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If $100,000 feels like $36K in San Francisco, how much do you need to be rich?

A cityscape of the San Francisco skyline that includes the Ferry Building, Salesforce Tower, Transamerica Pyramid and the larger downtown area on December 17, 2017 . | AdobeStock

A new study of the 76 largest U.S. cities says a $100,000-a-year salary—long held as a benchmark of success—doesn't go very far after taxes and soaring living costs.

The study found that in San Francisco, a $100,000 salary equates to $36,445 after federal, state and local taxes are applied, combined with the city’s cost of living, including housing costs, utilities, groceries, transportation and other goods and services. The study used data from the Council for Community and Economic Research for the third quarter of 2022, and SmartAsset’s own paycheck calculator tool.

San Francisco ranks third most expensive in the top 10, behind second-place Honolulu and first-place New York, where the take-home pay figure was calculated at $35,791 for a base-level six-figure salary.

Oakland is apparently the eighth most expensive city, with take-home pay clocking in at $46,198, according to SmartAsset’s metrics. Other infamously expensive California cities taking the lead ahead of Oakland for most expensive include, San Diego, Long Beach and Los Angeles, along with Washington, D.C. Boston took ninth place, and Seattle sealed 10th. 

A young girl takes a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco with her smartphone. | Getty Images

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The top spot was taken by Memphis, Tennessee, on SmartAsset’s list, with $86,444 in take-home pay. It should be noted that salaries are often a lot higher in New York and San Francisco than they are in Memphis, according to U.S. Census data. And in Hawaii’s Honolulu, average salaries sit at around $60,000, according to March data from ZipRecruiter.

“I think it’s intuitive: $100,000, a six-figure income—it feels like this big milestone, but it also feels very different depending on where you live,” Susannah Snider, a financial planner at SmartAsset told Bloomberg.

That said, how much do you need to earn to really feel like you’ve made it in San Francisco? Or even, to feel rich? The Standard asked people around the city exactly that, their responses are in the video below: 

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