Imagine living on the warm, sunny beaches of Hawaii - or maybe you would prefer the majestic setting and ski slopes of Aspen, Colorado. While these idyllic locations are great places to put down roots, living there doesn't come cheap. Let's take a look at some of the most popular (and costly) places to live. (Find out why moving to a less expensive city may not reduce your expenses, in 10 Reasons Why Moving Might Not Make You Richer.)
- New York City, NY
New York City is the most expensive place to live in the U.S., and the eighth most expensive place to live in the world - a six-figure income will still only give you middle-class status. Just to put that into perspective, making $123,000 a year would buy you the same standard of living as someone who makes $50,000 in Houston, Texas, according to the New York Daily News.
The average monthly rent for an apartment in the city is $2,800. Think that you can afford a place on $60,000 a year? Think again! Tenants have to make 40-times the monthly apartment rent to qualify without a guarantor. That means you need to make $112,000 just to qualify for a regular apartment.
Monthly day care fees run over $2,000 a month, practically double other parts of the country, and an average cup of coffee costs nearly $4.50. (Stick to your budget every day with the 15 simple tips found in Squeeze A Greenback Out Of Your Latte.)
- Los Angeles, California
So, your cup of tea is the sunny weather and beaches of Los Angeles? If you want to soak up the L.A. sunshine and hob knob with celebrities, prepare to pay. Los Angeles is the second most expensive U.S. city and 23rd most expensive place in the world to live.
L.A. is often considered the most overpriced city because of the high unemployment rate and high housing prices. Home prices in Los Angeles come in second only to New York, and many L.A. residents work six days a week just to stay afloat. Gas prices are higher in L.A. than in any other city in the mainland, and the high prices can be blamed on the citizens' daily commute.
Add in the pollution, smog and earthquakes, and it doesn't seem like such a great deal.
- Honolulu, Hawaii
It must be paradise to live on the island and sip Mai Tais all day. Hawaii is paradise, but paradise doesn't come cheap. Honolulu, Hawaii is the fifth most expensive place to live in the U.S., and the 41st most expensive city in the world. That's because Hawaii imports everything, including automobiles, building materials, metals, gas, household products, meat, dairy and food products. Due to all of these factors, living in Honolulu costs 55% more than living in the average U.S. city.
Hawaii has the highest gas prices in the nation, average monthly apartment rental costs of $1,800 and a low-level of worker satisfaction, since most available jobs offer part-time hours. (It's not fair to compare yourself to the Joneses. Find out how to alter your aspirations and still meet your goals, in Find Happiness By Altering Life Benchmarks.)
- Aspen, Colorado
It turns out that the most expensive zip code is not 90210, but 81611. In 2009, Aspen, Colorado topped the list of the most expensive home prices. Four Aspen properties have sold recently for over $30 million dollars. The average house in the Aspen area was valued at $2.6 million dollars in 2010, and Aspen is famously known as the home of the rich and famous, and boasts some of the world's most luxurious ski resorts.
The city is littered with Gucci, Prada and other high-end retailers, and is a great place to visit for a ski vacation - but buying a home there could bury you under a financial avalanche. (The purchase options in REX Agreements Climb As House Prices Decline let you hedge against a decline in your home's value without having to sell the house.)
- Juneau, Alaska
For such a small city, Juneau has really big prices. Alaska faces the same problem as Hawaii, in that the state must import most of its consumer products. Alaskan cities are generally more expensive than other U.S. cities. The costs associated with housing, utilities and health care are 40-100% higher than the national average, and transportation and grocery items are 25% higher than in other major cities.
Rural Alaskan communities have to import fuel by air, causing some cities to charge as much as $9 per gallon for gasoline. The average cost for a home in Juneau was $304,000 in 2009. (The number of taxes that we now consider a given did not always exist. Find out how they arose, in The History Of Taxes In The U.S.)
- Miami, Florida
"The Magic City" is well known globally for its culture, fashion and entertainment. With stars like Shakira, Enrique Iglesias and Lenny Kravitz calling Miami home, the city has become the "it" place to live. Miami has not only increased in popularity over the past decade, but in price as well.
As the sixth most expensive city in the U.S., you will definitely pay for the beautiful waterfront property and the vibrant nightlife. Miami housing prices have dropped recently, but prices for groceries and public services are still sky high. (Getting to and around your travel destination doesn't need to break the bank. Find out more in Save On Planes, Trains And Automobiles.)
As you can clearly see, happiness does not come cheap. While these places may be great to visit, living there on a full time basis could leave you flat broke.
Still feeling uninformed? Check out last week's Water Cooler Finance to see what's been happening in financial news.