Whenever you read an article on “best places to live,” you have to make sure you know what criteria are being used to evaluate these places. For instance, if you’re a retired couple with no dependent children, then having excellent public schools nearby might not be very important. On the other hand, if you’re a large family, with three or four children in school, then not only are good schools going to be important, but the cost of living will have to be considered. Sometimes it’s a “catch 22,” because the best schools often bump up the cost of living of the surrounding neighborhoods. So YOU have to decide what criteria are most important to you. The tips below should help get you on the right track.
If price is your most important indicator of best places to live, then lucky for us, The Council for Community and Economic Research has already done the research. In their latest Cost of Living Index, COLI (www.coli.org), a member-only website, surveyed over 300 urban areas in the United States – the cheapest 10 cities considered the best places to live are listed below. You can’t see the details of the study unless you’re a member of COLI, but we can share a few secrets from the study: in the survey’s cheapest city, Harlingen, TX, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment only costs $642 per month to rent (a score of 100 is considered an average cost of living, so in the example below, Harlingen has a 20% lower cost of living than average). Notice that all 10 cities are in the mid-west, with 6 out of 10 in Texas or Oklahoma – so if cost of living is the top priority for best places to live in America, look no farther. (Note that the most expensive city on the COLI is Manhattan/New York, with a COL index of 230 … which means the same apartment you’d get in the cities below would cost closer to $2000 per month in the Big Apple.)
MOST JOB GROWTH
In several recent studies, including data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10 cities with over 4% job growth are listed below. In different studies, you might see some of these cities in different positions, but they all tend to revolve around Technology, Energy, Manufacturing and Healthcare, making these cities the best places to live if future employment is your major concern.
BEST FOR JOB SEEKERS
Now, you may be thinking: “there are cheap places to live … and there are cities with job growth; how do I make up my mind?” Luckily, one innovative “smart financial advice” company, NerdWallet, jumped in and combined statistics to find the best cities for new job seekers – and these statistics include cost of living, population change, unemployment rate, and average income. The results (below) may surprise you. For instance, with Austin’s highest population growth and lowest unemployment, it’s easy to see why that’s at #1. But Washington DC? Despite its high cost of living and unemployment, job seekers surveyed by NerdWallet found Washington’s very high income and growing population an attractive environment for committed job seekers.
BEST PLACES TO LIVE – CONCLUSION
Obviously, there’s a lot to consider when you talk about “best places to live.” There’s really no one way to describe “best.” You will need to use your own criteria to make up your mind – provided you’re in a situation where you can relocate. If the contest were among states, Texas would come out the winner – but ultimately, your educational background and career industry will be a prime consideration in any of these “best places to live” lists.
NerdWallet – http://www.nerdwallet.com
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – http://www.bls.gov
CareerBuilder – http://www.careerbuilder.com
Council for Community and Economic Research – http://www.c2er.org/