Got an idea for a startup or eager to get in on the startup scene while it's still red-hot? Your first instinct may be to head for one of our nation's legendary startup locales, such as Silicon Valley, San Francisco, New York, or Austin. That might seem like the logical thing to do, but beware! Out-of-control living expenses in some of these places may make it impossible for you pay your employees--or yourself--a living wage while your startup gets off the ground.
If you do find a place you can afford, expect to be more cramped or farther from the best parts of town than you would be in other, more reasonably priced locales. You should also expect to pay a premium on everything from your parking space to your morning coffee.
Is it worth it? To help you decide, the folks at GOBankingRates have examined the cost of living at the 50 largest U.S. cities. They took into account average prices for rent, groceries, utilities, transportation, and health care. Then they doubled that number, following the 50-30-20 budgeting rule of 50 percent for necessities, 30 percent for discretionary items and 20 percent for savings.
The sometimes surprisingly high results make up the minimum income a single person needs to live comfortably in each of these towns. It's something to consider before you set up shop in any of these places. (You might want to consider the 10 most affordable cities instead.)
Here are 10 highest-cost cities. You can see the full list here.
1. San Francisco
It won't surprise anyone that the city by the bay is the least affordable in the nation. It seems every day I hear of another young professional couple leaving there because they are planning a family and simply can't make it work in Frisco's sky-high real estate market.
But it might surprise you to learn just how bad things are. GOBankingRates estimates the cost of living comfortably in San Francisco at $119,570--outpacing every other city on the list by $30,000 a year or more. No wonder people are opting to relocate elsewhere.
2. San Jose
At $89,734, the cost of living comfortably in San Jose may seem like a bargain compared to San Francisco, but it's still very painful, especially if you're trying to stretch those startup funds into the longest possible "runway." Nicknamed "The Capital of Silicon Valley," it should surprise no one that San Jose is the second costliest large city in the nation.
3. New York City
With the financial industry, publishing, and the media largely centered in New York, the only surprise is that, at $87,446, the Big Apple comes in third on this list instead of first or second. This too is a punishingly expensive location, and its growing status as "Silicon Alley" will only make things worse.
At comfortable living expenses of $84,422, Boston is only slightly more affordable than New York. It too is a media and tech center, and also a center for elite higher education, with both Harvard and MIT in the area.
5. Washington, D.C.
It costs $83,104 to live comfortably in Washington, roughly similar to Boston and only slightly less expensive than New York. The obvious reason is the proximity to the federal government and our nation's seats of power. If you need to be near the government, consider the nearby suburbs in Virginia and Maryland. If not, consider living elsewhere.
Famous as a playground for the wealthy, Miami was ranked as the richest city in the United States in a UBS study, and it also boasts the world's busiest cruise port. It also has the greatest concentration of international banks in the U.S., and it's been called "America's Cleanest City" for its air and water quality, green spaces, and clean streets. No wonder it costs $77,057 to live comfortably there!
7. Los Angeles
Best known as the world center of movie-making, LA is also a center for shipping (its port and adjacent Long Beach make up the fifth busiest port in the world). LA is also a manufacturing center, and hosts a growing startup scene. All this helps explain why LA ranks among the 10 most expensive cities, at a cost of $74,371 to live comfortably.
Once considered a timber and aviation center that rose and fell on the fortunes of Boeing and the cost of lumber, Seattle has gained a lot of cachet in the last few years, and its booming economy, driven by Microsoft and Amazon hasn't hurt. With a constant influx of new people arriving in the area (including me) it's no wonder it costs $72,092 to live comfortably here.
9. San Diego
San Diego is the eighth largest city in the U.S. and second largest in California. It's a powerful tourist destination with its beaches, weather, proximity to Mexico, and such attractions as the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld.
It's also a natural deep water port and houses the largest naval fleet in the world, as well as the only major submarine and ship building yards in the U.S. On top of that, it's becoming a center for the biotech industry and has a growing startup scene. All this helps explain why it costs $69,307 to live comfortably there.
The third most populous city in the U.S., Chicago also has stunning architecture, an iconic art museum and baseball field, a Great Lake, and a startup scene. It's said to have the most diversified economy in the U.S., with finance, retail, manufacturing, printing, food processing, and transportation all large industries here.
The only mystery about Chicago is why it's as (relatively) affordable as it is. The cost to live comfortably here is $68,67, more than $15,000 a year less than New York or LA, the other two of the three biggest cities in the nation. If you don't mind lake-effect snow, you should definitely consider locating here.