The Minimum Salary You Need To Be Happy in the Biggest Cities

·10 min read
kate_sept2004 / Getty Images
kate_sept2004 / Getty Images

Can money truly buy happiness? Turns out that it certainly can, according to a Purdue University study, which examined how much money people need to be happy and whether or not happiness rises as one’s income level increases. But there’s a catch.

The study argued that the optimal amount of money it takes to be happy varies worldwide. “That might be surprising as what we see on TV and what advertisers tell us we need would indicate that there is no ceiling when it comes to how much money is needed for happiness, but we now see there are some thresholds,” said Andrew T. Jebb, a doctoral student and the lead author of the Purdue University study, in a press release.

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The research specifically sought to pinpoint the amount where money no longer changes your level of emotional well-being and “life evaluation.” Emotional well-being was measured according to a person’s day-to-day emotions, including happy, excited, sad and angry. Life evaluation was defined in terms of overall life satisfaction and was “likely more influenced by higher goals and comparisons to others.”

Using the Purdue study’s findings, GOBankingRates predicted how much money you would need to make to be happy in 50 of the biggest cities in America. The Purdue researchers determined that, globally, individuals would need an income of $60,000-$75,000 for emotional well-being and an income of $95,000 for life evaluation. The ideal income for life satisfaction in North America is $105,000, which was used as a benchmark for the “salary needed to be happy” category listed in this study.

Are your finances keeping you from being happy?

Last updated: May 11, 2021

Albuquerque New Mexico hot air balloons
Albuquerque New Mexico hot air balloons

Albuquerque, New Mexico

  • Salary you need to be happy: $103,215

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $93,385

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $58,980-$73,725

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Arlington Texas
Arlington Texas

Arlington, Texas

  • Salary you need to be happy: $114,345

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $103,455

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $65,340-$81,675

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Atlanta, Georgia, USA - September 25, 2016: Residents of Atlanta enjoy a morning of softball and kickball in Piedmont Park.
Atlanta, Georgia, USA - September 25, 2016: Residents of Atlanta enjoy a morning of softball and kickball in Piedmont Park.

Atlanta

  • Salary you need to be happy: $121,170

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $109,630

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $69,240-$86,550

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concert in Austin Texas
concert in Austin Texas

Austin, Texas

  • Salary you need to be happy: $136,500

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $123,500

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $78,000-$97,500

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Boston, USA - April 28, 2015: Fountain at Boston Common public park and people in Boston, MA, United States.
Boston, USA - April 28, 2015: Fountain at Boston Common public park and people in Boston, MA, United States.

Boston

  • Salary you need to be happy: $190,680

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $172,520

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $108,960-$136,200

A foggy and colorful sunrise in Charlotte, North Carolina during the morning rush hour traffic.
A foggy and colorful sunrise in Charlotte, North Carolina during the morning rush hour traffic.

Charlotte, North Carolina

  • Salary you need to be happy: $112,035

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $101,365

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $64,020-$80,025

Chicago Illinois at sunset with Cloud Gate bean art work
Chicago Illinois at sunset with Cloud Gate bean art work

Chicago

  • Salary you need to be happy: $123,690

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $111,910

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $70,680-$88,350

Cleveland, USA - September 20, 2014: A family enjoys a beautiful day at the Voinovich Bicentennial Park in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, USA.
Cleveland, USA - September 20, 2014: A family enjoys a beautiful day at the Voinovich Bicentennial Park in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

Cleveland

  • Salary you need to be happy: $80,955

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $73,245

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $46,260-$57,825

Red spires of the Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs on a beautiul spring afternoon.
Red spires of the Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs on a beautiul spring afternoon.

Colorado Springs, Colorado

  • Salary you need to be happy: $118,545

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $107,255

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $67,740-$84,675

Columbus, Ohio, FHA, insurance, real estate, homebuyers, foreclosure, single-family, home median price, mortgage, down payment
Columbus, Ohio, FHA, insurance, real estate, homebuyers, foreclosure, single-family, home median price, mortgage, down payment

Columbus, Ohio

  • Salary you need to be happy: $94,920

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $85,880

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $54,240-$67,800

people practicing Yoga in Klyde Warren Park in Dallas Texas
people practicing Yoga in Klyde Warren Park in Dallas Texas

Dallas

  • Salary you need to be happy: $113,085

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $102,315

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $64,620-$80,775

Denver, USA - People walking on a pedestrianized street in Denver's LoHi district, located near to the city centre.
Denver, USA - People walking on a pedestrianized street in Denver's LoHi district, located near to the city centre.

Denver

  • Salary you need to be happy: $151,410

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $136,990

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $86,520-$108,150

El Paso is a city in and the county seat of El Paso County, Texas, United States , and lies in West Texas.
El Paso is a city in and the county seat of El Paso County, Texas, United States , and lies in West Texas.

El Paso, Texas

  • Salary you need to be happy: $91,560

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $82,840

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $52,320-$65,400

Fort Worth, Tx
Fort Worth, Tx

Fort Worth, Texas

  • Salary you need to be happy: $112,665

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $101,935

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $64,380-$80,475

Downtown Fresno, California.
Downtown Fresno, California.

Fresno, California

  • Salary you need to be happy: $113,190

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $102,410

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $64,680-$80,850

Hawaii-Honolulu
Hawaii-Honolulu

Honolulu

  • Salary you need to be happy: $211,155

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $191,045

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $120,660-$150,825

people riding along pathway in Houston Texas
people riding along pathway in Houston Texas

Houston

  • Salary you need to be happy: $110,040

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $99,560

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $62,880-$78,600

Indianapolis, Indiana canal walk
Indianapolis, Indiana canal walk

Indianapolis

  • Salary you need to be happy: $92,295

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $83,505

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $52,740-$65,925

Jacksonville-Florida
Jacksonville-Florida

Jacksonville, Florida

  • Salary you need to be happy: $104,475

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $94,525

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $59,700-$74,625

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Downtown Kansas City, Missouri at daytime under a big blue sky and striking clouds.
Downtown Kansas City, Missouri at daytime under a big blue sky and striking clouds.

Kansas City, Missouri

  • Salary you need to be happy: $96,495

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $87,305

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $55,140-$68,925

Las Vegas

  • Salary you need to be happy: $126,105

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $114,095

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $72,060-$90,075

Long Beach moored boats and placid life - Image.
Long Beach moored boats and placid life - Image.

Long Beach, California

  • Salary you need to be happy: $188,055

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $170,145

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $107,460-$134,325

The Los Angeles skyline and lake at Echo Park, in Los Angeles, California - Image.
The Los Angeles skyline and lake at Echo Park, in Los Angeles, California - Image.

Los Angeles

  • Salary you need to be happy: $204,855

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $185,345

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $117,060-$146,325

Fourth Street Live in Louisville, Kentucky, has become a destination for shopping, dining and entertainment.
Fourth Street Live in Louisville, Kentucky, has become a destination for shopping, dining and entertainment.

Louisville, Kentucky

  • Salary you need to be happy: $101,115

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $91,485

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $57,780-$72,225

Memphis Tennessee
Memphis Tennessee

Memphis, Tennessee

  • Salary you need to be happy: $88,515

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $80,085

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $50,580-$63,225

Mesa, Arizona, USA - March 5, 2019: Daytime view of the Mesa Arts Center and Center/Main St station in the heart of the downtown district.
Mesa, Arizona, USA - March 5, 2019: Daytime view of the Mesa Arts Center and Center/Main St station in the heart of the downtown district.

Mesa, Arizona

  • Salary you need to be happy: $119,280

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $107,920

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $68,160-$85,200

Miami, USA - August 23, 2014: people enjoy Palm trees and art deco hotels at Ocean Drive by night.
Miami, USA - August 23, 2014: people enjoy Palm trees and art deco hotels at Ocean Drive by night.

Miami

  • Salary you need to be happy: $143,955

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $130,245

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $82,260-$102,825

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA downtown city skyline on Lake Michigan at twilight.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA downtown city skyline on Lake Michigan at twilight.

Milwaukee

  • Salary you need to be happy: $94,500

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $85,500

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $54,000-$67,500

Active people walking and biking on the Stone Arch Bridge during a nice sunny day with the Downtown Minneapolis skyline in the background.
Active people walking and biking on the Stone Arch Bridge during a nice sunny day with the Downtown Minneapolis skyline in the background.

Minneapolis

  • Salary you need to be happy: $122,220

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $110,580

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $69,840-$87,300

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Nashville Tennessee city street at dusk
Nashville Tennessee city street at dusk

Nashville, Tennessee

  • Salary you need to be happy: $115,920

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $104,880

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $66,240-$82,800

New Orleans, Lousiana - October 10, 2016: NEW ORLEANS - OCTOBER 18, 2016: view of the famous Canal Street on October 10, 2016 in New Orleans, LA.
New Orleans, Lousiana - October 10, 2016: NEW ORLEANS - OCTOBER 18, 2016: view of the famous Canal Street on October 10, 2016 in New Orleans, LA.

New Orleans

  • Salary you need to be happy: $112,875

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $102,125

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $64,500-$80,625

High view of Union Square and the Empire State Building.
High view of Union Square and the Empire State Building.

New York

  • Salary you need to be happy: $219,765

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $198,835

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $125,580-$156,975

Women and men walking and jogging along the Downtown Oakland waterfront with Lake Merritt in the foreground.
Women and men walking and jogging along the Downtown Oakland waterfront with Lake Merritt in the foreground.

Oakland, California

  • Salary you need to be happy: $211,260

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $191,140

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $120,720-$150,900

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA cityscape in Bricktown at dusk.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA cityscape in Bricktown at dusk.

Oklahoma City

  • Salary you need to be happy: $96,075

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $86,925

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $54,900-$68,625

Downtown Omaha skyline
Downtown Omaha skyline

Omaha, Nebraska

  • Salary you need to be happy: $99,645

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $90,155

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $56,940-$71,175

Lake Eola Park in Orlando Florida
Lake Eola Park in Orlando Florida

Orlando, Florida

  • Salary you need to be happy: $118,020

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $106,780

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $67,440-$84,300

Pedestrians relax on John F.
Pedestrians relax on John F.

Philadelphia

  • Salary you need to be happy: $116,340

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $105,260

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $66,480-$83,100

Phoenix Arizona
Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix

  • Salary you need to be happy: $119,070

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $107,730

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $68,040-$85,050

Hawthorne Bridge in Portland during sunset.
Hawthorne Bridge in Portland during sunset.

Portland, Oregon

  • Salary you need to be happy: $155,190

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $140,410

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $88,680-$110,850

visitors in downtown Raleigh North Carolina on Fayetteville Street
visitors in downtown Raleigh North Carolina on Fayetteville Street

Raleigh, North Carolina

  • Salary you need to be happy: $116,550

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $105,450

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $66,600-$83,250

People in the busy downtown of Sacramento California.
People in the busy downtown of Sacramento California.

Sacramento, California

  • Salary you need to be happy: $133,875

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $121,125

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $76,500-$95,625

San Antonio, Texas, USA cityscape at the River Walk.
San Antonio, Texas, USA cityscape at the River Walk.

San Antonio

  • Salary you need to be happy: $101,535

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $91,865

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $58,020-$72,525

San Diego skyline during the day
San Diego skyline during the day

San Diego

  • Salary you need to be happy: $186,375

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $168,625

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $106,500-$133,125

San Francisco, USA - May 10, 2016: San Francisco USA panoramic view of upper apartment buildings towards downtown on a sunny day.
San Francisco, USA - May 10, 2016: San Francisco USA panoramic view of upper apartment buildings towards downtown on a sunny day.

San Francisco

  • Salary you need to be happy: $319,935

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $289,465

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $182,820-$228,525

San Jose California elevated Santa Clara street view.
San Jose California elevated Santa Clara street view.

San Jose, California

  • Salary you need to be happy: $273,000

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $247,000

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $156,000-$195,000

Seattle Washington view from a forest
Seattle Washington view from a forest

Seattle

  • Salary you need to be happy: $214,200

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $193,800

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $122,400-$153,000

Downtown Tucson
Downtown Tucson

Tucson, Arizona

  • Salary you need to be happy: $104,370

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $94,430

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $59,640-$74,550

Tulsa Oklahoma downtown
Tulsa Oklahoma downtown

Tulsa, Oklahoma

  • Salary you need to be happy: $94,080

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $85,120

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $53,760-$67,200

Virginia Beach ocean
Virginia Beach ocean

Virginia Beach, Virginia

  • Salary you need to be happy: $121,380

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $109,820

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $69,360-$86,700

Washington DC
Washington DC

Washington, D.C.

  • Salary you need to be happy: $182,595

  • Salary you need for life evaluation: $165,205

  • Salary you need for emotional well-being: $104,340-$130,425

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the cost-of-living-adjusted minimum salary needed to be “happy” based on various income satiation levels, identified by Purdue University researchers. Global income satiation levels are as follows: $60,000-$75,000 for “emotional well-being” and $95,000 for “life evaluation.” In North America, the income satiation level is $105,000 for life evaluation, according to Purdue, and this benchmark was used to determine the “salary you need to be happy” in the study. GOBankingRates factored in each city’s cost-of-living index, sourced from Sperling’s Best Places. Research was conducted and is accurate as of Oct. 24, 2019.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: The Minimum Salary You Need To Be Happy in the Biggest Cities