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Top 10 cities where paychecks go far
New survey finds cities where you get the most value for your salary, and where you get the least.
May 23, 2005: 10:52 AM EDT
By Jeanne Sahadi, CNN/Money senior writer
Would you move to another city to get more for your wages?
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) Pride aside, it really doesn't matter how much you make, just so long as it goes a long way where you live.

Therein lies the rub for all those who seek glory and glamour or just decent housing and a drink -- in the most fabled places.

A new report from looks at the relationship between salaries and the cost of living in 188 large metropolitan areas across the country to see where the gainfully employed can live and eat and still pad their bank accounts.

The living costs measured in the new Salary Value Index include housing, food, transportation, utilities and state taxes. The index also factors in an area's employment and job-growth rates.

What it does not account for are quality-of-life issues, such as culture, school systems and the weather.

So, financially speaking, the top 10 places where you'll get the most mileage out of your paycheck are:

  • New London, Conn.
  • Huntsville, Ala.
  • Baltimore
  • Harrisburg, Pa.
  • Tulsa, Okla.
  • Rock Island, Ill.
  • Troy, N.Y.
  • Corpus Christi, Texas
  • Schenectady, N.Y.
  • Las Vegas, Nev.

The top cities, found, have all enjoyed various forms of revitalization in the past several years since the cost of doing business is low and new employees are brought to town.

For instance, New London, a historic whaling port between New York and Boston, now serves as home to Pfizer's Research and Development headquarters.

Huntsville, Ala., a turn-of-the-century town, is home to various NASA programs.

If companies continue to find a city in the Top 10 of the Salary Value Index attractive, the cost of living could eventually increase along with salaries and employment opportunities.

But the draw of such areas is vulnerable if any major players pull out of town. A naval submarine base in New London, for instance, may soon close. If that happens, the immediate impact would be a higher unemployment rate, a decline in the cost of living and then in salaries, said Bill Coleman,'s senior vice president of compensation.

But long-term, he suggested, the city's appeal would depend in part on what happens after the base closed whether, for instance, a corporation converts the space for some of its facilities, attracting new workers.

The worst places to stretch a dollar earned

Chances are, you easily might have predicted many of the worst places on the Salary Value Index without the aid of a calculator.

In any case, please refrain from serenading your tan and toned West Coast friends or your pale, neurotic Manhattan ones with a rousing rendition of "Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah."

According to, the 10 least affordable cities for paycheck earners are:

  • New York
  • San Francisco
  • Stamford, Conn.
  • San Jose, Calif.
  • San Diego
  • Santa Barbara, Calif.
  • Bakersfield, Calif.
  • Los Angeles
  • Fresno, Calif.
  • Boston

And what of the often-overlooked middle child? According to Salary. Com, the cities that rank in and around the 50th percentile in terms of affordability relative to pay are:

  • Mobile, Ala.
  • Kansas City, Kan.
  • Fort Collins, Colo.
  • Sioux City, Iowa
  • Orlando, Fla.


Wherever you live, the challenge is to live within your means. To see if you are, click here.  Top of page


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