los angeles beach young coupleIt costs about $76,000 a year to live comfortably in Los Angeles, but the median household only earns $50,200.oneinchpunch/Shutterstock
What it means to live "comfortably" is, of course, subjective. One couple can happily travel the world on less than $30,000 a year, while another may struggle to maintain their preferred lifestyle making $500,000 a year in New York City.
Nonetheless, a good rule of thumb is to live by the 50-30-20 plan. That is, spending 50% of your income on necessities (like housing and food) and 30% on discretionary items (like travel and entertainment), and saving the remaining 20%.
However, cost of living and wages vary from city to city, so while you may be able to achieve this budget with ease in some places, in others it's a much more challenging task. Indeed, in many locations, the median income is well below what would be necessary to live comfortably under the 50-30-20 guideline.
For its latest report on the income needed to afford living in the 50 biggest cities in America, GOBankingRates examined the following monthly expenses for a single person living in the largest US cities by population:
  • Housing: the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in each city, sourced from Zillow's January 2017 rental index
  • Groceries: the recommended amount reported by cost-of-living database Numbeo.comfor each city
  • Utilities: the average cost for a 915-square-foot apartment in each city, according to cost estimates from Numbeo.com
  • Transportation: costs according to the Economic Policy Institute's Family Budget Calculator for each city or its nearest metropolitan area
  • Health insurance: premiums as estimated at the state level for 2016 by the Department of Health and Human Services
GoBankingRates multiplied the total monthly cost of necessities for each city by 12 to get the annual cost. To live by the 50-30-20 rule, a person would need to earn twice as much as their expenses, so GoBankingRates doubled the total cost of necessities to arrive at the total recommended income for each city.
Below, check out how much you need to earn to live by the 50-30-20 rule in the 25 largest cities in America — ranging from $40,000 in El Paso, Texas, to $110,000 in San Francisco. We've also included how much the median household actually earns in each location.