in cities in California poses a significant challenge. New York City tops the list with a required annual income of $138,579 for a single adult. Following closely are three cities from California: San Jose, Irvine, and Santa Ana, all requiring over $120,000 for a comfortable life. This is primarily due to California's exceptionally high cost of living, especially housing costs.


On the other end of the spectrum, cities like Houston and El Paso in Texas demonstrate relatively lower living costs. In these cities, the required income for a comfortable life for a single adult may be around $70,000, significantly lower than New York City.


Interestingly, although New York City appears to have the highest cost of living, when considering the cost of raising children, cities in California require even more income. For instance, residents of San Jose and San Francisco, if a couple with two working adults raising two children, need significantly more income than New York City, surpassing $330,000.



The disparity in the cost of living across the United States is substantial, from the bustling metropolis of New York City to the tranquil towns of Texas. Understanding local living costs is essential for achieving a comfortable life. Through prudent financial planning and adopting the 50/30/20 budgeting rule, individuals can better balance their expenses, ensuring sufficient savings and debt repayment capacity. Regardless of location, these insights enable us to make wiser choices about our lifestyle and city preferences.


Here are the top 10 cities for the highest income required for a comfortable life for single adults:


1. New York City, NY - $138,579

2. San Jose, CA - $136,739

3. Irvine, CA - $126,797

4. Santa Ana, CA - $126,797

5. Boston, MA - $124,966

6. San Diego, CA - $122,803

7. Chula Vista, CA - $122,803

8. San Francisco, CA - $119,558

9. Seattle, WA - $119,392

10. Oakland, CA - $118,768


And here are the top 10 cities for the lowest income required for a comfortable life for single adults:


1. Houston, TX - $75,088

2. El Paso, TX - $75,254

3. Lubbock, TX - $75,379

4. Toledo, OH - $77,501

5. Laredo, TX - $78,458

6. Milwaukee, WI - $79,664

7. Lexington, KY - $79,997

8. Tulsa, OK - $81,078

9. Wichita, KS - $81,203

10. Cleveland, OH - $81,786


List of cities with the income level required to live comfortably

Cost of Comfortable Living
Photo Source: Smart Asset

Cost of Comfortable Living
Photo Source: Smart Asset


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