4 members family income needs to live comfortably in these 20 major U.S. cities

According to a recent analysis by SmartAsset, a family of four needs to earn over $275,000 to live comfortably in some of the most expensive cities in the United States.

“Comfortable” means having enough income to cover a 50/30/20 budget for a family of two adults and two kids. This budget plan assumes that half of the monthly income can be used to pay for essential expenses such as housing and utilities. Thirty percent of the income can be used for optional spending, while twenty percent can be saved or invested.

SmartAsset used data from the MIT Living Wage Calculator to estimate the income required for a 50/30/20 budget, which considers the cost of necessities.

Here is a breakdown of the income required for a family of four to live comfortably in the 20 most expensive cities in the United States:

  • San Francisco: $339,123
  • San Jose, California: $334,547
  • Boston: $319,738
  • Arlington, Virginia: $318,573
  • New York City: $318,406
  • Oakland, California: $316,243
  • Urban Honolulu, Hawaii: $299,520
  • Irvine, California: $291,450
  • Santa Ana, California: $291,450
  • Portland, Oregon: $289,786
  • San Diego: $289,453
  • Chula Vista, California: $289,453
  • Newark, New Jersey: $285,043
  • Jersey City, New Jersey: $285,043
  • Seattle: $283,712
  • Aurora, Colorado: $280,467
  • Long Beach, California: $280,218
  • Anaheim, California: $280,218
  • Los Angeles: $276,557
  • Washington, D.C.: $275,642

San Francisco is the most expensive city overall. A family of four would need an income of $339,123 to live there. After San Francisco, there are other cities that are also known for having very expensive housing costs. These cities include Boston, New York City, Honolulu, and Los Angeles.

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Homes in California are approximately twice as expensive as the average home in the United States, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, a nonpartisan government agency in California. The state is ranked fourth in terms of cost of living in the U.S., according to data from a 2023 survey conducted by the Council for Community & Economic Research.

SmartAsset examined 99 cities and found that a family of four would need a median of $226,886 to live comfortably. In Houston, the required income drops to $175,219, which is the lowest among all the cities that were studied. However, the median family income in the U.S. is $92,750, which is lower than that.

Employers in expensive cities often pay higher salaries to attract and keep talented employees. However, the high cost of housing can make it challenging to stick to a 50/30/20 budget.

In big cities, the cost of housing is often more than 30% of a household’s income. This leaves very little money for other important things like utilities, food, and transportation. In order to manage their expenses, families may choose not to buy a house, own a car, or make non-essential purchases.

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