Is 150k in a HCOL area equal to 70k in a LCOL area?

March 08, 2021

Short answer: no

Long answer: read on (=

I see the sentiment expressed in the title thrown around quite a bit online, specifically Reddit. Let's throw some things into a tax calculator, make some simple assumptions, and see if this is actually true!

Scenario 1 (HCOL, San Francisco):

Scenario 2 (LCOL, Oklahoma City):

As you can see, cost of living can be a significant expense! I accounted for 36k/yr expenses for living in San Francisco, and that's a pretty insane amount to just spend in my opinion. However, the cost of living argument doesn't seem to hold up when the pay differential is that huge.

Maybe it'll make a bigger difference if you're looking to settle down and raise a family. I'm a little too young to bother thinking about that though, so you can go through the exercise yourself if you want!