Photo: Luciano Mortula - LGM/Shutterstock

This Is How Much You Need to Make to Live in 50 of the World’s Biggest Cities

by Matthew Meltzer Mar 12, 2019

Rent sucks everywhere. Half of the United States is rent-burdened, meaning they spend more than one-third of their income on rent. And when you hear a stat like that, sometimes you think moving to another country might help your situation. But the truth is, it’s tough around the world.

To see exactly how tough it’s gotten, relatively, the furnished apartment experts at Nestpick examined 740 neighborhoods in 50 cities, then determined the annual salary a single person would need to live in each city, spending only one-third of their income on rent. Once they made that calculation, Netpick looked at the real local salaries to discover how much of people’s after-tax expendable income is actually going towards it. The results aren’t pretty, but they give us a pretty good snapshot of exactly how burdensome it is to pay rent in the developed world.

Editor’s Note: Rent figures are given in US currency, and the exchange rate is based on the rate at the time of publication.

50. Budapest, Hungary
Annual salary required: $22,225

Liberty Bridge in Budapest

Photo: Marc Osborne/Shutterstock

At first glance, this Hungarian capital might seem like a bargain, with average rents as just a smidge over a dollar per square foot. But salaries here don’t exactly keep up, and you’d need to work an inhuman 195 hours a week at the country’s minimum wage to afford even an average apartment. And residents spend nearly 60 percent of their disposable income on rent.

49. Glasgow, Scotland
Annual salary required: $25,353

This gritty, arts-driven Scottish city has recovered well from its economic problems of the late-20th century, and with music festivals and college students abounding, it’s seemingly a great bargain. Just be aware that you may want to work for a company based elsewhere, as even basic rent can eat up 85 percent of your expendable income based on average local salaries.

48. Cologne, Germany
Annual salary required: $25,977

Somewhat surprisingly, the EU’s most consistently stable economy also offers cities with some of the cheapest rent, with Cologne leading the inexpensive way. Average rent is only $1.21 per square foot for single people and $1.25 for families, meaning a family can live comfortably on just over $56,000 a year.

47. Hamburg, Germany
Annual salary required: $26,685

The northernmost major city in Germany is also among its least expensive, where you’ll spend only 28 percent of your expendable income on rent. This should leave plenty of extra cash for quick trips up to Copenhagen where dinner might cost you more than rent back home.

46. Berlin, Germany
Annual salary required: $27,866

For a city that tops many people’s lists of European favorites, historic Berlin is pretty cheap. The city that boasts some of the best clubs in the world and fascinating historic sites like Checkpoint Charlie and the fascinating Topography of Terror museum has rents at just under $1.30 per square foot for single people. That means you wouldn’t even need to work 70 hours a week at minimum wage.

45. Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Annual salary required: $28,533

cobblestoned streets in Montreal

Photo: ProDesign Studio/Shutterstock

Cheapest city on this side of the pond? That’d be Montreal, a place massively popular with tourists that’s also surprisingly affordable. Not only is it the sixth-cheapest place for singles, it’s the second-cheapest for renting family homes with prices averaging 84 cents per square foot. When a family of four can live on $38,000 a year, learning French seems a small price to pay.

44. Prague, Czech Republic
Annual salary required: $29,448

With a slew of bars offering cheap beer in one of Europe’s most affordable capitals to visit, your money goes a long way in Prague. Provided you work for someone outside the country. Though rent pales in comparison to most of the US, it eats up over 70 percent of expendable income for locals, requiring 227 hours at a minimum wage job to make ends meet.

43. Manchester, England
Annual salary required: $30,691

Manchester is never really lauded as a nice city, necessarily. But if you’re cool to live in the British equivalent of the sports-mad rust belt, you can make a nice home for yourself. Rent for families is $1.26 per square foot, meaning you’d need to make just over 56k a year as a family to afford it.

42. Frankfurt, Germany
Annual salary required: $30,700

Frankfurt lands right near where most “experts” claim should be the mean for an affordable city. With 36 percent of income going towards rent and 75 hours a week needed working minimum wage, the relative cost of living here seems, for lack of a better word, fair. What’s not fair is that instead of the middle, it clocks in as the ninth-most-affordable city on the list.

41. Porto, Portugal
Annual salary required: $32,117

The cheap-life-by-the-beach fantasy doesn’t always mean to Central America or Thailand! Portugal’s coastal gem backs right up to one of the world’s great wine regions, like a little California at a fraction the price. Families can still get a place for under a dollar per square foot, though at local salaries you’ll still spend 61 percent of your expendable income on rent.

40. Warsaw, Poland
Annual salary required: $32,694

Aerial view of the old city in Warsaw

Photo: fotorince/Shutterstock

In terms of average salary required for rent across single people and families, Warsaw is actually the cheapest city on the list. Family homes require $22,000 a year to afford, meaning it may be cheaper for you to rent an entire house than a flat in the city center if you’re living here solo.

39. Brussels, Belgium
Annual salary required: $34,242

Brussels boasts one of the cheapest average rents for singles in the EU, with a scant $1.09 per square foot. But even with rent that low it’ll take up half your expendable income if you work locally, where you’d also need to put in a full 80 hours at minimum wage to make it work.

38. Vienna, Austria
Annual salary required: $34,478

As, quite possibly, the most livable city in the world, you’d expect Vienna to be much higher up on the list. But it’s decently affordable, and single life won’t kill you with just under 40 percent of your income going to rent. Viennese families fare a little worse, though, as you’d need to make nearly twice as much to live here with kids.

37. Rome, Italy
Annual salary required: $34,715

Despite labor-friendly employment laws, you’d still need to log over 200 hours a week at a minimum wage job to afford rent in the most-affordable Italian city. That said, at normal wages, you only spend 40 percent of your expendable income on rent if you’re single.

36. Lyon, France,
Annual salary required: $35, 423

Dreaming of leaving it all behind and adopting the continental lifestyle in France? Lyon might be a wiser move than Paris, where you’ll need to make about half what you would need to afford rent in the City of Lights. You’ll have a lot more money to play with, too, as Lyon requires only 21 percent of your expendable income for rent, lowest on the list.

35. Milan, Italy
Annual salary required: $35,423

Cathedral Duomo di Milano and Vittorio Emanuele gallery Square Piazza Duomo at sunny morning, Milan, Italy

Photo: MarinaD_37/Shutterstock

Though Milanese people might sometimes act like their rent is the same as it is in other fashion capitals like New York, it’s actually among the cheapest in Europe at $1.65 per square foot. That’s about half the cost in Paris and about a third of NYC.

34. Edinburgh, Scotland
Annual salary required: $38,030

The home of the world’s most famous Fringe festival has much of the same income disparity issues of its hard-nosed counterpart in Glasgow. Though rent here might seem cheap at under $2 a square foot for singles and under $1.50 for families, it’ll still eat up nearly 90 percent of your expendable income and require 95 hours a week of minimum wage work.

33. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Annual salary required: $39,922

No, you won’t be dining in 19-star hotels or enjoying cocktail hour atop the Burj Khalifa making $40,000 a year. But at least you’ll be able to afford an apartment with air conditioning. At $1.81 per square foot, rent is cheaper here than most North American cities. You’d doubtfully be moving to Dubai for a minimum wage job, which is good because it would require 318 hours of work a week to afford even average rent. Difficult with there being only 168 hours in seven days.

32. Madrid, Spain
Annual salary required: $40,146

Just a smidge more affordable than beachside Barcelona, Madrid requires only $63,000 a year to live comfortably as a family. And though rent will still eat up 54 percent of your expendable income, at a median of $1.41 per square foot, families might still be able to find a lot of cheaper options.

31. Barcelona, Spain
Annual salary required: $42,508

A veritable toss-up in terms of cost of living between Spain’s two largest cities, though Barca rent eats up 60 percent of your expendable income versus 54 percent in Madrid. It’s another city where you’re ill-advised to move with a minimum wage job too, as rent would require a physically-impossible 181 hours a week to afford.

30. Lisbon, Portugal
Annual salary required: $44,869

Vintage tram in Lisbon, Portugal in a summer day

Photo: SF/Shutterstock

Though visitors rave about Lisbon’s relative affordability ($2 beers FTW!) living here, particularly for families, is not so cheap. You’d need to make over $70,000 annually to afford family life, with rent taking up an uncomfortable 68 percent of your expendable income. It’s also the first city on the list whose rent tops $2 per square foot at $2.08 for single people.

29. Helsinki, Finland
Annual salary required: $46,995

On the other end of the visitor-resident cost dichotomy from Lisbon is Helsinki, a place where $6 cans of Pringles are the norm but rent is still a reasonable $2.18 per square foot. While manageable for singles, family life in the Finnish capital can be costly. They’ll need to make nearly $92,000 a year to make it work here, one of the biggest disparities on the list.

28. Tokyo, Japan
Annual salary required: $47,117

The biggest city in the world by population isn’t as expensive as you’d think, with average rents cheaper than any American city on the list at $2.19 per square foot. Families fare worse at $2.39, and though that’s still not even in the top 20 worldwide, it still eats up 58 percent of expendable income.

27. Rotterdam, Netherlands
Annual salary required: $49,852

If you’re dead set on going Dutch in your expatriation, you might want to look at this city just southeast of The Hague as an alternative to Amsterdam. You’ll need to earn about $25,000 a year less than you would in the capital, and though rent will eat up over 60 percent of your expendable income, that’s still better than 91 percent in Amsterdam.

26. Chicago, Illinois, USA
Annual salary required: $55,800

If you don’t mind a little cold, Chicago is the cheapest US city on the list, with rent for families especially affordable at $1.70 per square foot. Life for singles isn’t bad either, with rents nearly half of what they are in New York City and only 26 percent of expendable income going for shelter from the wind chill. That leaves plenty of money for large winter coats, too.

25. Munich, Germany
Annual salary required: $59,039

Scenic summer aerial view of the ancient medieval Gothic architecture City Hall building at the Market Square Marienplatz in Munich, Bavaria

Photo: Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock

Ask people outside Germany and most people wouldn’t guess Munich is the most expensive. But this automotive and aerospace hub has brought with it an affluent workforce that’s driven rent to an average of $2.74 per square foot for singles and $2.04 for families. That’ll eat up 55 percent of your expendable income.

24. Miami, Florida, USA
Annual salary required: $60,000

If you took a winter vacation down to Miami, felt the warm tropical breezes, and thought to yourself, “I could live here,” make sure you’ve got the money to do it. While not as expensive as New York or San Francisco, Miami is far and away the costliest in the southeast, with average rent at $2.79 per square foot for single people. That’s before you discover the $21 vodka-sodas at LIV.

23. Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Annual salary required: $60,152

Though for single people Canada’s largest city can be costly with rents $2.73 per square foot, the abundance of livable suburbs make it a fairly affordable place for families. Where singles need to make over $60,000 to live here, families need only about $75,000, with rent at $1.64 — or roughly the same as Madrid and Barcelona.

22. Davos, Switzerland
Annual average salary: $63,238

Presumably, the folks at Nestpick must be huge fans of scenic train rides since that’s about the only reason we can think this little Alps town of 11,000 is on a list between Toronto and Sydney. This scenic spot where you’ll board a train straight to the Matterhorn is the most affordable Swiss city on the list. Which isn’t saying much if you’ve ever been to Switzerland, but at least it lets you live with a mountain view for $2.94 per square foot.

21. Sydney, Australia
Annual salary required: $64,493

The largest city down under is unsurprisingly expensive, the first city on the list to top $3 a square foot for single-person rent. Families get no break, with prices at $2.15 a square foot — topped only in the bottom 30 by Tokyo. You’d need to work 122 hours a week in Sydney at minimum wage to afford rent, which doesn’t leave you much time to enjoy Bondi Beach or any of the other things you moved here to enjoy.

20. Copenhagen, Denmark
Annual salary required: $68,606

Scenic summer sunset view of Nyhavn pier with color buildings, ships, yachts and other boats in the Old Town of Copenhagen, Denmark

Photo: Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock

Anyone who’s ever dropped $15 on a beer along Nyhavn might be shocked to see Copenhagen this far down on the list. But tourist-trap beer prices don’t always directly correlate to cost of living, as you’d need fewer than 100 hours a week of minimum wage work to make rent. At $2 a square foot, it’s also not painfully expensive for families, requiring just over $90,000 a year.

19. Stockholm, Sweden
Annual salary required: $68,620

A virtual tie here between the Swedish capital and its brother-in-Scandinavian-expensiveness Copenhagen, where you’ll shell out $3.19 per square foot to enjoy one-degree-high temperatures and six hours of daylight during the winter. You won’t have much left over for SAD lamps either, with rent taking up two-thirds of the city’s average expendable income.

18. Los Angeles, California, USA
Annual salary required: $69,000

The bad news for Angelinos is that rent in their sprawling city keeps going up, now at $3.24 a square foot for single people and $2.11 for families. The good news is SoCal salaries are pretty competitive, and your average resident is only paying a third of their expendable income on rent. Of course, this figure also includes people living in far-flung parts of the city and driving an hour each way to work. So they might have more money but a lot less time.

17. Washington, DC, USA
Annual salary required: $71,300

Taxation without representation and insanely high rents don’t exactly make the nation’s capital seem all that inviting, but rent here has still snuck ahead of Miami, LA, and Chicago. It’s also the first city on the list to crack six figures for families, as people with kids will need $107,800 to live here comfortably. DC salaries, at least, have kept pace, with only 31 percent of expendable income going to rent.

16. London, England
Annual salary required: $74,059

Interestingly, though greater London doesn’t even crack the top 10 most expensive cities, the City of London proper is the most expensive neighborhood in the world, where you’ll need $121,000 a year to live comfortably. Westminster and Kensington/Chelsea aren’t much better, as the fourth and fifth most expensive neighborhoods, respectively. London is massive, however, with plenty of outlying areas that keep the average down. It’ll just involve a lot of time on the tube if you live there.

15. Zurich, Switzerland
Annual salary required: $75,247

Fraumunster Church and swans on Limmat river on sunny day with blue sky, Canton of Zurich, Switzerland

Photo: canadastock/Shutterstock

You know Switzerland is insanely expensive when a country that stretches only 15,000 square miles has two of the 20 costliest cities in the world. Though rent in Zurich is actually a little cheaper than London and DC at $3.50 a square foot, stuff like $8 coffees drive up the cost of living, so you’ll need to make considerably more to survive. Good thing Swiss banks pay well, as average residents still only spend 38 percent of their expendable income on rent.

14. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Annual salary required: $75,334

In a city where hotels average over $350 a night, paying $3.51 per square foot for rent shouldn’t shock many people. And while many European cities boast salaries that keep up with rent, Amsterdam is not one of them, where you’re out 91 percent of your money for rent alone. Families have it a little easier, where $101,000 a year keeps you living comfortably. Sounds high, until you realize it’s the cheapest family rent in the top 18.

13. Paris, France
Annual salary required: $75,570

Single nomads take comfort: While the money you’d need to live in Paris is alarmingly high, you still fare better than the average Parisian family. Though the fantasy of having your own little Madeline to dress up and send to school might be appealing, you’ll need $155,000 a year to make it happen. That’s the fifth-highest in the world, more than even Shanghai and Seoul.

12. Dublin, Ireland
Annual salary required: $75,971

People outside Ireland have probably never heard of the Dublin 2 neighborhood, but it’s $5.58-per-square-foot rent averages higher than Boston’s Back Bay, the Presidio in San Francisco, and the seventh arrondissement of Paris. Dublin is actually home to three of the 100 most expensive neighborhoods in the world, with Dublin 3 and Dublin 4 also cracking the list. The city as a whole averages $3.45 a square foot, and you’ll need 82 percent of your expendable income to afford rent.

11. Geneva, Switzerland
Annual salary required: $79,541

Nowhere is the extreme cost of living in Switzerland more evident than Geneva, where families need to make $108,000 a year to live above the “burdened” line. The study showed that many do, however, as rent is only, on average, 39 percent of expendable income. Good in a place where younger residents have been known to cross the border into France to buy more-affordable groceries.

10. Singapore
Annual salary required: $80,0555

Aerial view of Super Trees at Gardens by the Bay

Photo: Kritsaroot Udkwae/Shutterstock

You might not need to be Asian, but you definitely need to be crazy rich to live in Singapore. There’s some big income disparity in this wealthy city-state, as 99 percent of the average expendable income goes to rent. And with few real suburbs, there aren’t many affordable commuting options either. You’d need to work 468 hours a week in a minimum wage job to afford Singapore. That equates to over 11 traditional American workweeks.

9. Bay Area, California, USA
Annual salary required: $82,231

San Francisco’s Bay Area is so big and so expensive, this study split it between the city proper and everything else. That includes Silicon Valley, Santa Clara, San Mateo, the East Bay, and pretty much everywhere else around the water. The staggering prices near San Jose are offset by the less cripplingly expensive East Bay, and those willing to commute find a much easier financial time. The average Bay Area resident outside SF only spends 32 percent of their expendable income on rent, despite paying $3.82 per square foot.

8. Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Annual salary required: $92,000

Perhaps we understand a little better why Boston drivers are so angry and their fans so intolerable when we realize only New Yorkers and San Franciscans spend more on rent in America. Families need to clear $128,000 a year to live in Boston, where residents spend over 40 percent of their expendable income on rent. Much of the credit there goes to the Back Bay, the most expensive neighborhood in America outside SF and NYC.

7. Hong Kong
Annual salary required: $94,411

Not that many people think about settling down and having kids in one of Asia’s biggest financial hubs, but those who do have it rough. Hong Kong is the second most expensive place for families on the list, where you’ll need about $229,000 a year to not be “burdened.” Rent for single people isn’t much better at $4.72 per square foot, and you’d need a world’s-third-worst 536 hours a week at minimum wage to afford life here.

6. Bermuda
Annual salary required: $96,000

Fun fact: There are 181 islands in Bermuda. Another fun fact: It’s home to the seventh most expensive neighborhood in the world in the capital city of Hamilton. And though it’s only 20 square miles, it still packs some of the highest rents in the world. Unlike other massively expensive cities, Bermuda isn’t big or crowded or full of towering skyscrapers. But of all the tropical paradises in the world this one costs the most, with rent at $5.53 a square foot.

5. New York, New York, USA
Annual salary required: $100,000

NYC skyline

Photo: TTstudio/Shutterstock

The self-proclaimed center of the universe is the first city to crack six-figure-required salaries for single people, and anyone who’s ever read a blog post from a New Yorker is well aware how financially painful it is to live here. Salaries are high too, but with taxes, the average resident is spending 45 percent of their expendable income on rent, and that’s before ever setting foot in a taxi. At $5.40 a square foot, it’s the third most expensive residential real estate on the list, and yes, that factors in all five boroughs. Take out Staten Island and some parts of the Bronx, and it’s even worse.

4. Shanghai, China
Annual salary required: $109,110

China’s most expensive city isn’t Hong Kong but rather this megalopolis of 26 million people that sees its average resident spending 129 percent of their expendable income on rent. And last we checked, Social Credits aren’t redeemable with landlords. Though Chinese economics work a little differently than in the US, the minimum wage in Shanghai is still shameful when compared to rent, requiring a world’s-worst 619 hours a week.

3. Seoul, South Korea
Annual salary required: $109,110

Seoul is a bit of a surprise at number three, the most expensive city in Asia that rarely enters the conversation about absurdly expensive places. A full 118 percent of expendable income goes towards rent in the South Korean capital, where rent for single people is $2.33 a square foot, but salaries don’t compare with similarly priced Tokyo. It’s also home to two of the most expensive neighborhoods in the world in Jongo and Sujeong.

2. San Francisco, California, USA
Average salary required: $121,400

The sixth most expensive neighborhoods in America are in San Francisco, led by the Financial District South where rent’s $6.96 per square foot, and you’ll need to make $125,000 a year to make it work. In total, 14 of the 35 most expensive neighborhoods on the list are in the Bay Area, and only New York City has any that compare. With California state income taxes, the money in the Golden State isn’t quite so golden: Despite some of the highest salaries in America, SF residents still spend 48 percent of their expendable income on rent.

1. Monaco
Annual salary required: $165,309

Panoramic view of Prince's Palace in Monte Carlo in a summer day, Monaco

Photo: SF/Shutterstock

A city known as a haven for billionaires shouldn’t surprise anyone as the most expensive place to live. The average rent for non-Monegasque residents is $7.68 per square foot for singles and $10.24 for families. That’s nearly three times the next highest. Most people who work in the city live in Nice or nearby French villages, and those who are legal citizens of Monaco get their rent subsidized. But they make up a mere fraction of the population, leaving this little principality cost-prohibitive for nearly everyone in the world.

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