Here's How Much You Need to Make to Be Among the Top Half of Earners in Your City
Want to feel like you're pulling in the big bucks at work? Don't move to San Jose. According to this graphic from How Much, you'd have to earn more than $110,000 a year to be in the top 50 percent of salary earners in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California area.
How Much looked at Census data on household incomes for 2016 across the 50 biggest metropolitan areas in the U.S., calculating what kind of household income it would take to be in the top 50 percent of earners in that region. In other words: How much do you have to earn to feel relatively well-off compared to your peers?
Your neighbor's salary doesn't really affect you, so you shouldn't need to worry about whether you're in the top 50 percent of earners in your area—technically. But humans, of course, are complicated, and social status is all about perception. If you live next to a Fortune 500 CEO, you'll probably feel poor in comparison even if you make an objectively high salary. One study in 2010 found that life satisfaction is more about your rank in society, not your absolute income—more money led to greater happiness only if it made people richer than their peers.
Silicon Valley is a tough place these days if you want to feel rich. While it would take $110,040 to be in the top 50 percent of earners in the San Jose area, it would still take $96,677 in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward area.
The Washington D.C. area comes in third, with a median salary of $95,843; the Boston area comes in fourth, with a median salary of $82,380; and the Seattle area fifth, with a median salary of $78,612. The New York-Newark-Jersey City area comes in tenth place, at a median income of $71,897.
This data is purely based on salary, not net worth, so it doesn't tell you what kind of money it would take to feel rich in a neighborhood full of trust-fund heirs who own multi-million-dollar homes but might not bring home huge paychecks from their day job. Nor does it reflect housing prices or other costs, which differ wildly if you live in San Francisco versus New Orleans and definitely affect how far your salary goes and, thus, how wealthy you feel.
Even if you live in a place with high median incomes, though, just remember: Feeling rich won't necessarily make you happy.