A bunch of Frozen-themed stickers might be thrilling for 6-year-olds, but less of a hit for your direct reports. That’s all to say: The worth of something is always relative to its context.
That sentiment can apply to a $100,000 salary, which has long been hailed as the benchmark for financial success or, at the very least, stability. Some of the biggest costs in any household, from housing to weekly groceries, vary based on location—especially in today’s era of high inflation (even if it is ebbing a bit). So even a salary as high as $100,000 can stretch further in some places than others.
SmartAsset recently calculated just how much $100,000 is actually worth in 76 of the largest U.S. metro areas based on post-tax take-home pay per paycheck, adjusted for cost of living. You may or may not want to see how much you’re actually taking home, depending on where you live.
$100,000 stretches the furthest in the midwest and the south; seven of the top 10 cities are in Texas. But coming in number one is the home of Graceland and star of Paul Simon’s song: Memphis, Tenn., where your $100,000 salary is actually equivalent to $86,400 after taxes and adjusted for cost of living. These are the top five major U.S cities where you’ll get the most out of $100,000:
- Memphis, Tenn.
- El Paso, Texas
- Oklahoma City, Okla.
- Corpus Christi, Texas
- Lubbock, Texas
Meanwhile, workers living on the coast aren’t getting as much out of $100,000. It may come as no surprise that New York City and San Francisco, the two most notoriously expensive cities in the world, are among the top five places where $100,000 depreciates the most:
- New York, N.Y.
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- San Francisco, Calif.
- Washington, D.C.
- Long Beach, Calif.
Coastal cities, which are often superstar cities, are typically more expensive than their midsize peers (although the latter got pricier as more urbanites fled bigger cities for smaller ones during the pandemic). But there’s a lack of data on expenses for people in rural areas; since inflation is often measured by the consumer price index, which looks at how the prices in goods for urban Americans change, there’s a bit of a blind spot, economists Stephen Wiler and Tessa Conroy explain for The Conversation.
Even if your money stretches further in rural areas, there are tradeoffs, they add. That might look like driving further to get groceries and get to the hospital (therefore paying high gas prices), and having less flexibility and fewer options as food costs rise. While rural Americans often own their homes more than city dwellers, they said, they’re more vulnerable to heating and cooling costs due to poorer quality of housing.
But regardless of where you live, earning $100,000 just doesn’t seem to go as far as it once did. While the middle class often feels the blow of inflation more keenly than higher-income individuals, wealthier Americans aren’t immune to its effects—nearly half (64%) felt they were living paycheck to paycheck last year, per a PYMNTS report, more than those who said the same in 2021.
Still, that stress could be assuaged some based on where you choose to rest your head at night. Just look at Zillow, and you’ll find either a palace or a little apartment for the same price range depending on the ZIP code.