In 2018, it really doesn't matter if you're talking about the east coast or west coast, these days they have the same bad rap (no pun intended). Sure, the coastal cities are where you can score a job that pays good bread, but by now you've probably heard most of the loaf goes toward rent, and the rest to $15 cocktails after work, with barely enough left over for a loaf of actual bread (at least $6.50 if we're talking organic whole grain). At WalletWyse, we make a point to challenge assumptions, so for these Wyse Awards we considered the coolest North American coastal cities where a typical paycheck stretches at least 20% further than our a typical paycheck for the same job in our benchmark, New York City.
In order to qualify for this Wyse Award, a resident on a typical city salary has to be able to purchase at least 20% more in housing, restaurants, groceries & general goods, averaged, than if she or he had the same job in New York. (>120% Comparative Purchasing Power, or "CPP"). This means someone working as a firefighter in DC is able to stretch her paycheck 20% further than a NYC firefighter can, regardless of how much they both get paid, on average.
NYC itself isn't officially a contender for these awards, but if we're going to use it as our benchmark then we have to at least mention this quintessential coastal metropolis, and if the Manhattan skyline isn't worth paying an extra 20% of your paycheck for, then I don't know what is.
Quebec City, the capital of the eponymous Canadian province, isn't quite coastal (and at 118%, comparative purchasing power comes in just shy of our 120% requirement). Still, it's remarkably cheaper than New York in two categories that count: rent, and restaurants. While moving to Ville de Québec may not guarantee you a six-figure job straight out of school, you should be able to earn enough to live and have enough left over for une bouchée de pain (a mouthful of bread). Can you say joie de vivre?
While DC and its congressionally-represented extension Northern Virginia (NOVA) are not literally seaside, when people say "the East Coast" there's a very good chance this is the region they are referring to. While the DC area isn't cheap, especially on an intern's salary (and everyone is an intern here at some point), once you get that congressional staffer job, your income is actually going to stretch about 21% further than it would in New York, particularly when it comes to rent and cultural attractions. Factoring in free monuments, museums and cherry blossoms, you might even achieve that most elusive of DC phenomena: a budget surplus.
Despite being a coastal city in California, a paycheck here is going to stretch a whopping 43% further than the same job in New York City, particularly when it comes to rent and general living expenses. We're not sure if our sources define general living expenses as free sunshine, complementary waves or gratis ocean breeze, but we're not complaining. With more than 70 miles of coastline (which, by the way, also happens to be the average high temperature) and a comparatively low cost of living (shhh!) San Diego's Silver Wyse Award is well earned.
Seattle has a well-deserved reputation for its populace being engaged and informed, so before protesting Seattle's place at the top of our charts, consider a few key facts. First, with a growing number of tech companies with offices in Seattle, competition for qualified employees is fierce, driving up salaries. Second, a minimum wage of around $15 means the lowest-paid employees are still earning 25% more than those working similar jobs in New York City (minimum wage b/w $12-13.). Finally, despite recent California-style home price increases, you can still buy a single-family house within biking distance to downtown for less than $1m. Our advice? Embrace the fact that while Seattle isn't exactly cheap, your paycheck is going to let you order significantly more Manhattans (almost 45% more), than if you actually lived there.