States Ranked by Salaries Needed to Live Comfortably

Researchers at SMB Compass, the financial services firm, set out to see how much income single adults need to “live comfortably” in each state. And while the most costly and least costly states to live may not be a surprise, the difference between them is startling.

According to the study, the difference between the most and least expensive states to live comfortably is $30,000.

SMB Compass said the researchers considered essential costs such as food, housing, transportation, health care, utility prices and taxes to obtain the necessary income to live comfortably.

“While big cities were always more expensive to live comfortably, the study shows that high inflation has increased living costs nationwide,” the report’s authors said. “Residents of the four most expensive states now need six-figure incomes to live comfortably.”

Topping the list was Massachusetts, where single adults would need a yearly income in excess of $106,000 to live comfortably. The state was followed by California, Hawaii and New York, where annual incomes “must exceed $100,000 to achieve a comfortable standard of living,” the report stated.

West Virginia came in first as the most affordable state for single-income earners. “Residents there need a yearly income of $72,888 for a comfortable lifestyle, translating to roughly $35.04 per hour,” the report’s authors said, adding that the state’s affordability is likely due to a combination of factors.

“Housing costs are significantly lower than the national average, with a median home price well below other states,” the report said. “Additionally, [West Virginia] boasts a slower pace of life, with fewer entertainment options and a lower cost of goods and services compared to more urban areas. However, it’s important to consider that West Virginia also has a lower median income than the national average. While the cost of living is lower, job opportunities and salaries may also be lower.”

Regarding Massachusetts, the $106,445 needed for a comfortable life translates to about $51.18 an hour, “assuming a full-time schedule, to cover essentials like housing, food, transportation, utilities and taxes,” the report said, adding that it means single adults working minimum wage in Massachusetts “would need to work nearly double the hours to live comfortably in Massachusetts.”

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