Earning a six-figure income has long been a sign of success and financial stability for American workers. However, with high inflation and cost of living expenses, families who reach that yearly income could still be struggling financially — especially in California.

A new study from Lending Tree analyzed just how far $100,000 goes for a family of three in 100 of the largest metros in the U.S.

Researchers found that in 16 of those cities, families with a six-figure income could still struggle to pay their monthly bills; eight of those cities were in California.  

San Jose was considered to be the “most expensive” city to live in for six-figure earners. Average monthly expenses in the city are more than $9,000, primarily due to high housing and transportation expenses.

California cities where basic expenses are higher than the monthly income of a family earning $100,000 yearly:

CityMonthly IncomeMonthly ExpensesMoney leftover
San Jose$8,333$9,826-$1,493
San Francisco$8,333$9,496-$1,163
San Diego$8,333$9,099-$766
Los Angeles$8,333$8,989-$655
Source: Lending Tree

Researchers did note that the monthly income totals do not account for taxes, which were not included in the study.

To determine the ranking, researchers looked at various government data sets to determine where $100,000 had the most purchasing power and to find the average amount a family of three would spend on “basic” monthly expenses.

Researchers categorized “basic” monthly expenses as:

  • Housing
  • Childcare
  • Transportation
  • Health Care
  • Student loans
  • Food, entertainment, utilities
  • Taxes
  • Savings

The findings are backed up by Redfin rental market research. An April study found median rents well above $3,000 per month in San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

The Lending Tree study wasn’t all bad news for six-figure earners in the Golden State or elsewhere in the country. The study also showed where people would still have leftover money after paying their monthly expenses.

Places where a six-figure income would cover monthly expenses:

CityMonthly IncomeMonthly ExpensesMoney left over
New York, New York$8,333$8,327$6
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$8,333$8,324$10
Las Vegas, Nevada$8,333$,8314$19
Providence, Rhode Island$8,333$8,307$26
Austin, Texas$8,333$8,279$55
Minneapolis, Minnesota$8,333$8,222$111
Dallas, Texas$8,333$8,215$118
Source: Lending Tree

In California, residents in Fresno and Bakersfield who make $100,000 can cover their monthly expenses and have a few hundred dollars left in their bank accounts.

The study found that Jackson, Mississippi, is the best place for high earners since monthly expenses in the city cost around $6,939, meaning residents would have about $1,400 left over once monthly expenses are paid before taxes kick in.

The complete study can be viewed online.