According to the Tax Foundation, the real value of $100 is more like $117 in Arkansas and around $116 in Mississippi and Alabama. Those states are not alone. Throughout the South, Appalachia, the Midwest and other states scattered across the country, a low cost of living means that $1 buys you more than it would in the country as a whole.
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On the other side of the coin, the national average is elevated by Washington, D.C. and states like California, New Jersey, New York and Hawaii, where the cost of living is so high that the real value of $100 is more like $85-$87. Within those expensive states are cities where $1 buys you even less — and those are the places that retirees want to avoid.
Using cost-of-living data from Sperling’s Best Places, housing data from Zillow and a variety of other sources, GOBankingRates identified the top 10 places where most people simply can’t afford to retire. If you’re an ordinary person with an ordinary nest egg, these are the places to scratch off your list of potential spots to settle down.
Orange County, California
- Cost of living: 63.9% higher than the national average
According to the Orange County Register, the O.C. created 1.2% of the nation’s jobs in 2021, but only 0.7% of its housing. The result has been predictable and all too familiar to Californians — the cost of housing has outpaced the average household’s budget.
Toll roads plague commuters there as well, and prices are naturally driven up by the fact that the O.C. is home to some of the world’s most desirable coastlines and beaches.
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- Cost of living: 68.7% higher than the national average
Some of Washington, D.C.’s most influential, best educated and highest-earning power brokers call Arlington home. The typical home there costs $836,806. In North Arlington, where wealthy lawmakers and lobbyists compete for proximity to the capital on the banks of the Potomac River, seven figures is standard.
- Cost of living: 72.3% higher than the national average
As with so many West Coast cities, housing is the real killer in Seattle, where the typical home sells for $960,925. According to the Seattle Times, however, it’s not just homes and apartments. Everything from toothpaste and mortgage rates to haircuts and trips to the dentist cost more than the national average — much more, in a lot of cases.
Coffee costs twice as much, movies are pricier by more than a third, and likewise for dry cleaning, a two-liter bottle of soda, yoga classes, a Quarter Pounder at McDonald’s, and the list goes on.
- Cost of living: 73.3% higher than the national average
A Time Out Index survey of 27,000 city dwellers named Los Angeles as “the most expensive, inconvenient, overrated city in North America.” Los Angelenos pay a sales tax rate of 9.5% on top of California’s crushing income tax rate, which tops out at 13.3%
Some of L.A.’s most famous neighborhoods — Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Culver City, Santa Monica, Malibu, Brentwood, Beverly Crest, Pacific Palisades and Bel-Air — are among the priciest zip codes in America. The typical home in L.A. as a whole costs $991,551.
- Cost of living: 74.4% higher than the national average
It’s no secret that the Bay Area isn’t known for letting retirees stretch their dollars, but Oakland is often left out of that discussion. It shouldn’t be. The typical home there costs $981,287 — about the same as L.A. — and utilities, gas, water and other non-negotiables are all priced well above the national average.
Although the weather is nice, the food is world-class and the culture is unique, you might not want to retire there even if you can afford it. Violent crime in Oakland is more than triple the national average and property crime is more than double.
- Cost of living: 76.5% higher than the national average
Honolulu is prohibitively expensive even by the standards of notoriously pricey Hawaii — the $2,500 average monthly rent for a two-bedroom is the No. 3 least affordable in America. The typical home costs $875,952.
According to the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, it’s not just housing. High taxes burden the city’s residents and legislation called the Jones Act makes it much more expensive to ship cargo to Hawaii, where just about everything that residents buy is imported.
- Cost of living: 89.2% higher than the national average
The typical home in Bethesda sells for more than $1.18 million. One of the wealthiest cities in America and home to one of its best-educated populations, Bethesda is just across the Potomac from Arlington — and it’s one of the country’s most expensive places to live for all the same reasons.
Its proximity to the capital makes it a coveted location for well-heeled D.C. power brokers. The median income is more than $150,000.
New York City
- Cost of living: 87.2% higher than the national average
Three of New York City’s five boroughs — Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens — could earn a place on this list if they were their own cities. For example, Brooklyn, which has roughly the same population as Chicago, has a cost of living over 100% higher than the national average. In July, CNBC reported that the average rent in Manhattan had topped $5,000 per month.
San Jose, California
- Cost of living: 114.5% higher than the national average
In March, The Mercury News reported that the median rent in San Jose had climbed to more than $3,000 a month, making it America’s least affordable city for renters. If you’re looking to buy, the typical home sells for $1.44 million.
While housing is the primary driver of San Jose’s sky-high cost of living, life in general is more expensive in California as a whole, and in Silicon Valley in particular.
- Cost of living: 169.3% higher than the national average
You’ll need $1.58 million to buy the typical home in San Francisco, which remains the least affordable city in California and the country. Monthly rent for the average one-bedroom is $3,060, according to Zumper.
The heart of the affluent tech industry, San Francisco has been the epicenter of America’s housing crisis for decades. According to Vox, the city is so expensive that its soup kitchens and food pantries are packed every day with people who work full-time. The cost of gas, groceries, transportation and daily life, in general, are all well above the national average.
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All cost-of-living data comes from Sperling’s Best Places and all housing prices come from Zillow.
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 10 Places Where People Won’t Be Able To Afford Retirement
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