San Francisco Best US City to Build Wealth

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If you want to get rich, San Francisco is the top choice among U.S. cities to help you reach your goal. And by getting rich we don’t mean just high income, but, more importantly, building wealth.

Personal wealth is essentially a personal balance sheet. Add up the value of all your assets (home equity, personal property, investments) and subtract your liabilities (mortgage, credit card debt, student loans) and there you have it.

For most Americans, the bulk of what wealth they have is tied up in their homes. Families often use the equity in their homes to help fund a child’s college education and retirees use their home as a source of retirement income. Where you live plays a large role in how much wealth you have, and that’s among the reasons that San Francisco tops the list of cities where it is easiest to build wealth.

The downside of San Francisco is that housing is so expensive that only 53% of the city’s residents can afford to buy their own homes. That leads to another way to build wealth: because San Francisco’s incomes are much higher than many other U.S. cities, the amount of money a resident can save or invest is larger.

Researchers at Bankrate identified five factors that affect your ability to create wealth and used these five to rank 21 U.S. cities: savable income, human capital, access to financial services, homeownership benefits and debt burden. Full details of the methodology are available at the Bankrate website.

Here is the ranking of the 21 cities included in the Bankrate study:

  1. San Francisco
  2. Minneapolis
  3. Washington, D.C.
  4. St. Louis
  5. Detroit
  6. Seattle
  7. Boston
  8. Denver
  9. Phoenix
  10. Baltimore
  11. Philadelphia
  12. Chicago
  13. New York
  14. Dallas
  15. San Diego
  16. Los Angeles
  17. Houston
  18. Atlanta
  19. Tampa
  20. Miami
  21. San Bernardino

The researchers suggest that you consider tailoring your approach to wealth-building to match the strengths of the area where you live. For example:

If home values are so high where you live that homeownership in the near term is out of the question, it may make sense to put more money into a tax-advantaged retirement account. If it’s hard to find an employer who offers a work-based retirement plan, opening your own IRA and saving that way may make the most sense.

Bankrate also has more details and a slideshow on the 21 cities.