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20 U.S. Cities Where you Can Make the Most Money

New York, New York

Do you want to make a lot of money? Well, experts say you should go to college, find a good job, invest in the stock market, start your own business, and go to networking events to name a few things. All of that undoubtedly can contribute to your success, but what you rarely hear talked about is location, location, location. When it comes to building wealth, all cities are not created equal.

People have known this as far back as America's Declaration of Independence. Some towns are ripe with opportunity, and others have distinct advantages like low tax rates, higher wages, and an economy that requires specialized skills. Today I'm going to go over the top 20 locales that will help you achieve your goals of financial success. If you're thinking about making a change of scenery to boost your earning potential, I highly recommend you consider these destinations to help you reach your objective.

Let's get started.

20. Santa Rosa, California - Population: 491,790, Median annual salary: $49,800

The job market is absolutely booming in Santa Rosa. Why you might ask? Well, it's because Santa Rosa is one of the countries premier wine country towns. So tourism is a significant driver of the local economy. In fact, 9% of residents work in the industry, mainly at wineries and pubs.

19. Chicago, Illinois - Population: 9,516,448, Median annual salary: $50,410

Chicago is the Midwest largest city and home to a slew of top corporations including 31 Fortune 500 companies. Undoubtedly, that can set you up for a high paying job at the likes of Boeing, Kraft, or Allstate. The only drawback of Chicago is their brutally frigid winters and a consistent ranking as one of the most dangerous cities in America. (Although most of the crime is centered in a few locations.)

18. Portland, Oregon - Population: 2,288,796, Median annual salary: $50,710

Why is Portland one of the most financially well-off cities in America? Well, that has a lot to do with the fact that their population has more academic degrees than the national average. They also have a 2.9% annual job growth rate fueled by headquarters for Nike and Intel Corp. Portland isn't known for much, but it should definitely be making headlines because of these numbers.

17. Houston, Texas - Population: 6,204,141, Median annual salary: $50,830

Over the years I've had several college friends move to Houston, Texas, and now I think I see why. Besides just being a beautiful and diverse city it's also home to 26 Fortune 500 companies. Houston has a thriving nightlife, competitive sports franchises, and oh yea, housing is pretty cheap there compared to other major cities also. It's hard to beat that.

16. Worcester, Massachusetts - Population: 924,722, Median annual salary: $51,330

Boston gets all the fame, but Worcester Massachusetts definitely holds it's own in regards to handsome salaries. The healthcare sector is a huge driver of economic growth in this city. Indeed, a large portion of their population holds lucrative jobs at hospitals and medical research universities.

15. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Population: 6,015,336, Median annual salary: $51,740

The city of brotherly love is also the home of top colleges, and a robust finance, education, and health sector. Workers in Philadelphia are known to earn top salaries from companies like Wells Fargo. The city also has a thriving nightlife and sports scene as they are the home of the Eagles, 76ers, Flyers, and Phillies.

14. Sacramento, California - Population: 2,197,422, Median annual salary: $51,970

The capital of California doesn't disappoint when it comes to their job market. There are an ample amount of opportunities to find work in lucrative fields like construction, technology, and healthcare. The tourism sector is also growing rapidly, which also helps fuel job growth.

13. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota - Population: 3,424,786, Median annual salary: $52,080

The only real drawback of Minnesota is the brutal winter's (trust me I know.) If you can get past that you'll be introduced to a city that is thriving economically, culturally, and academically. If you work in a science-focused field, the city has opportunities at companies like Xcel Energy and Medtronic.

12. Baltimore, Maryland - Population: 2,753,396, Median annual salary: $52,460

Baltimore is currently experiencing a population boom... That might have something to do with the vast and lucrative job market the city has to offer. In particular, the bioscience field is experiencing the most growth. That has created a bevy of job opportunities at places like John Hopkins University and the University of Maryland. If you're in the bioscience field, Baltimore has your name written all over it.

11. Los Angeles, California - Population: 18,241,809, Median annual salary: $53,000

The only job I'm concerned about being filled in L.A is a replacement for Kobe Bryant... Okay, in all seriousness Los Angeles is the second largest city in the world, and there's no shortage of sun and beauty. One of the things that draw people to this town is the varied job market though. In Los Angeles, you will find top employers in manufacturing, transportation, and business. If you're thinking about moving to L.A to increase your income, it's tough to say you're making a bad decision.

10. San Diego, California - Population: 3,183,143, Median annual salary: $53,020

It's always sunny in San Diego. So the beaches stay packed with locals and tourist. In fact, tourism in San Diego sees more than 30 million visitors annually. With that type of booming tourism sector, it's no shock that the local economy is thriving. Some of the largest employers in San Diego include the US Navy and Marines.

9. Denver, Colorado - Population: 2,651,392, Median annual salary: $53,060

I wonder if Denver's recent legalization of recreational marijuana use has something to do with their booming economy? On second thought... Of course, it does, with reports confirming that Colorado's Legal Marijuana industry is worth $1 billion.  If you want to try your hand at entering the lucrative cannabis industry, this is the place to be.

8. New Haven, Connecticut - Population: 863,148, Median annual salary: $53,350

The small seaside town of New Haven is the home of prestigious college Yale University, so it's no shock that the city attracts politicians, innovators, and other power brokers. The largest job sectors in New Haven are Healthcare, education, and social services, partly because of Yale-New Haven Hospital.

7. Hartford, Connecticut- Population: 1,215,159, Median annual salary: $55,580

Once the home of Mark Twain, Hartford is one of the oldest US cities. A quiet place to raise a family you won't find much in the way of over the top excitement here. The city has an old school atmosphere where everybody knows their neighbor. With that in mind, it's not hard to find work in Hartford. Some of the town's top employers include United Technologies Corp and Aetna. If you're in the Aerospace, healthcare, or insurance industry finding a well-paying job in this city will be a cinch.

6. Seattle, Washington - Population: 3,557,037, Median annual salary: $57,370

Seattle is one of the most well-employed cities in the United States. Boasting an unemployment rate below the national average and home to tech giant, Seattle has been on the rise for years. One of the largest manufacturing centers for Boeing, the city also has an attractive $15 per hour minimum wage.

5. New York City, New York - Population: 20,799,260, Median annual salary: $59,060

They say that if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. I don't think any artist or entertainer that has journeyed to New York in search of a better life would disagree with that saying. Indeed, it's not easy finding your big break in the country's largest city. But don't feel left out, the level of difficulty isn't just for entertainer types. Why? Because of this fact: Even though New York ranks fifth amongst the highest paying cities in the country, it also ranks amongst the highest in terms of cost of living. But if you have your eyes set on New York City don't let me discourage you. The city is the global headquarters of dozens of Fortune 500 companies, including Pfizer and Goldman Sachs. You also have Wall Street and Headquarters for entertainment giants like MTV and NBC. Just beware, it is a dog eat dog world in the city that never sleeps.

4. Boston, Massachusetts - Population: 4,650,876, Median annual salary: $60,540

Home to the oldest public park in America and the setting for many historical events, Boston Massachusetts is a big city that has a small town feel. Not only does Boston rank amongst the top cities for sports fans but it also consistently stays on the cutting edge of medicine and technology. In terms of the desirability, Boston is one of the best places you can live both regarding income opportunities and culture.

3. Washington, DC - Population: 5,863,608, Median annual salary: $64,930

Home of The White House and Capitol Hill, Washington, DC is America's hub for politics. But besides that, DC has a robust job market in both the education and health services industry. The average salary is higher than average due to the presence of government officials and private contractors, which bodes well for people looking for work in the information technology sector. But DC also draws in a swarm of tourist each year, which keeps the local leisure and hospitality industries swimming in cash. In fact, the city is the headquarters for both the Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International. DC's local economy is definitely doing well... But would we expect anything less from the city that the President calls home?

2. San Francisco, California - Population: 4,466,251, Median annual salary: $64,990

Many would say that San Francisco is the epicenter of the LGBT rights movement and the launching point for the modern day technology era. Although the price of living in San Francisco has skyrocketed in the last ten years due to an influx of tech startups setting up shop in the Bay Area, there are plenty of well-paying jobs to go around. Tech gets all the attention in the bay, but the San Francisco is also home to over 30 international finance headquarters. If you have skills that are valuable to that sector, this is the place to be. Just be prepared to pay a hefty sum for housing.

1. San Jose, California - Population: 1,898,457, Median annual salary: $75,770

Coming in at number one on this list is San Jose, California. On the surface that might seem a little bit unexpected. But when you dig deeper you find that San Jose touts eBay, Cisco, and IBM as their biggest private sector jobs. The home of Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, each year thousands of engineers and computer scientists graduate and enter the local job market. Fortunately, they have no problem claiming positions with the areas tech giants including Apple, Facebook, and Google. Not a computer scientist or tech expert? Don't worry, San Jose has competitive pay and employment opportunities in just about every industry you can imagine. Consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in America, you can't go wrong eyeing a move to San Jose.


There are many ways to increase your earning potential. One way people have tried to do that every since settlers journeyed out west during the gold rush was relocation. One way that people have attempted to accomplish that goal since settlers journeyed out west during the gold rush was relocation. Many succeeded... but on the other hand, many failed. So, does the tactic work overall? Will relocating ensure you more income and a better lifestyle?

No one can give you a definitive answer without knowing the details of your situation. However, your earnings and career prospects can without a doubt be capped by the city you live in. That's one of the reasons why so many of the cities on this list are seeing an influx of new residents. Are you ready to make the dive? Are you ready to relocate in search of greener pastures like so many people that have come before you? If the answer to these questions is "yes" just make sure you plan ahead and are prepared for setbacks.

Just because a city has more opportunity doesn't mean success will be handed to you. Hard work, dedication, perseverance, and being a skilled worker all still play a prominent role in achieving success. Make sure you're well prepared in all those areas, and your relocation could turn out to be the best decision you've ever made.

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Andrew Gosselin CPA

Written by Andrew Gosselin CPA

Andrew Gosselin, CPA is a former senior strategy consultant for a global, multi-billion-dollar software company. He is the Senior Contributor / Editor at MoneyInc, and he holds degrees in accounting, finance, and international business from Bentley University, where he played varsity basketball and was the Lead Tutor of the accounting and finance curriculum for the Bentley Athletic Department. Andrew was named a President's Academic Scholar and was inducted into the Falcon Society, a distinction awarded by the Bentley faculty and his peers for being among those with the highest achievement and abilities in his graduating class.

Read more posts by Andrew Gosselin CPA

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