What Salary Buys Happiness in Your City? $75k or $160k?

Today, the Wall Street Journal attempted to figure out just how much money (yearly, salary-wise) you need to be happy in any given city in the US. The article is quite relevant to the money tiffs my boyfriend and I have been having over how much a person / family needs in the Bay Area to be happy.

The whole concept is based on a study that says once people earn $75k, any additional income does not improve their happiness. But we all know $75k goes a lot further in the middle of nowhere than in Times Square. The WSJ attempted to figure out what $75k means across the US based on the cost of living.

Of course, my city is the second most expensive in the country, requiring an income of $118.5k to be happy. Only New York, which would require an income of $163k for the same level of happiness, is more expensive (and much more expensive at that, though I feel quality of life in the Bay Area is much higher.)

The chart is an interesting comparision of just what equals a really good salary in different parts of the country. This is the first year I’m, in theory, earning $120k (though likely only earning a little more than half of that due to on-and-off contract work) and I can attest to the fact that this is the first year I feel happy with my salary and quality of life. I’m living cheaper than I have to in order to save money, but that’s more because I’m going to end up earning $80k this year and not $120k. I can see that extra $40k just pushing me up to the amount where I’d feel stable, would be able to spend a little on things like… a car that has functioning air conditioning, and still not break the bank.

Hmm, maybe I should move to Dothan, Alabama.

Then again… they need to factor in how happy people are in each city to figure out the true cost of happiness where people live. In the Bay Area, I think happiness is cheaper because there’s so much to do outside – for free – and weather is generally decent enough to spend a good chunk of the year outside. Whereas, in Chicago, you may need less money to hit this target salary of fiscal happiness, but then that happiness is much more expensive… to keep yourself entertained all year long, you have to pay a lot more.

What do you think? What salary would you need to make in your city to reach the ultimate “happiness” a salary can offer before the excess is just luxury, without affecting your emotional state?

  • me in millions

    100K for my area. Sounds about right. Think I need a raise…

  • Belle