Top 10 Cities Where Your Paycheck Will Run Out Of Steam

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In a previous post (“Top 10 Cities Where Your Paycheck Packs A Powerful Punch”), IAAP Key Partner OfficeTeam’s 2014 Salary Guide was analyzed to reveal the top cities for administrative professionals in terms of overall salaries and salaries compared to the cost of living in each community. The two lists were very different.

There’s just one more list to reveal, because the other side of the spectrum is also informative. Using the same analysis, here are the 10 worst places to live in terms of their combined salary and cost-of-living index (as a reminder, if you subtract the cost-of-living index from the salary index and the result is a negative number, that suggests that each dollar you earn won’t go as far):

1. Santa Barbara, Calif. (-83.7)
2. New York, N.Y. (-75.7)
3. Honolulu, Hawaii (-74.7)
4. Irvine, Calif. (-71.3)
5. Princeton, N.J. (-53.2)
6. Paramus, N.J. (-46.1)
7. Fort Collins, Colo. (-32)
8. San Francisco, Calif. (-28.5)
9. Fresno, Calif. (-27.3)
10. San Jose, Calif. (-23.1)

This list is also striking if you compare to the top 10 cities based strictly on the salary index. High-salary locations like San Francisco aren’t as alluring. A $60,000 salary is only worth $42,900 when adjusted for cost-of-living in the city by the bay. It should also make you think twice about moving to places like Honolulu, Hawaii, where remoteness equals extra expense. The slideshow at the top of this page reveals more details about the factors that landed these cities on this list.

The negative results also suggest that life is particularly hard for people in the lower-income locales. Many of those cities ended up with negative numbers. Stockton, Calif., for instance, has a salary index of 85, which is 17.5 points less than its cost-of-living index.

Bear in mind that these numbers shouldn’t dictate where anyone chooses to live and work. For one thing, job satisfaction data in IAAP's 2013 Benchmarking Survey report suggests that the type of work you do as an administrative professional has a significant impact on your overall happiness. The tangible and intangible benefits of having the right employer can compensate for the cost of living in a certain area.

In addition, this list doesn’t account for quality-of-life factors. Many people happily make the financial sacrifice to live in New York in order to have access to all the amazing culture, arts, food, music, etc. Detroit has an average salary index and is relatively affordable, but that’s because the housing market is dismal, which depresses the cost of living. That’s not necessarily a great deal.

What you value is clearly more than the sum of your salary and the cost of necessities like food, housing and transportation. Still, the next time you’re eyeing the grass on the other side, you might consider how much you’ll spend to get it.

Sources: OfficeTeam 2014 Salary Guide; U.S. cost-living-index; Sperling’s Best Places

(Ray Weikal is a communications specialist for IAAP and can be reached at