What is Considered a Good Salary in California in 2022? Research by City

We all know that living in California is super expensive. So, what is considered a good salary in California in 2022? We think that a good salary ranges from $125k to $160k these days, but it also depends on the city and region within the state as well as your family situation and lifestyle.

In this article, we researched all the data and developed a detailed analysis to determine what is a good salary in California. We used the latest cost of living standards while comparing them to the average salaries in different industries across the state.

We even accounted for the extra inflation that is currently affecting prices.

We will also break down the ideal salary in each major city and region in California, including what is a good salary in Los Angeles and what is a good salary in San Francisco.

Ultimately, a good salary is one that allows you to live comfortably, but what does that mean specifically in California in 2022? Let’s find out with our evaluation of what is considered a good salary in California in 2022.

It is well-established that California is an expensive place to live. For example, the average cost of living in the Golden State is roughly 50% higher than the national average.

These elevated costs are primarily driven by California’s ridiculous housing market, which offers homes at an average price now of over $800,000. That is more than double the US average of around $300,000. 

Other things like groceries and gas are also more expensive in California compared to the rest of the US, which adds up to a lifestyle that requires a strong salary to support it.

What-is-Considered-a-Good-Salary-in-California-Rodeo-Drive-California

But, luckily California is also home to some of the highest salaries in the nation. The average median household income in California is just over $75,000, which puts it in 7th place in the nation.

Additionally, many large tech companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google have established their headquarters in the Bay Area in California and offer very handsome salaries. For instance, the average wage among Silicon Valley tech engineers is about $140,000.

But, is that even a good enough salary to live in San Francisco? We break down the details for each major city in the next section of this article.

What is a Good Salary in California?

To understand what is a good salary in California, we should first define what it means to be “good.”

For us, we think that a good salary is one that is a bit above the state or city’s average and will allow you to live a comfortable life with enough of a budget to enjoy some luxuries.

That means the salary should be able to cover your rent or mortgage payments while allowing you to buy all your groceries, but also allow you to go out to eat once or twice a week. It should also allow you to pay for a car or public transportation.

Additionally, a good salary should provide you with enough after all of these regular expenses to afford some nice vacations every year and even allow you to save some money.

When you consider all of these factors and adjust it for the different cities and family sizes, we think that a good salary in California is $125,000.

With California’s high tax rates, that still comes out to about $6,800 per month. Let’s break down the costs per month and see what you are left with if you had this salary:

$125k Salary in California

CategoryDetailsCost per Month
Housing2 Bedroom Rental$2,800
FoodGroceries & Restaurants$1,000
Car Payment2022 BMW 3-Series Lease$500
UtilitiesWater, Gas, Internet, Phone$400
HealthcareVarious Health-Related Costs$300
EntertainmentVacation, Sporting Events, Movies$800
Total Cost per Month $5,800
Salary per Month $6,800
Total Savings per Month $1,000

A $125,000 salary would give you $6,800 per month and, if you spent it like we show in the example, would actually allow you to save $1,000 per month as well.

Of course, you will need to fine-tune the numbers based on your lifestyle and family situation, but we think that this gives you a fair indication of what is a good salary in California. You could even decide that you don’t want to save anything, so you could actually accept a lower salary (or spend more with the same salary).

Now, we will adjust the salary based on the living costs in each major city in California.

What is a Good Salary in San Francisco?

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Given that San Francisco’s cost of living is about 80% higher than the rest of California, we think that a good salary should be around $160,000. That would give you about $8,600 per month after taxes. Here is our breakdown:

$160k Salary in San Francisco

CategoryDetailsCost per Month
Housing2 Bedroom Rental$3,500
FoodGroceries & Restaurants$1,500
Car Payment2022 BMW 3-Series Lease$500
UtilitiesWater, Gas, Internet, Phone$500
HealthcareVarious Health-Related Costs$400
EntertainmentVacation, Sporting Events, Movies$1,200
Total Cost per Month $7,600
Salary per Month $8,600
Total Savings per Month $1,000

As you can see, almost all of the costs are higher than our average California example, yet you would still have enough to save $1,000 here, too. That should be a sufficient salary to live in San Francisco comfortably.

Please note that we didn’t increase the salary by 80% since many of the costs outside of housing do not actually rise at that same rate. In fact, costs like car payments should be the same wherever you go in California. It’s like the price of a Big Mac across the US. 

What is a Good Salary in Los Angeles?

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The cost of living in Los Angeles is a bit more reasonable than in the Bay Area, but it is still about 15% higher than the rest of the state. Therefore, we think that a good salary to live comfortably in Los Angeles in 2022 is about $135,000. Per month, that is a salary of about $7,300 after taxes.

$135k Salary in Los Angeles

CategoryDetailsCost per Month
Housing2 Bedroom Rental$3,000
FoodGroceries & Restaurants$1,200
Car Payment2022 BMW 3-Series Lease$500
UtilitiesWater, Gas, Internet, Phone$400
HealthcareVarious Health-Related Costs$300
EntertainmentVacation, Sporting Events, Movies$900
Total Cost per Month $6,300
Salary per Month $7,300
Total Savings per Month $1,000

What is a Good Salary in San Diego?

San Diego is only about 7% more expensive than the California average. Therefore, we believe that a good salary in San Diego should be about $130,000.

That’s the price to pay if you want to live in one of California’s highest rated cities.

$130k Salary in San Diego

CategoryDetailsCost per Month
Housing2 Bedroom Rental$2,800
FoodGroceries & Restaurants$1,200
Car Payment2022 BMW 3-Series Lease$500
UtilitiesWater, Gas, Internet, Phone$400
HealthcareVarious Health-Related Costs$300
EntertainmentVacation, Sporting Events, Movies$900
Total Cost per Month $6,100
Salary per Month $7,100
Total Savings per Month $1,000

Summary – What is Considered a Good Salary in California?

Overall, we think that a good salary in California is $125k, but may need to be expanded up to $160k depending on the city and lifestyle within the Golden State.

Of course, it is also possible to get by with less as millions of people in California have been doing it for years, but we hope that this analysis gives you a sense of what you can strive for if you want to live a more luxurious life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Good Salary for a Single Person in California?

There are still a lot of fixed costs that you need to account for even if you are just one person, so our guidance for what is a good salary for a single person in California is not much different than our initial advice.

Still, you may be able to get a smaller house or apartment and you should be able to save around 50% on food, healthcare, and entertainment.

That could come out to about $15,000 less per year, which, when factoring in taxes, comes out to around $20,000. We’ll subtract that number from our initial range of $125k-$160k.

Therefore, we think that a good salary for a single person in California should be in the range of at least $105k to $140k.

Is 100k a Good Salary in California?

Honestly, in 2022, $100,000 in California will not get you very far in the big cities, especially if you are supporting a family. We think that may be a fair salary for smaller cities like Sacramento, Fresno, and Bakersfield, but it would not be sufficient to live a comfortable life in SF, LA, or San Diego.

Let’s break it down to see why we don’t think $100k is enough for a good lifestyle in California. After taxes, your monthly take-home pay would be about $5,600.

In San Francisco, rent and food alone would cost you about $5,000 per month. Therefore, you would only have about $600 left for car payments, utilities, healthcare costs, entertainment, and travel. 

Is 125k a Good Salary in California?

$125k would start to get you into the comfortable range of a good lifestyle in almost every city in California. It would still be a bit tight in San Francisco and Los Angeles, but in all other cities, you would be able to live well.

Is 150k a Good Salary in California?

We think that a $150k salary is the threshold to be able to live well anywhere in California, even San Francisco. It would allow you to purchase all of your essentials without having to budget much and even give you some extra at the end of the month.

But, don’t let this high figure fool you. $150k is a good salary in California, but it will not make you rich. Things costs a lot in the Golden State, so $150k is still not enough for an extravagant lifestyle.

Is 200k a Good Salary in California?

Yes, a $200k salary in California would allow you to expand your lifestyle in virtually every Californian city.

With $200k, you could easily afford rent (or even make mortgage payments for a $1 million+ home), buy a Tesla, and have enough to go out to eat often and travel well. 

But, $200k is still not as much as you may think, especially in the Bay Area. That would put you comfortably in the upper middle class, but still not in the true upper class.

Is 150k a Good Salary in Bay Area?

We think that $150k is the minimum salary you would want to seek if you aim to live comfortably in the Bay Area.

Any amount less and you would be unable to save any money or afford any extreme luxuries, especially if you are trying to support a family on a single income.

But, if you are single and budget well, we think that $150k is sufficient in the Bay Area. 

What is Considered Upper Middle Class Income – Bay Area?

If we define the upper middle class as the top 50% of the middle class, then the general range for upper middle class income in the Bay Area is around $150k to $225k.

Anything above $225k per year would be classified as upper class in the Bay Area.

What is a Good Salary in Silicon Valley?

We think that a good salary in Silicon Valley is a range from $160k to $200k. The cost of living in Silicon Valley is actually a bit higher than in San Francisco. It even has the highest average housing costs in the entire US.

Therefore, we think that you will need about 10-20% more money in Silicon Valley than in San Francisco.

What is a Good Salary to Live Comfortably in Los Angeles in 2022?

We believe that a good salary to live comfortably in Los Angeles in 2022 is around $135,000. The cost of living in LA is not as steep as the Bay Area, but things are getting quite expensive, especially housing prices.