The 10 Best (and Worst) Cities to Be Young and Starting Out


Where we choose to live when we’re first launching into adulthood and full-fledged careers is pretty pivotal when it comes to our finances. While it’s tempting to flock to big cities like New York, San Francisco or Chicago, full of opportunities and things to do, higher living costs can make it tough, if not downright impossible, to survive on an entry-level salary—especially if you’re staring down serious student loan debt, too.

Where can you go to find a better balance? MagnifyMoney narrowed it down to the 10 best places—plus the 10 worst—in a recent analysis of 100 U.S. cities, looking at financial factors like food and housing costs, taxes, unemployment rates and number of young adults living in poverty. Here’s what they found:

The 10 Best Cities

  1. Madison, WI
  2. Grand Rapids, MI
  3. Dayton, OH
  4. Syracuse, NY
  5. Durham, NC
  6. Des Moines, Iowa
  7. Provo, Utah
  8. Akron, Ohio
  9. Chattanooga, TN
  10. Lexington, KY

Reasonable rents, lower-than-average living costs and modest commute times brought Midwestern cities to the top of the list. College towns, like Madison, Wisc., Syracuse, N.Y. and Durham, N.C., also ranked well, thanks to a particularly young demographic and affordable living options. 

The 10 Worst Cities

  1. New York, NY
  2. Los Angeles, CA
  3. Tampa, FL
  4. Sacramento, CA
  5. Fresno, CA
  6. Stockton, CA
  7. Santa Rosa, CA
  8. Bakersfield, CA
  9. Modesto, CA
  10. Riverside, CA

It’s probably not much of a surprise to learn that living in New York, Los Angeles and a slew of other California cities is tough to swing. That’s due to higher-than-normal living costs—New York’s are 13 percent higher than the national average—and rents. Los Angeles’s median rent tops $1,400. The best cities’ rents, by comparison, are well under $1,000.

Of course, a top-10 list may not deter you from big-city living, if that’s your dream. Fortunately there are still ways to make it on a small salary, from taking advantage of any employer benefits (like paying for transportation costs with pre-tax money), hacking your housing and utility costs and finding ways to have fun for cheap.

Related: 101 Ways to Save More Money Now