Cost of Living

10 Most Expensive Cities to Live In

Here is a nice article by Dan Burrows of Kiplinger:

 

By Dan Burrows, Contributing Writer / May 2017

 

Costly cities are costly for a reason. Be it climate, geography, culture, economic prosperity or all of the above, the most expensive U.S. cities to live in offer amenities and opportunities for which residents are willing to pay a premium to access. It’s simply the price of admission to enjoy the advantages a desirable place has to offer.

“It's all about trade-offs and opportunity costs when choosing to live in one place over another,” says Jennie Allison of the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness, a nonprofit research and policy group. “In Hawaii, this is called a ‘Paradise Tax,’ and in Florida many people are likely familiar to the reference of the ‘Sunshine Tax.’” On the plus side, notes Allison: Wages are often higher in these cities, too, which makes a steeper cost of living more manageable.

We compiled our list of the most expensive U.S. cities to live in based on the Council for Community and Economic Research's calculations of living expenses in 288 urban areas. Its Cost of Living Index measures prices for housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services such as getting your hair done or going to a movie. Take a closer look at the nation’s most expensive cities.

(The Cost of Living Index is based on price data collected during 2016. City-level data on populations, household incomes and home values come from the U.S. Census Bureau. Metropolitan-area unemployment rates come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and represent 2016 averages. For the purposes of finalizing this list, the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn were treated as separate cities; Orange County, Calif., was screened out because it contains multiple cities with large populations including Anaheim, Santa Ana and Irvine.)

 

Most Expensive U.S. Cities to Live In 2017

 

10. Seattle

 

•Cost of Living: 44.9% above U.S. average

•City Population: 684,451

•Median Household Income: $70,594 (U.S.: $53,889)

•Median Home Value: $452,800 (U.S.: $178,600)

•Unemployment Rate: 4.5% (U.S.: 4.9%)

 

Coffee isn’t the only thing that’s strong in Seattle. The local economy is, too, and that's putting upward pressure on prices. As one of the nation's fastest growing cities, Seattle’s housing market is hot, driven in part by a booming tech scene. (Microsoft and Amazon are both based in the area, as are many smaller high-tech companies.) Housing-related costs for renters and homeowners are nearly 80% higher than the U.S. average, according to the Cost of Living Index, and they're only going up. Real estate-tracker Zillow expects home prices in the Emerald City to rise another 5.6% in 2017.

 

9. Stamford, Conn.

 

•Cost of Living: 45.7% above U.S. average

•City Population: 128,874

•Median Household Income: $79,359

•Median Home Value: $501,200

•Unemployment Rate: 5.0%

 

With its close proximity to New York City, Stamford has long been home to wealthy commuters. In fact, despite its relatively small population, the Connecticut city has one of the highest concentrations of millionaires in the country. But as expensive as Stamford’s living costs are, they are still less than the Big Apple. (More on the cost of living in New York City later.) If there's another upside to be found, it's in transportation costs. Extensive commuter rail links to New York and its position in the Northeast rail corridor help make getting around only 11% more expensive than the national average, according to the Cost of Living Index.

 

8. Boston

 

•Cost of Living: 47.9% above U.S. average

•City Population: 667,137

•Median Household Income: $55,777

•Median Home Value: $393,600

•Unemployment Rate: 3.4%

 

With its unparalleled collection of universities, hospitals, historical sites, and tech and biotech employers, it's easy to see why Boston is such an appealing place to live. And while there’s no question the city’s popularity comes at a high cost, it’s not nearly as high as some East Coast cities that are often mentioned in the same breath as Boston. After all, the high concentrations of students, recent grads and young professionals require some level of affordability to get by while they’re starting out. Groceries, for example, run just 6% above the national average in Boston, far less than residents of the other cities on this list pay. The median home value, while high relative to the U.S. median, is the lowest among our expensive cities.

 

7. Oakland, Calif.

 

•Cost of Living: 48.4% above U.S. average

•City Population: 419,267

•Median Household Income: $54,618

•Median Home Value: $458,500

•Unemployment Rate: 3.8%

 

Oakland anchors one corner of a sort of Bermuda Triangle around San Francisco Bay where affordable prices go missing. The second corner is San Francisco, as famous for its sky-high real estate as it is for Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf. The third corner is Silicon Valley, home to high-tech giants handing out six-figure salaries like candy on Halloween. Compared to its neighbors to the west and south, Oakland might seem a bargain. But consider this: The median household income in Oakland is about the same as the U.S. median, yet median home values are 2.5 times the U.S median. And after rising 9.6% over the last year, Oakland home prices are expected to climb another 2.9% in the next 12 months, according to Zillow estimates.

 

6. Washington, D.C.

 

•Cost of Living: 49% above U.S. average

•City Population: 681,170

•Median Household Income: $70,848

•Median Home Value: $475,800

•Unemployment Rate: 3.8%

 

The nation's capital is a tale of two cities when it comes to living costs. Housing-related expenses including rents and mortgages are by far the most burdensome at more than double the national average, according to the Cost of Living Index, but other expenses aren’t too far above average. In fact, D.C. health-care costs are slightly below the national average. A wide-ranging bus and metro system makes getting to and around the District of Columbia affordable. The Circulator bus, for example, costs just $1 and its routes reach popular spots including Georgetown, Union Station and the National Mall. Numerous museums and historical sites are free to visit.

 

5. Brooklyn, N.Y.

 

•Cost of Living: 73.3% above U.S. average

•City Population: 2,629,150

•Median Household Income: $48,201

•Median Home Value: $570,200

•Unemployment Rate: 4.8%

 

Technically, Brooklyn is one of the five boroughs that make up New York City, but in recent years it has emerged as something of a metropolis onto itself. Indeed, if Brooklyn was an independent city, its population would be on par with Chicago, the third-largest city in the nation. Not so long ago, Brooklyn was considered a viable alternative for those who couldn’t afford to live in Manhattan. Not anymore. Housing-related expenses including rents and mortgages are three times the national average. Any yet, the median household income in Brooklyn is more than $5,000 below the U.S. median and nearly $25,000 shy of the median household income in Manhattan.

 

4. San Francisco

 

•Cost of Living: 77.2% above U.S. average

•City Population: 864,816

•Median Household Income: $81,294

•Median Home Value: $799,600

•Unemployment Rate: 3.8%

 

Years of relentless growth driven by high-paid tech workers have given San Francisco some of the highest living costs in the country, meaning even those with fat paychecks can struggle to make ends meet. Home prices are famously high, an obstacle for aspiring homeowners, and renters fare little better. The average rent for an apartment in San Francisco is $3,548 a month, according to the Cost of Living Index. That’s 3.5 times the national average. or three times the national average. Yes, median household income is the second highest on this list, but even then it's easy for San Franciscans to feel the financial strain.

 

3. Honolulu

 

•Cost of Living: 90.1% above U.S. average

•City Population: 992,605

•Median Household Income: $74,460

•Median Home Value: $580,200

•Unemployment Rate: 2.8%

 

Remember the “paradise tax” that Jennie Allison of the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness talked about? Well, it’s collected in spades in Hawaii. To enjoy the perks of living in such a remote Pacific paradise, Honolulu residents pay more than they would on the mainland for pretty much everything -- and it’s not hard to understand why. Most goods sold in Hawaii must arrive either by boat or by plane, which jacks up the price considerably. Honolulu has the most expensive groceries of all 288 urban areas surveyed for the Cost of Living Index. Eggs, for example, cost two-thirds more than the national average and margarine costs double. Gasoline goes for 30% more than it does in the continental U.S.

 

2. Sunnyvale, Calif.

 

•Cost of Living: 122.9% above U.S. average

•City Population: 151,754

•Median Household Income: $105,401

•Median Home Value: $790,300

•Unemployment Rate: 3.8%

 

Either play the lottery or brush up on your computer coding skills if you hope to survive in this pricey California city. Sunnyvale and its Silicon Valley surroundings are famous for being home to some of the biggest tech companies in the world -- and for being home to exorbitant living expenses. Yahoo is headquartered in Sunnyvale and tech behemoths such as Google, Apple, Intel and Tesla are based nearby. No wonder overall housing-related costs are the highest in the land, according to the Cost of Living Index, running 375% above average. A six-figure median income, tops in the U.S., helps Sunnyvale's citizens bear the financial burden.

 

1. Manhattan, N.Y.

 

•Cost of Living: 127.8% above U.S. average

•City Population: 1,643,347

•Median Household Income: $72,871

•Median Home Value: $848,700

•Unemployment Rate: 4.8%

 

If you’ve ever been to Manhattan, you don’t need us to tell you that it’s an expensive place to visit. It’s even more expensive to live there. With space at a premium and location paramount, the median home value in Manhattan is the highest among our expensive cities. So, too, is the rent for an apartment, which averages a staggering $4,239 a month. The budget-busting doesn't stop there. Residents pay a premium of 43% at the grocery store, health care is a third more costly than average, and transportation is 30% above average. Want to see a movie? Ticket prices are nearly 50% higher, on average, than is the norm in the rest of the country. Oh, and you’ll need to like crowds if you hope to make it in the Big Apple: Manhattan packs in nearly 70,000 residents per square mile, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

 

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles. Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

11 Satellite Cities Poised to Thrive in 2017

Here is a nice article provided by David Payne of Kiplinger:

 

By David Payne, Staff Economist | March 2017, Nick Mourtoupalas also contributed to this report. 

 

It’s been a slow climb back from the Great Recession for the nation’s major metropolitan areas. Yet job seekers often overlook the small and medium cities located near or relatively near the big hubs. As the big metro areas recover, these smaller “satellite” cities benefit from spreading regional business growth, while offering lower housing and commuter costs, putting less of a squeeze on employee salaries than more expensive, congested places a few hours away.

 

That can mean both abundant job opportunities and budget-friendly home prices for folks looking to relocate. Check out these 11 up-and-coming satellite cities where the job markets are hot but the cost of living won’t eat all of your paycheck. All of these cities’ job markets have been growing faster than the national average, most have lower jobless rates than the national average, and all are expected to continue to outperform economically this year.

 

St. George, Utah

 

Close by: Las Vegas (100 miles SW), Salt Lake City (300 miles NE)

Employment growth in 2016: 6.1% (national growth: 1.8%)

Latest unemployment rate (Dec. 2016): 3.2% (national rate: 4.7%)

Median home price: $345,000 in the city, up 10% from last year ($235K to $300K in the suburbs)

 

St. George has seen five consecutive years of 5%-plus job growth. Much of that has come in professional and business services, health care, retail, manufacturing and hospitality services. Three of its biggest employers are SkyWest Airlines, Dixie Regional Medical Center and Sunroc, a regional building supplies company. Retirees wary of Vegas find the warm winters in the Utah desert to their liking here. One of the most scenic natural wonders in the country, Zion National Park, is just a 45-minute drive to the east.

 

Bend/Redmond, Oregon

 

Close by: Portland (170 miles NW)

Metro population: 114,000

Employment growth in 2016: 5.3%

Unemployment rate: 4.4%

Median home price: $360,000, up 9% from last year

 

On the east-facing slopes of the Cascade mountains, these twin cities have enjoyed robust job growth four years running. The trend is expected to continue. Tourism and the hospitality industry are integral to this region’s economy. Retirees like the outdoor activities (the east side of the Cascades gets more sunny days than the west side). Major employers include St. Charles Medical Center; Keith Manufacturing, makers of storage and conveying systems; and Sunriver Resort, an upscale vacation destination. The area is also seeing strong job growth in professional and business services, health care, retail, construction and manufacturing.

 

Cleveland, Tennessee

 

Close by: Chattanooga (40 miles SW), Atlanta (120 miles SE)

Metro population: 56,000

Employment growth in 2016: 4.9%

Unemployment rate: 4.4%

Median home price: $165,000, up 10% from last year

 

Home of Lee University, this less-famous Cleveland is quietly benefiting from strong growth in jobs in professional and business services, health care, retail and hospitality. Major employers include Whirlpool (it has a premium kitchen-appliances division and distribution outlet here), Tennova Healthcare and Amazon.com. Its 800 acres of industrial parks include manufacturing facilities and outlets for Volkswagen, Duracell, Mars and Bayer. It helps that Cleveland, with its views of the Great Smoky Mountains, is also in a state with no income tax.

 

Prescott/Prescott Valley, Arizona

 

Close by: Phoenix (100 miles S)

Metro population: 82,000

Employment growth in 2016: 4.6%

Unemployment rate: 4.2%

Median home price: $321,000, up 9% from last year

 

Prescott is a popular retirement and tourist alternative to the state capital. The area is cooler than Phoenix because its elevation is 4,000 feet higher, and the air is cleaner outside of the Phoenix basin. It is experiencing rapid job growth, driven by population growth. The biggest gains are in professional and business services, hospitality, health care and retail. Major employers include Yavapai Regional Medical Center; a Lockheed Martin training center; Superior Industries, which manufactures equipment for crushing, washing and conveying bulk materials; and Sturm, Ruger & Co., a firearms manufacturer which makes pistols here. Prescott is also home to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

 

Savannah, Georgia

 

Close by: Charleston, S.C. (120 miles NE), Jacksonville, Fla. (170 miles S)

Metro population: 179,000

Employment growth in 2016: 4.0%

Unemployment rate: 4.9%

Median home price: $195,000, up 6% from last year

 

Gateway to the Atlantic Ocean just south of the South Carolina border, Savannah is not only a historic city with antebellum charm, but the fourth-busiest port in the United States. It saw a big jump in professional and business services jobs in 2016, along with strong growth in health care, retail and hospitality. The port authority is currently dredging the harbor to accommodate the biggest cargo ships, a project that will be completed in 2020. That means even more freight entering and leaving this already humming city. Major employers include Gulfstream Aerospace, Memorial Health, St. Joseph’s/Candler hospitals, Marine Terminals Corp. and SSA Cooper, a marine cargo handling outfit. Ft. Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield also anchors the local economy.

 

Reno/Sparks, Nevada

 

Close by: Sacramento, Calif. (130 miles SW), San Francisco (220 miles SW)

Metro population: 334,000

Employment growth in 2016: 4.0%

Unemployment rate: 4.2%

Median home price: $305,000, up 9% from last year

 

Near the California border and 20 miles from Lake Tahoe, Reno and Sparks benefit from tourism, hospitality and gambling. Business services, health care, construction and transportation are also major employers. The University of Nevada at Reno is the second-largest university in the state.

 

The area was jump-started economically when Tesla opened its gigafactory in January 2017, just a half-hour’s drive east of Reno. This is the largest facility in the world for making battery cells to power electric autos. It already employs more than 1,000 people. Tesla says it plans to add 1,000 more employees in early 2017, with a goal of a 6,500-person workforce sometime in 2018. The venture has attracted ancillary businesses such as Panasonic, which has plans to add 2,000 workers at its Reno operations in 2017. Other major employers include Renown Regional Medical Center, Peppermill Resort Spa Casino and International Game Technologies, a manufacturer of slot machines.

 

Athens, Georgia

 

Close by: Atlanta (75 miles W)

Metro population: 123,000

Employment growth in 2016: 4.0%

Unemployment rate: 4.8%

Median home price: $270,000; higher closer to the University of Georgia campus

 

The Athens area (Clarke County and Oconee County) is heating up as an alternative to big-city Atlanta, with the University of Georgia serving as both an incubator and hub of business development. Professional and business services and the hospitality industry are major drivers of job growth. Lots of construction jobs, too: Three new hotels have been added to the downtown area along with large student housing developments. Retirees, especially, are attracted to the educational pursuits and sports attractions that come with a college town, as well as major health care facilities. Other big employers include Athens Regional Medical Center, Caterpillar and Pilgrim’s Pride, which operates a local food processing plant.

 

College Station/Bryan, Texas

 

Close by: Houston (100 miles SE), Austin (110 miles W), Dallas (180 miles N)

Metro population: 187,000

Employment growth in 2016: 3.9%

Unemployment rate: 3.4%

Median home price: $230,000, up 6% from last year

 

Located virtually equidistant from Houston and Austin, College Station is home to Texas A&M University. It and neighboring Bryan are following the path of Austin (the Lone Star State’s capital, with its University of Texas campus) as the next up-and-coming regional center. Texas A&M has expanded enrollment from 40,000 to 60,000 in the past five years. Having a thriving university results in strong growth in jobs in professional and business services, health care, retail, hospitality and other services. The A&M Health Science Center and the veterinary school sponsor a facility for manufacturing vaccines, including 1 million inoculation doses for the avian flu. A bio corridor is developing around this and a GlaxoSmithKline facility. Sanderson Farms, one of the largest chicken suppliers in the United States, has a major processing facility just outside Bryan.

 

Salem, Oregon

 

Close by: Portland (50 miles N)

Metro population: 234,000

Employment growth in 2016: 3.5%

Unemployment rate: 4.3%

Median home price: $240,000, up 6% from last year

 

Salem is the capital of the Beaver State and a thriving satellite city in the fast-growing Willamette Valley. The area has become an affordable alternative to Portland, 90 minutes away during rush hour. Construction is also going strong, and 2016 saw a big jump in professional and business services jobs. Commercial real estate is booked solid. The Career Technical Education Center, a public-private partnership, has significantly improved graduation rates for its high school seniors.

 

Marion County is the largest food producer in the state, and a center for agricultural science and research. County voters approved a bond issue in 2014 to fund an agricultural extension service sponsored by Oregon State University. Other large employers include Salem Hospital; Willamette University; Norpac, a food processing company; Spirit Mountain Casino; and T-Mobile.

 

Boise, Idaho

 

Close by: Nothing really, but a satellite city nonetheless

Metro population: 324,000

Employment growth in 2016: 3.4%

Unemployment rate: 3.4%

Median home price: $245,000, up 10% from last year

 

Located in the southwest corner of the Gem State, Boise benefits as a regional alternative to Seattle, Portland, or Salt Lake City, all a six- to eight-hour drive away (but hey, this is the West, where folks are used to driving long distances).

 

Boise is the state capital, largest city in the state, and home of Boise State University, with its iconic blue-turfed football stadium. It’s also one of the least expensive large metros in the wide-open spaces of the West. Local industries that are hiring briskly include health care, construction, manufacturing and finance. Boise is big on both agribusiness and semiconductors, and has many tech start-ups. Clearwater Analytics, a local start-up, now has a 10-story building downtown. The great outdoors is always close by with the Rocky Mountains and ski resorts. Big employers include St. Luke’s health systems, Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, Micron Technology, HP and the state government.

 

Spokane, Washington

 

Close by: Seattle (280 miles W)

Metro population: 304,000

Employment growth in 2016: 3.0%

Unemployment rate: 6.4%

Median home price: $195,000, up 11% from last year

 

Western Washington has Seattle; eastern Washington has Spokane, the number-two metro area in size but a more affordable alternative for newcomers to the Evergreen State. It is the home of Gonzaga University and is seeing robust job gains in professional and business services, health care, construction and transportation. Major employers include Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children’s Hospital, Deaconess Medical Center and the 92nd Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild Air Force Base.

 

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles. Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

10 Cheapest US Cities to Live In

Here is a nice article provided by Dan Burrows of Kiplinger:

 

By Dan Burrows, Contributing Writer | May 2017

 

When it comes to cheap living, don't mess with Texas. The Lone Star State is home to the two most-affordable cities in America. But Texas doesn't have a monopoly on low living costs. Five other states make an appearance on our list.

 

If you’re thinking about relocating to one of these cheap cities, weigh the pros and cons. A low cost of living is attractive, but the allure lessens if jobs are hard to come by, paychecks are small or the town offers little to do. Research your potential destination online, and plan an extended visit to ensure the city fits your lifestyle.

 

We compiled our rankings based on the Council for Community and Economic Research's calculations of living expenses in 288 urban areas. Its Cost of Living Index measures prices for housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services (for the last item, think going to a movie or getting your hair done at a salon). We screened out small cities with populations below 50,000.

 

Take a look at our 2017 list of the 10 cheapest places to live in America.

(The Cost of Living Index is based on price data collected during 2016. City-level data on populations, household incomes and home values come from the U.S. Census Bureau. Unless otherwise indicated, metropolitan-area unemployment rates come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and represent 2016 averages.)

 

10. Oklahoma City

Cost of Living: 15.5% below U.S. average

City Population: 631,346

Median Household Income: $47,779 (U.S.: $53,889)

Median Home Value: $138,600 (U.S.: $178,600)

Unemployment Rate: 4.2% (U.S.: 4.9%)

The largest city in Oklahoma offers remarkably affordable prices for its size. The biggest reason: Housing costs run 28.8% below the national average, according to the housing component of the Cost of Living Index, which takes into account both home prices and apartment rents. And yet as a metro area with 1.4 million people, Oklahoma City offers a lot of big-city attractions, from a philharmonic orchestra to the National Softball Hall of Fame and Museum. At the professional sports level, the Oklahoma City Thunder remains one of the most competitive teams in the NBA.

 

9. Conway, Ark. 

Cost of Living: 15.6% below U.S. average

City Population: 64,980

Median Household Income: $47,504

Median Home Value: $160,400

Unemployment Rate: 3.5%

Conway is home to a number of high-tech companies, such as digital marketing firm Acxiom, and post-secondary educational institutions, including the University of Central Arkansas. Close proximity to the Arkansas River and Lake Conway make the city ideal for fishing and water sports, and there's ample space for hunting. Yet you can drive to the state capital of Little Rock in a half-hour or so. While Conway's median home value is the highest among the cities on this list, the figure is still below the U.S. median, and housing-related expenses, including utilities, are modest. Relatively low costs for health care also contribute to Conway's affordability.

 

8. Jonesboro, Ark. 

Cost of Living: 15.9% below U.S. average

City Population: 73,907

Median Household Income: $41,688

Median Home Value: $141,400

Unemployment Rate: 3.4%

Best known as the home of Arkansas State University—Go Red Wolves!—Jonesboro is a college town with a degree in affordability. Putting a roof over your head costs 28.2% less than the national average, according to the Cost of Living Index. Health care is very reasonable, too. You’ll save about 18%, on average, on a visit to the doctor and 25% on a visit to the dentist. A trip to the optometrist costs 30% less than the national average. And when you feel the need to escape to a big city, Memphis is just an hour's drive from Jonesboro (more on the budget-friendly charms of Memphis later). Jonesboro's unemployment rate is the lowest among the cities on this list.

 

7. Norman, Okla.

Cost of Living: 16.2% below U.S. average

City Population: 120,284

Median Household Income: $51,491

Median Home Value: $160,100

Unemployment Rate: 3.5%*

Speaking of college athletics, Norman is home to the University of Oklahoma, a perennial Big 12 powerhouse. Football is the main draw, but far from the only sports dynasty in town: The Sooners men's gymnastics team has won three straight national titles. Norman is also home to households with the highest median income among the cities on this list. But while household incomes are close to the national average, overall living costs are far from it. The city's affordability is evident in the prices of many staples, from groceries to gasoline. Rent is especially cheap. The typical apartment in Norman goes for a whopping 44% less than the U.S. average. When you need to get off campus, Oklahoma City is just a few minutes’ drive up Interstate 35.

*The unemployment rate for Cleveland County, which includes the city of Norman, as of the end of 2016.

 

6. Indianapolis, Indi.

Cost of Living: 16.2% below U.S. average

City Population: 853,173

Median Household Income: $41,987

Median Home Value: $118,300

Unemployment Rate: 4.0%

Big city living without big city prices is an apt description of affordable Indianapolis, the largest city on our list. The capital of Indiana has a solid economy and is home to several colleges and universities, including Butler, so learning opportunities abound. Kids will get a kick out of the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, the largest museum of its kind in the world. Advance tickets are just $5 the first Thursday of the month. If a children's museum isn’t the pace you’re looking for, zip over to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The famed track, which hosts the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400 races, also boasts a racing museum and a golf course.

 

5. Knoxville, Tenn.

Cost of Living: 16.3% below U.S. average

City Population: 185,291

Median Household Income: $34,226

Median Home Value: $118,300

Unemployment Rate: 4.5%

Thrifty types should volunteer to check out Knoxville, one of two Tennessee cities to make the list for inexpensive living. The city is notable for its across-the-board affordability for everything from food to transportation, according the Cost of Living Index. Consider Knoxville, the original state capital before Nashville, a good mix of city and country living. It is home to the University of Tennessee and the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, but Knoxville is also the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. The Tennessee River runs through downtown. The city was a strategic objective in the Civil War, so history buffs can visit a number of battlefields nearby.

 

4. Memphis, Tenn. 

Cost of Living: 17.0% below U.S. average

City Population: 655,770

Median Household Income: $36,445

Median Home Value: $94,000

Unemployment Rate: 5.3%

To say that real estate is cheap in Memphis is an understatement. You can buy a home for less than $100,000, an amount that barley qualifies as a down-payment in many of the most expensive U.S. cities you could live in. Renters benefit, too. A typical apartment in Memphis rents for one-third less than the national average. There's also good work if you can get it. Proximity to the mighty Mississippi River makes Memphis a hub for the shipping and transportation industries. Three Fortune 500 companies—FedEx, International Paper and AutoZone—call the city home. You’ll also find numerous colleges and universities, an NBA franchise, mouthwatering ribs, and, of course, Graceland.

 

3. Kalamazoo, Mich.

Cost of Living: 20.0% below U.S. average

City Population: 76,041

Median Household Income: $33,009

Median Home Value: $96,600

Unemployment Rate: 4.2%

It's cheap to live in Kalamazoo—and that's a necessity for many residents. One-third of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and low wages and underemployment are problems even for those who don’t. The city has the lowest median household income on this list. Western Michigan University, with its multiple campuses and research facilities, is a major driver of the local economy. Pfizer, the drug company, has a sizable operation in Kalamazoo, and medical equipment maker Stryker is headquartered in the city. As for recreational activities, the Kalamazoo Nature Center hosts free daily activities. Nearby parks offer a combined 140 miles of trails and three swimming beaches. If you want to get away to the big city, Chicago is about three hours by car.

 

2. Harlingen, Texas

Cost of Living: 20.6% below U.S. average

City Population: 65,774

Median Household Income: $34,466

Median Home Value: $80,600

Unemployment Rate: 7.2%

South Texas border towns are known for low costs of living, but not always for happy reasons. In Harlingen, 32.5% of residents live below the poverty line. For Texas as a whole, the poverty rate is 15.9%; for the U.S. as a whole, it's 13.5%. However, just about everything, from groceries to gasoline, costs less in Harlingen. A good cut of steak goes for 28% less than the national average (this is Texas, after all). The median home value in Harlingen is a striking $98,000 less than the U.S. median. In addition to its proximity to Mexico, Harlingen is about an hour's drive to the beaches of South Padre Island.

 

1. McAllen, Texas

Cost of Living: 23.7% below U.S. average

City Population: 140,269

Median Household Income: $44,254

Median Home Value: $115,400

Unemployment Rate: 7.8%

McAllen is about 30 miles west of Harlingen on the Rio Grande. It's a larger and relatively more prosperous city—household incomes are a full $10,000 higher than in Harlingen—yet McAllen's superlow living costs come at a price. The poverty rate is 26.1%, and obesity runs rampant. WalletHub.com named McAllen the fourth-fattest city in America (Jackson, Miss., is number 1). The Mexican city of Reynosa, directly across the border, has been the scene of violence between drug gangs and Mexican security forces. On the plus side, McAllen is famous for bird watching because of its location on a major migration route. The Quinta Mazatlan, a luxury birdhouse with more than 15 acres of birding habitat, is not to be missed.

 

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

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