Do you feel like you make enough to cover your bills, buy the things you want, and set some money aside while living in the Triangle area? A new analysis has found how much it takes to be able to afford to live in some U.S. cities — including Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.
Using data from the MIT Living Wage Calculator and a common budgeting method, SmartAsset has calculated the salary a single person needs to earn to “live comfortably” in the 25 largest metro areas in the country.
The MIT Living Wage Calculator estimates the living wage needed to support individuals and families using “geographically specific expenditure data related to a family’s likely minimum food, child care, health insurance, housing, transportation, and other basic necessities.” Living wages have been calculated for each state, the District of Columbia, and multiple counties and metro areas throughout the U.S.
Using the required annual income after taxes estimated by the living wage calculator, SmartAsset determined how much you need to make to “live comfortably” in the nation’s largest cities using the 50/30/20 rule.
A common budgeting technique, the 50/30/20 rule allocates your after-tax income to three categories: basic living expenses, discretionary spending, and saving or paying off debt.
SmartAsset used MIT’s estimated living wage salaries as the “needs,” or 50% of one’s budget. They then doubled that salary for their analysis, allowing for an individual to spend the rest on wants, saving, and paying off debt.
In Raleigh, MIT found that a living wage for an adult with no children is just shy of $34,000. That factors in about $11,500 a year in housing expenses, $5,100 for transportation, almost $3,200 for food, more than $2,700 for medical, and $6,700 in taxes owed.
Following the 50/30/20 rule, doubling that means a single adult with no children needs to make almost $68,000 before taxes to live comfortably in Raleigh.
Raising children causes that number to swell as MIT estimates child care to cost about $11,300 per year per child. So, a single adult with one child needs to make about $138,000 a year to live comfortably. Two adults with a child, however, only need about $122,400 to be comfortable, assuming one of the adults stays home to provide child care.
Two working adults living in Raleigh with one child need to make more than $150,000 to live comfortably, according to this model.
In the Durham-Chapel Hill metropolitan area, MIT found the living wage of a single adult with no children to be $31,660, meaning that person would need a salary of more than $63,000 to live comfortably. Annual expenses are estimated to include $9,700 a year for housing, $5,100 for transportation, almost $3,200 for food, more than $2,700 for medical, and about $6,250 owed in taxes.
Child care in that area is estimated to be about $10,100 per year — more than $1,000 less than in Raleigh. Still, a single adult with a child would need more than $104,000 per year to live comfortably, the model showed. Two adults working with a child need more than $141,000, but that dips considerably to $116,000 if one of them stays home to care for the child.
The minimum wage in North Carolina is $7.25 an hour — just $1.12 per hour above the estimated poverty wage, but less than half of MIT’s liveable wage for Raleigh, Durham, or Chapel Hill.
In its analysis, SmartAsset found cities along both the East and West coasts require the greatest post-tax income to live comfortably. Nine of the top 10 metros fall on one of the seaboards.
Topping out the list, unsurprisingly, was a California metro: San Francisco-Oakland-Berkley. SmartAsset found a single working person would need an annual post-tax salary of $74,282 to live comfortably in and around the City by the Bay.
Coming in second was Boston-Cambridge-Newton, where a single individual would need to make $68,630.
Ultimately, the most affordable metro area was St. Louis, where a salary of $46,864 is enough to satisfy the 50/30/20 rule. St. Louis edged out the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn area, where a salary of $46,914 is considered enough.
Cities throughout the South and Midwest also make an appearance on SmartAsset’s list. In 22 of the 25 cities on the list, a post-tax salary of more than $50,000 is considered adequate to live comfortably.
The average salary needed to live comfortably across all of the major metro areas is $57,013, according to SmartAsset.