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Does your name determine job success?

Hefty paycheck doesn't necessarily mean better life

By Laura Morsch Editor

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: has a business partnership with, which serves as the exclusive provider of job listings and services to

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It may come as no surprise that where you live affects your salary.

Moving across the country in search of a fatter paycheck may seem appealing, until you realize your lesser-paid counterparts nationwide are enjoying better weather, sending their kids to better schools and living in nicer homes.

The bottom line: a heftier paycheck doesn't necessarily mean a better lifestyle.

Where the Money Is: According to a 2004 salary survey by Mercer, a human resources consulting firm, a job with a median national salary of $30,000 is worth nearly 35 percent more in San Francisco ($36,780) than it is in Birmingham, Alabama ($27,180). Top-paying cities according to median salary include:

  • San Francisco -- $36,780
  • San Jose, California -- $36,720
  • New York -- $35,790
  • Los Angeles, California -- $34,110
  • Boston, Massachusetts -- $33,150
  • Chicago, Illinois -- $33,120
  • Washington, D.C. -- $32,640
  • Seattle, Washington -- $32,100
  • Omaha, Nebraska ($28,140); Little Rock, Arkansas ($27,810); Buffalo, New York ($27,690); Mobile, Alabama ($27,420) and Albuquerque, New Mexico ($27,210) were the lowest-paying cities studied.

    Pay disparities exist even at higher income levels. If your job pays a national median of $90,000, you would earn around $85,000 in Buffalo and more than $103,000 in San Francisco.

    Before you pack your bags in search of your dream wages, here are some things to consider:

    Cost of Living: You need to earn almost $57,000 in San Francisco to match the buying power of the $27,000 you earn in Birmingham. The reason: cost of living.

    A cost of living index measures differences in the price of goods and services, and allows for substitutions to other items as prices change, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means the prices of housing, food, utilities, sales tax -- all the day-to-day expenses associated with living in a given city.

    Cost of living rankings for cities do not necessarily mirror their pay scales.

    For example, on the Mercer 2004 Cost of Living survey, New York City was the most expensive city in the United States, but it ranked third in pay.

    Miami is the sixth-most expensive city in the country, but it ranked twenty-sixth in pay. Other pricey cities include Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and White Plains, New York.

    Quality of Life: Job seekers should also consider quality-of-life factors like school quality, climate and crime rate before considering relocation.

    If you prefer beaches to blizzards, that pay increase for moving to Chicago might not be enough to lure you from Albuquerque. Mercer ranked Honolulu, Hawaii; San Francisco; New York; Portland, Oregon; Winston Salem, North Carolina; Lexington, Kentucky; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Seattle and Chicago as having the best quality of life in the United States.

    Need a place to start looking? Web sites like, which lets you compare cities based on everything from the number of sunny days per year to the violent crime rate, can help you find the facts you need to find the best city to launch your career.

    © Copyright 2005. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority
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