How Far a 50K Salary Would Get You in 30 American Cities

Written by Carly Hallman

Wondering, “What can I afford with $50,000 a year?” We’ve taken a closer look at the basic expenses of 30 American cities to see where you’d be able to live comfortably on a fairly average yearly salary.

How far 50k Salary Gets you in 30 American Cities

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Is $50K a Good Salary?

Let’s look at the facts: In the United States, the median household income is $57,617, which often includes multiple household members’ incomes as well as side gigs. Considering that 47% of the country makes less than $50,000 per household, you’re already in the upper crust. And that’s for household data! The median personal income in the U.S. is quite different, about $31,099. So if you’re asking, “Is $50,000 a year a good salary?” in comparison to other Americans, the answer is yes. If you’re asking, “Is $50,000 a good salary?” because you want to know if it’s a reasonable wage to live off of comfortably, that answer is a bit more complicated.

What Can I Afford With $50,000 a Year?

The answer depends on where you live. For the top 30 most populated cities in the U.S., you need between $20K and $35K a year to cover basic expenses, including food, medical costs, housing, transportation, taxes, and other expenses. This is according to MIT’s Living Wage Index, which calculates what a fair wage would look like in various American cities. In many places, there’s a massive gap between the minimum wage and living wage. For those who want a slightly more affluent lifestyle — a nicer apartment, brunches on weekends — expect to need a cushion of $5K to $10K more per year.

How Much Rent Can I Afford on a $50K Salary?

Housing costs vary an extreme amount based on your location. If you’re asking, “How much house can I afford?” a $50,000 salary may only be able to get you a closet in San Francisco. The rule of thumb for rent is that many people can afford a $1,250 apartment with a $50K salary, but it can’t go far above that. If you specifically want to know, “What house can I afford on $50K a year?” it depends on your down payment, but the price generally would be somewhere around $200K. Getting something in that price range in Manhattan could be pretty difficult! We took a look at how much house $500K gets you in different cities previously, and those results may be a bit disheartening.

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