How much $ do you need to make?

Curious how this varies across cities.

In SF, it seems living anything above a bare minimum life-style requires $130-140k, after retirement contributions, healthcare, etc;. Pre-taxes you're talking closer to 165-180k.

NYC seems to be about 8-10% less than SF.

Comments (85)

Aug 5, 2018

In Vancouver about $160k CAD if you're paying local tax rates on income, etc

I think closer to $200kish if you have kids.

If you're comfortable living in one of the suburbs it's a lot less though.

Aug 13, 2018

How is that even possible....mba averages out there are like just under 100k....but can't even afford to live. Sounds awful

Aug 13, 2018

Foreign money coming in and inflating the value of housing. There aren't many wages/real jobs out here. Even all my businesses are in the US. I think I have like 3 or 4 Canadians on payroll and that's it lol

Aug 19, 2018

As much as I'd like to make fun of Vancouver because of its housing prices, one can definitely still live pretty comfortably as a bachelor with $90-100K income, IF you forget about owning a place.

Of course, this all depends on your standard of how much you want to be saving.

Aug 19, 2018

Like you said, no savings makes it a tough sell. No ability to save = wage slave for life.

Most Helpful
Aug 6, 2018

I feel like a lot of you high-earning W-2 guys are terrible at personal finance.

heister:

Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

https://arthuxtable.com/

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Aug 6, 2018

Was just thinking this...

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Aug 6, 2018

Depends how you slice the pie.

If you're working obscene hours, you need to cut down on your commute. If you need to be on call 24/7, you need to be close to the office. This drives up COL substantially.

When everyone you're working with is dressing nicely, you can't show up like a slob.

Tax rates are also obscene when you start making low 6 figures, as you take home 60% or so of what you make after SALT taxes.

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Aug 6, 2018

Edit: Duplicate comment

Aug 6, 2018

It really depends on age. I'm going to approach this question from home ownership (the rapidly dying "American dream"). If you are in your mid-late 30s and want to buy a home in an area of LA that someone in finance would want to live without a massive commute, for example, you will need:

  • $750k - $1 million for a 1 bedroom condo
  • $1 million - $1.5 million for a 2 bedroom condo/townhouse
  • $1.5 million - $2+ million for a 3 bedroom condo/townhouse
  • $2 million +++++++ for a single family house (at the lower end, you are getting a very old place that needs a lot of work)

If you work backwards from this and think about what you have to save in your 20's to be able to afford the downpayment for such a place, as well as the income required to service the debt comfortably as well as a S.O. and child(ren), you need a lot. With a child I would say $150k minimum each for you and your S.O., that is, $300k minimum to own a home if you have 5-10 years to save up.

Of course, millions of people manage to live just fine on a lot, lot less. But honestly, they probably don't own their home, are in a lot of debt, they're not in a good school district, they can't save for retirement, don't have good health insurance, and in general are taking a lot of risk and hoping nothing goes wrong. The situation most people find themselves in is financially unsustainable. If you want to be truly comfortable / no real worries, I stand by the #'s above, maybe slightly less (a couple could do two $100k incomes and be ok)

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Aug 7, 2018

You can live well if you're rich and you can live well if you're poor. But if you're poor, it's much cheaper.

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Aug 7, 2018

Until you run into a health issue...

Aug 7, 2018
m_1:

Until you run into a health issue...

In the US, if you get sick you gonna become poor no matter what. I got sick while between jobs and had no insurance - cost me about a buck all in.

Aug 17, 2018

My parents combined make around 80k in W-2 wages. We live in a 3 bedroom house in a safe neighborhood in Mass. I had cancer twice as a kid, thanks to Mass Health, we're not living in a gutter somewhere right now.

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Controversial
Aug 7, 2018

Here is the ultimate trick to afford whatever you want as a financial professional : Do not marry.
Or at least, if it's important for you : do not marry the wrong woman.

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Aug 7, 2018

Houston FTW.

Aug 7, 2018

Midwest excluding Chicago:

$150k being single will give you a pretty dope life.

If you get married and the wife makes $50-75k or more and you have 2 kids, that would provide essentially the same or better lifestyle as $150k single.

$150k as a single earner could easily afford you a $400-450k home which in the Midwest excluding Chicago area could get you a pretty damn nice house

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Aug 9, 2018

Backing up the Midwest comment. In any Ohio city, you can live like a king at $60k a year. Nice apartment, fine dining on the regular (although Skyline is always a welcome alternative to any fancy steak joint), hit up clubs, and drink enough beer to forget you live in Ohio.

In Chicago, I'd say the good life starts around $75k. This is above average living. At $125k, the city is your oyster. Anything above that, and you just start extra banking for retirement. If you're making more than $125k in Chicago, you end up in a Brewster's Millions kind of situation, you literally don't know how to spend your money you've got so much of it.

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Aug 10, 2018

I can confirm that Chicago figure. I'm currently making around that much and I wouldn't say I'm stretched for money. I live within walking distance to the office and I've had to cut back on going out because of the higher rent but those are personal decisions. I know other people making around the same amount who live further away and have a 30-45 minute total commute. They pay less in rent so they have more money at the end of the day but they're also getting by in Chicago in the 70k-80k range.

I also know people in their early 30s who are getting in that 120k range who are buying condos priced in the 250-350k range. At that salary range, the city truly is your oyster, as you said.

Aug 11, 2018
lapike:

do enough drugs to forget you live in Ohio

LMAO

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Aug 13, 2018
lapike:

...do enough drugs to forget you live in Ohio.

They don't make enough drugs for that.

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Aug 7, 2018

my parents raised me fine without ever getting close to six figures incomes. you learned hellavua lot about sacrifice and personal finance in an immigrant household

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Aug 17, 2018

I 100% relate to this. My parents are eastern European immigrants, neither of which went to college. Frugality has been drilled into my brain since I was born, and I'm all the better because of it.

Aug 19, 2018

Your parents also probably bought their house before six-figure incomes were needed to afford decent property in a decent area, not for nothing. The baby boomers had it easy man.

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Aug 19, 2018

This. Was talking about buying a house to my Dad, and he was able to buy a home 5x his annual salary back in his day as a typical engineer, nothing fancy (he's in his 70's now). He thought this was still possible for first-time home-buyers today. I was like...

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Aug 7, 2018

the answer is - more than your neighbor.

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Aug 7, 2018

If you can't live on 100k all in when you're single in NYC then you need to learn how to budget.

You literally can't make less than 150k if you are married and have kids, you will have an incredibly hard time to put anything meaningful into savings. 200k-250k is where your wife doesn't have to work and if you still budget you can do ok. 300k+ is ideal for a married couple wanting to start a family.

Aug 7, 2018

In all seriousness, I was at a store the other day and a woman with 2 kids couldn't afford her order at the register because it was 8 cents higher than what she brought. How do these people afford children? In all honesty.

Aug 7, 2018

They don't.

Aug 7, 2018

How do they keep their kids alive??

Aug 10, 2018

Happened to me as well. Lady was buying steak with a coupon and apparently the coupon didn't cover the particular steak she was buying (size / quality / whatever reason)... she had to leave it at the counter and seemed pretty stressed out about wanting to return it to the refrigerated aisle before completing checkout... pretty sure the coupon would have saved her like $3 if it applied to that product. Was sad to see and in part because it was late at night and the last thing I wanted to do was wait for her to run to the end of the store with her kids and back and also in part because I felt so awful I decided to pay for it. That was a bit awkward... she was super grateful but ya never know who would be offended by shit like that. Truly does put things into perspective though.

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Aug 8, 2018

More

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Aug 8, 2018

Realistically the answer is always going to be more. Then after you have more, the answer is still more. Kind of the way these things work.

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Aug 8, 2018

Yep. If you're the type who dreams about making $250k before 30, odds are once you hit that, there will be a new number in your head that you have to hit. And that's why a lot of people who make decent money aren't happy.

The most expensive cities (SF, NYC, maybe Boston/LA) aside, if you can't be happy living off $90k if single, or $150k if married, you likely won't be any happier with any amount of money.

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Aug 8, 2018

"I need all the moneyz"
- Jeff Bezos

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Aug 9, 2018

Here in the bay area, early 30's couple getting married and would like to have kids soon. Min $300k total to be able to buy a starter home that doesn't need $200k to remodel (Not on peninsula or SF btw). Lets say that's 12-14k a month after taxes/401k...35-40% will go towards your $1m home purchase each month. As long as you don't have to lease two fancy cars and don't have to keep up with Jones', you can do fine on that and still save each month.

Aug 10, 2018

This will depend a lot on the cost of living of the city you're in. I live in the South, make noticeably less than a first year NYC IB analyst, yet still feel like I live quite luxuriously (1 bedroom luxury apartment in a good part of town, maxed out 401K + HSA, nicer car, etc.).

Right now, I don't necessarily feel the need to earn more as a single person, and could probably even support a family on $150K-$200K without a spouse that works. That calculus would change completely if I were living in Boston/LA, forget about NYC/SF.

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Aug 10, 2018

I've lived/worked in most major U.S. cities at one point or another.

As you start to think in-city 2-3 bedroom condo, marriage, kids, car, etc. I've given this some meaningful thought. $400k - $500k annual cash comp is ideal. In other words, comp packages for a VP or higher at $1B+ PE fund.

You may find it to sound crazy, and I am sure many will counter saying there are more thrifty ways to do things, but this is my ideal floor to afford the ways my significant other and I want to live long term. I don't need to scale beyond that and my goal over the coming year is to create a minimum of $300k annual passive income from investment unrelated to my work. This minimum will allow us the ultimate flexibility to truly control our own time down the road. I would love to have this floor so I have the ultimate option to just walk out and do whatever I want, and because I personally love investing so much, I can hopefully use that income floor to keep compounding it long term.

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Aug 13, 2018

I live in San Diego and know a lot of folks who are making 60-80k yearly somehow able to purchase $500-$700k homes while driving luxury cars.

As in, how is this even possible?!

No pain no game.

Aug 13, 2018

Lots of financing through debt. Also 500-700k homes in high COL areas like SD, SF, LA, NYC generally are pretty small (under 2,000-3,000 sq. ft).

Aug 14, 2018
Aug 11, 2018

Here is the trick i'v learned years ago:
When you focus on "how much should i make" and define that ammount (180k) in the moment you have made it your focus is gone. Of course you can set up a new goal but that's just starting all over again.
So what do i do?
I never define an ammount of money,
For me it's just: more

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Aug 11, 2018

I think that the posts of "if you cant live on 100k in NYC you're bad with money" are insane!!! I completely agree with the OP, the amount of money you need in most cities is much higher than people realize.

Taxes are a real thing - once the feds and the state get done with you, 100K is nothing to live on. Some of you are thinking like, "gee, I do OK on 60K in ohio, why can you do OK on 100K in SFO?" Because (1) state taxes are much higher and (2) we do not live in a country with a straight, proportional tax rate (i.e. people at 120K don't pay double the tax someone at 60k does, they pay more).

On top of that, people stretch their budgets in dangerous ways. I personally do not like my housing expenses to be more than 25% of my net income. Yes, I realize that's conservative but fr proper budgeting, I think that's a fair rate and has always kept me out of trouble. If you do the math on your own finances, you will probably find that you are way above this number (most people are). If you take the average 1BD in SFO (I think that was over 2K the last time I looked at it?) and work backwards from that, you realize that you need a really high salary to live in comfortably in the Bay Area. Same would apply to NYC

Aug 13, 2018

I am in Manhattan, earning about 150k salary with a 50k bonus. Live with the gf and we own an apt in a chelsea/WV area. She pulls in another 120 to 130k so collectively were pulling in about 350k with some side hustles.

We live very very comfortably but this is because we have very good control of our budget and finances. Living well below our means, we max out 401ks and save half of the rest. We have friends that make twice what we do that can't seem to be able to come up with a down-payment on a 1.5m condo even after so many years. Trick is to not blow your cash on stupid shit.

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Aug 14, 2018

What's some of the things you see friends blow money on?

Aug 17, 2018

I'm interested in an answer to this as well

Aug 17, 2018

Single guys especially learn how to spend what's in their pocket.

Stupid things i see friends making bank spend money on include the following:

  • Drinks every night (easy to blow $500-$1000 a weekend, especially if you get a table at a club and are popping bottles)
  • Luxury dinners
  • New cars
  • Fucking Amazon
  • Watches
  • Clothes
  • Dates

I know this will sound crazy but 250k isn't much when you are constantly spending recklessly.

Aug 13, 2018

How much $ do you need to make to live a good life in SF? Depends on the person and their age. I can speak to the younger demographic (age 22-26)...

I think it largely depends on (1) how much you like to travel/go out/party, and (2) how much you like nice 'things'. I am from the bay area have have tons of peers who work in SF. Some make good money but many make under 100k, and are able to do ONE of the above more than you'd expect.

If you want to go to Coachella every year, go up to Tahoe to ski/party during the winter, and hit the bars/clubs every weekend, you can do that - but you're going to be living in a shitty apartment with multiple roommates, wearing the same clothes/shoes for a long time, etc - in many ways, living like a college kid.

Alternatively, if you'd prefer to work out at Equinox, eat organic gluten free grass fed unicorn meat, live in a clean and shiny apartment, and wear Tom Ford and a Rolex - that is fine too! You'll certainly live a comfortable and cushy life... but you won't have much cash left over for fun activities.

Personally I prefer activities to amenities. But to each his own. I'd imagine it's a bit different in New York. In SF, you can easily do one of these making five figures. However, if you want to do BOTH, then yeah- you need to be making well over 100k. Maybe even 150k.

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Aug 18, 2018

I lived in SF in my mid-20's and can definitely attest to the above. My problem was that I did both- traveled (spent my winters in Tahoe, summers in Napa, went out regularly in the city) and pampered myself (had my Equinox membership, bars 3-4 nights a week, lots of Allen Edmunds shoes). Unfortunately that resulted in a credit card debt perpetually climbing to around 10-15k until I got my bonus each year... I did max the 401k each year however, so it wasn't a total financial disaster.

Array

Aug 17, 2018

65k base in LA,

A quick back of the envelope method that I use for determining "Need" in any city is 3* monthly rent times 12.

Aug 19, 2018

400k+ if you are in NY area with kids.

Aug 19, 2018

It depends on your marital status, loans, how much you like the city, among other things.

I personally would not live in SF on anything less than $300K/year.

Aug 20, 2018

If you're not spending wreckless, 90k is typically a good number. You can discount that figure by 20%, probably, in some less populated places in the mid-west or down south, etc. But, if you're a college graduate, you might have student loans, be unable or unwilling to stomach a long commute from the burbs, and have to think about the day when that becomes inevitable as you start a family.

Wage growth doesn't come that easy, so if start at 60K or some other number people are throwing out as feasible, when you go onto have a family, it will become all the more difficult to support them. Additionally, someone mentioned above that you need adequate savings to not be a "wage slave" your entire life. This is extremely important because nothing will help you have more freedom like having a nice stack in the bank.

When you put all of this together, you need a number close to 100k just to start out, to get you to really live the American dream with a family, house, car, and to retire at a decent age, all while not struggling through it.

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Aug 20, 2018

I agree with the people saying you need $250k+ to live decently with kids in the NYC metro area.

BUT here is the insane thing: the city just isn't that rich. Check this out - median household income by borough:

Manhattan: 75k
Staten Island: 74k
Queens: 59k
Brooklyn: 50k
Bronx: 35k

The immediate suburbs are much wealthier, but still not even close to the figures mentioned here (again figures I agree with):

Nassau: 102k
Bergen NJ: 88k
Westchester: 86k
Hudson NJ: 60k

Again, these are median household incomes. This makes me think there is some serious market distortion going on. No idea how these people can afford to live here.

Aug 21, 2018

I wonder if the rent control in NYC has anything to do with the median income being so low. If a large number of the population refuses to move in order to keep their artificially low rent, then it may be part of the story. I don't live in NY so I'm not sure how that works.

Additionally, a large number of self employed people can also make the median household income seem lower. These people will have lower W-2 incomes which get used in the statistic, but will not reflect additional income taxed through an S-corp or something along those lines that they get to keep.

It could also be that a large number of people have roommates.

Just a thought. I'm not sure if any of those scenarios would result in a large enough change to the stats.

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Aug 23, 2018

Thing is.. The city is rich the richness is just concentrated at the top.

Top 95th percentile income in Manhattan is well over $250k, the mean of the top 20% is $400k and mean of the top 5% is $800k.

Aug 21, 2018
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