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Where does your paycheck stretch the furthest?

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When we think of places with high salaries, big metro areas like New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco are usually the first to spring to mind. Or cities with the biggest concentrations of educated workers, such as Boston.

But wages are just one part of the equation: High prices in those East and West Coast cities mean the fat paychecks aren’t necessarily getting the locals ahead. When cost of living is factored in, most of the places that boast the highest effective pay turn out to be in the less celebrated and less expensive middle part of the country. My colleague Mark Schill of Praxis Strategy Group and I looked at the average annual wages in the nation’s 51 largest metropolitan statistical areas and adjusted incomes by the cost of living. The results were surprising and revealing.

No. 1: Houston

In first place is Houston, pictured, where the average annual wage in 2011 was $59,838, eighth highest in the nation. What puts Houston at the top of the list is the region’s relatively low cost of living, which includes such things as consumer prices and services, utilities and transportation costs and, most important, housing prices: The ratio of the median home price to median annual household income in Houston is only 2.9, remarkably low for such a dynamic urban region; in San Francisco a house goes for 6.7 times the median local household income. Adjusted for cost of living, the average Houston wage of $59,838 is worth $66,933, tops in the nation.



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Buying power - most people don't understand, way underestimate or choose to ignore. Another aspect that people always talk about is quality of life when trying to downplay Houston but in other places it means that you need 2 incomes to live in a decent place, have a huge commute or have many roommates unless you're filthy rich (then you can live in Moscow, NYC, London, etc and have your San Diego/Miami penthouse condo). Living in these cities with low buying power also means having no to minimal savings and/or safety net (emergency fund, life insurance, retirement savings, etc) not to mention disposable income.

Edited by JJVilla
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I wish I could convince my office to let me work remotely, from Manila, making the same money I do here. I could probably hire 3 people to actually do all my work, and own a 10,000sf McMansion.

Not sure what I'd do with all my free time, maybe buy a 100 ft sailboat and get abducted by pirates on my first voyage. That sounds like a great way to pass the time.

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When Houston is trying to promote itself to the world, rather than inane advertising showing art cars parked at the St Regis, or dreaming up idiot names like "Eado", they should just reprint this article, over and over again.

But all of it together is what helps make Houston unique.

We're not just a place for people who are looking for a cheap cost of living to live.

We're not just a place for artists.

We're not just a place for people who want to sample the various foods of the world without traveling to various regions of the world.

We're not just the energy capital of the world.

We're not just a huge port.

We're not just a medical center.

We're all of these things (and more).

Austin can claim to be weird, but damn-it, they aren't nearly half as weird as we are!

and now that everywhere is hot, humid, or hot and humid, the fact that Houston is hot and humid isn't such a big deal any longer.

ok, that was some good Houston patriotism, right?

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