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Don’t Get Burned by High Cost of Living

Topics: Data & Research
cost of living
Michael Hirsch/Unsplash

We used to imagine that a six-figure salary would be the pinnacle of success in the adult workforce, but now we know that getting that big a paycheck doesn’t necessarily mean a one-way ticket to Easy Street. In fact, $100,000, depending on where you live, might not get you very much at all. In the Bay Area, for example, recent studies have shown that it’s possible to earn $100,000 and just barely get by.

A recent San Francisco Chronicle article profiled San Francisco math teacher Etoria Cheeks who found herself homeless, despite her master’s degree and $65,000 salary. Cheeks lost her rented room when the house she was living in went into foreclosure and she was evicted. She had moved to the area in 2015 from Georgia to work as a substitute teacher. In analyzing teachers’ salaries against the cost of living in the city, the Chronicle found that there was little way that a single teacher could make ends meet.

“A rookie teacher in the city makes $4,473 per month,” wrote Heather Knight. “That teacher has to spend 51 percent of his or her income before taxes to rent half of a two-bedroom apartment, sharing it with a roommate, [an] Apartment List report concludes.”

San Francisco: The Least Affordable City in the U.S.?

The same study found that San Francisco topped the list nationally as the most unaffordable city for teachers. California had four entries in the top ten of this notorious list, with nearby Oakland hitting sixth and San Jose at eighth and Los Angeles coming in at ninth on the list.

It’s not just teachers hitting these kinds of income ceilings. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that in some counties in California (mostly around the Bay Area), a family of four earning as much as $100,000 can qualify for affordable housing. The national average for that same qualifying income? $24,399.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

At least one bit of good news (of a sort) is that San Francisco has decided to build teacher housing to help combat the growing problem of affordable housing for its local educators. The city council recently voted to spend $44 million to build the 130 to 150 rental units to be priced below market rates … projected to be completed in a mere five years, in 2022. The current “market price” for a one-bedroom in San Francisco? A mere $3,600 per month.

When you’re thinking of making a move to a new town for work, there are two quick ways you can predict if it’s going to be a good fit for you: use PayScale’s Salary Survey to check that your job pays what you’re worth and use PayScale’s Cost of Living Calculator to see if that new salary fits your geographic location, too. If you’re getting paid a good salary for your position, but not the price of rent, you won’t last long.

Tell Us What You Think

How is cost of living in your area, relative to your salary? We want to hear from you. Tell us about your experience, in the comments or on Twitter.

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