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  1. Ling says:

    I like the main points this article is trying to get across, but I think your data scientists are missing a key perspective and analysis that would have been more useful than what was shown. Although “best value” is nice, the better way to represent value is salary minus COL, not COL/salary. This is because what one really wants to know is how many dollars can be put into a savings account at the end of the day (i.e. after COL expenses). For example, 39% expendable income equals $56k in San Francisco but only $30k in Tampa. So even though people in San Francisco spend a higher percentage of their salary on living expenses, they can save nearly twice as much money as they would if they lived in Tampa. This perspective is even more valuable for people who want to earn lots of money when they’re young and retire somewhere cheaper, which I would guess describes many people on your website and at large.

    Another way to think of it is that you want to maximize your Return on Investment (ROI). You invest your time (hours in a workweek) and are interested in knowing how much profit (savings) you have after accounting for operating costs (COL).

    I did the math using the data you had displayed (table below). The most striking difference is San Francisco, which is ranked #5 in my scale but only 20 on yours. So even though COL is notoriously high, you will be able to pad your savings account way more in SF than anywhere else (excepting Seattle, Atlanta, Denver, and Boston).

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    City Highest salary COL Salary-COL MyRank “BestValue” Difference Expendable
    Seattle $139,299 $57,564 $81,735 1 1 0 59%
    Atlanta $105,091 $43,520 $61,571 2 2 0 59%
    Denver $111,551 $55,236 $56,315 3 4 1 50%
    Boston $116,039 $59,781 $56,258 4 8 4 48%
    San Francisco $144,390 $88,219 $56,171 5 20 15 39%
    Austin $103,049 $49,852 $53,197 6 3 3 52%
    Philadelphia $96,294 $47,827 $48,467 7 5 2 50%
    Miami $99,029 $53,048 $45,981 8 9 1 46%
    Charlotte $87,397 $43,436 $43,961 9 6 3 50%
    Raleigh $87,466 $43,964 $43,502 10 7 3 50%
    New York $105,925 $62,862 $43,063 11 17 6 41%
    Sacramento $93,481 $52,383 $41,098 12 12 0 44%
    Phoenix $89,374 $49,910 $39,464 13 11 2 44%
    Dallas-FtWorth $87,178 $47,908 $39,270 14 10 4 45%
    Minneapolis-StPaul $87,052 $49,757 $37,295 15 13 2 43%
    Washington, DC $94,257 $58,576 $35,681 16 21 5 38%
    San Antonio $84,079 $49,744 $34,335 17 16 1 41%
    Los Angeles $100,108 $67,461 $32,647 18 27 9 33%
    Columbus $76,052 $45,358 $30,694 19 18 1 40%
    Riverside $80,452 $50,263 $30,189 20 23 3 38%
    Pittsburgh $71,917 $41,757 $30,160 21 14 7 42%
    Tampa $77,291 $47,196 $30,095 22 19 3 39%
    Houston $79,878 $49,872 $30,006 23 22 1 38%
    Indianapolis $71,536 $41,966 $29,570 24 15 9 41%
    Portland $80,128 $51,340 $28,788 25 25 0 36%
    Chicago $79,678 $51,030 $28,648 26 24 2 36%
    Madison $73,845 $48,890 $24,955 27 26 1 34%
    San Diego $88,550 $66,247 $22,303 28 29 1 25%
    Cincinnati $73,209 $52,523 $20,686 29 28 1 28%