Move To These Towns To Earn Big Money, Live The Good Life

Beyond the obvious big cities where the rich and famous drive around in flashy cars and flaunt designer dresses and amazing homes, there are other towns across America where top-earning residents are living the good life. From north to south, sea to shining see, let’s take a look at a few of these little gems and start planning where we’ll move.

CNNMoney rounded up 25 Top-Earning Towns, and we’ve picked out a couple to highlight, just to give you something to aspire to as you stare at your roommate’s dirty dishes in the sink of your cramped, over-priced apartment. We can all dream, right?

Bethesda, MD
Population: 56,763
Median family income (per year): $172,541
Median home price: $725,000
“There’s a party for every season in this commuter town: Enjoy concerts and ice sculpting in the winter and Taste of Bethesda in October; schmooze with Pulitzer Prize winning authors at April’s literary festival; and enjoy the strains of delta blues, soul and swing in the summer.”

Palo Alto, CA
Population: 60,089
Median family income (per year): $153,615
Median home price: $1,180,000
“Palo Alto is awash in high tech prosperity. Stanford professors, Facebook engineers and venture capitalists are neighbors in this Silicon Valley town. It’s home to the historically preserved garage where David Packard and Bill Hewlett launched the HP empire in 1938, as well as eight-figure Tuscan-inspired manors with pinot noir and chardonnay grapes out back.”

Lower Merion, PA
Population: 56,789
Median family income (per year): $144,686
Median home price: $240,000
“Located along the Main Line of the historic Pennsylvania Railroad, Lower Merion has long been a refuge from city life for the well-heeled. In the mid-19th century, railroad scions, merchant magnates and metal and oil industry tycoons began erecting grand homes throughout the area.”

The Woodlands, TX
Population: 65,491
Median family income (per year): $124,939
Median home price: $214,593
“Situated within 28,000 acres of forest, this master-planned community marries natural ambiance with rich luxury. An air-conditioned water taxi and complimentary trolley service help the masses navigate through it all. You’ll also find ritzy sedans and SUVs parked at 12,000-square-foot estates with million-dollar furnishings tucked inside.”

Weston, FL
Population: 65,580
Median family income (per year): $119,689
Median home price: $265,000
“Cultural diversity, masterful landscaping and sunny skies make this resort-like community a paradise for its ritzy residents. Incorporated in 1996, the designer town is ultra chic with Royal Palms lining the streets and luxuriant foliage surrounding its signs.

Sandy Springs, GA
Population: 82,674
Median family income (per year): $115,171
Median home price: $380,000
“Named for a spring that produces 10 gallons of water per minute, this Georgia locale also features the Chattahoochee River, Chastain Park and Big Trees Forest Preserve.
Full of sidewalks, bicycle lanes and trails, this city was made for ambling, and locals enjoy their time outdoors. The Chastain Amphitheatre, nestled within a park, brings world-renowned performers into the fold. And The Taste of Sandy Springs, Sandy Springs Cycling Challenges and Sandy Springs Festival draw crowds.”

Top-earning towns [CNNMoney]

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  1. tbax929 says:

    I hate articles that spread out over 25 pages like this.

    Here’s the list:
    1. Bethesda, MD; 2. Greenwich, CT; 3. Palo Alto, CA; 4. Newport Beach, CA; 5. Lower Merion, PA; 6. Newton, MA; 7. Fairfield, CT; 8. Greenburgh, NY; 9. Burke, VA; 10. Naperville, IL; 11. The Woodlands, TX; 12. North Hempstead, NY; 13. Brookline, A; 14. Flower Mound, TX; 15. Highlands Ranch, CO; 16. Reston, VA; 17. Carmel, IN; 18. Wayne, NJ; 19. Weston, FL; 20. Eden Prarie, MN; 21. Ellicott City, MD; 22. Plymouth, MN; 23. Sandy Springs,GA; 24. Roswell, GA; 25. Wheaton, IL

    I have no comment because I’ve never lived in any of these places. I can say that where I live I have an abnormally-high salary, and home prices are really low. I just bought a new house for $130K that would have cost me four or five times as much in my hometown outside of Philly.

    • tbax929 says:

      That should be Brookline, MA. Sorry.

      • jessjj347 says:

        Is it also Wayne, PA? I thought that area was among the richest in the country and I’ve never heard of Wayne, NJ.

    • Fair&Balanced says:

      Naperville is not a place I would move if I was rich or even had decent money.

      The woodlands, tx and carmel, in are real nice places to live.

      • Dunkelzahn says:

        Correct. Naperville, while out in the developing areas of IL, is not exactly the greatest place to live. Not horrid, but not great either.

    • Coles_Law says:

      Thanks for making the list-I hate that type of article too.

    • kingofmars says:

      I would also like to throw in my thanks for condensing the article down into a simple list. Notice how Ellicott City, MD is in this list, and is 2nd in the most livable cities list.

    • egoods says:

      I currently live just outside the Main Line (west chester) near philly and can say without a doubt for being a suburb the housing costs here are stupid high. I’m looking into options that are cheaper yet still close to the city.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I question Higlands Ranch, CO. It’s considered a swanky and/or upscale area and that is commensurate with home prices. It’s a nice place, but by no means a bargain to live in.

  2. txhoudini says:

    Seems The Consumerist has confused correlation with causation. These are places where rich people move to, not where people move to to become rich.

    • tbax929 says:

      You’re right. I’ve been around Lower Merion. It’s a place you move to once you already have a lot of money, not a place you move to in order to make a lot of money.

    • Dunkelzahn says:

      ‘It seems CNN has confused correlation with causation.’

      Fix’d for ya.

      • DingoAndTheBaby says:

        Or how about the fact that “median” home price still tells the reader absolutely nothing. An “average” home price would mean much more. Or better yet, “the majority of houses sold within [insert year range] were between [$X] and [$Y].” The median just says that on a list of a whole bunch of homes, this one was in the middle. BFD. C’mon, CNN, you can do better than that. Stop letting college interns write fluff pieces for you.

        • XianZomby says:

          With median, I know for a fact that half of the homes cost more than X. That’s more meaningful than an average, which is rendered meaningless by one expensive neighborhood in the middle of a bunch of shacks.

          Thanks for posting median, CNN, and not succumbing to the meaningless, amateur “average.”

    • physics2010 says:

      Agree. Moving to one of these cities would not guarantee a high salary. People who already have high salaries move to these cities.
      +1 Median

      (50) $1000 houses and (1) $1,000,000 house
      Median value 1000$
      Average value $20,588

  3. bnilsen says:

    Of course you should have a job secured in these areas before moving– or you’ll find it impossible to stay there very long!

  4. MrsLopsided says:

    I must be missing the point of the list.
    How is Palo Alto with a $million plus average house price and only $153,00 average income on that list? How is that living the good life and how can they afford those homes?

    • tbax929 says:

      Easily. They’re in debt up to their eyeballs!

    • kmw2 says:

      Two-earner families plus a dot-com stock option-funded downpayment?

    • Henry Brzrki says:

      Those are medians, not averages.

      • mythago says:

        Even so, he’s right. The list assumes that if your income is $X, you’re rich and it’s a great place to live, without considering the cost of living in that area.

        Silicon Valley in general has a lot of renters and people with roommates because of the high housing costs. The people with the ‘median income’ are not the ones living in ‘median housing’.

    • WagTheDog says:

      You have to live in EAST Palo Alto.

    • FigNinja says:

      It’s a college town so you’ll have lots of people living there with low incomes in the dorms and apartments. Plus there are a lot of middle income people who rent there because their schools are really good. They might be able to afford to buy in another town but they’ll rent in PA instead. The people living in those $1M+ homes make a lot more than $150K.

  5. bdcw says:

    Yes. You can move to paradise. But you take your baggage with you.

  6. baristabrawl says:

    There isn’t a town on here that I want to live in.

  7. agraham999 says:

    As 1/2 of a couple that makes over the median income of Palo Alto (and who worked in that area)…I can tell you that if you move there to live “the good life,” you’ll not be living there and owning a home…unless of course you want to spend $5+k a month on mortgage payments…not to mention property taxes…expensive gas taxes…etc. On $150k a year you’ll only have about $27k to live off of if you buy a house..not to mention the cost of having a car or higher prices for just about everything. You are…as Mr. Wonder sang it…Living for the City.

    So the title of this post and the idea that moving there will bring you untold riches…is asinine.

    Perhaps more posts about the iPhone antenna would be better here.

  8. ericschmidt says:

    good luck to the average Consumerist reader moving to Palo Alto “to earn big money, and live the good life!”

  9. Hoss says:

    Looks like someone at CNN did a 20 minute database sort and came up with a list. If they analyzed the information they would see the average home prices includes condos. In some of those areas it would be hard to get a house for under $1MM

  10. aa925 says:

    Lower Merion—remember the webcam spying controversy a few months back?

    http://www.philly.com/philly/news/homepage/84715297.html?cmpid=15585797

  11. bhr says:

    So I live in 21, which also #1 or #2 on Moneys “Best Places to Live” list last week.

    Nice town, some house values to be found in the older (25yr) developments. But boring.

  12. TinaBringMeTheAx says:

    I’ll stick with the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where I pay a rent-stabilized $820 for a one bedroom apartment a block from Central Park.

  13. JeremieNX says:

    Only city on that list I have any personal experience with is Highlands Ranch, Colorado. It’s nothing more than a suburban hell – miles and miles of houses that all look a like with wide boulevards that are unwalkable. It’s a culture-less wasteland.

  14. energynotsaved says:

    While I don’t live in either Georgia city mentioned, I will agree that, in general, Georgia is a fantastic and financially reasonable place to live. However, the financial meltdown hit Georgia hard. I think I heard that our unemployment has improved to ‘just’ 10%. Layoffs of teachers and increased class sizes will make our already poor public schools even worse. So, while I hope when I finish school I will find a job, I expect to be forced to leave my beloved Georgia.

  15. OnePumpChump says:

    Move near these towns to commute 45 minutes to your barely-above-minimum-wage service job in these towns. They may be able to spend a million dollars on a house but they will be damned if they’re going to pay more for their Big Mac.

    Places like this are either established with these kinds of home prices and various other exclusionary factors in place, or they have undergone a process of Aspenization ether through some concentration of high-income industry, or through some other factor that attracts the wealthy, which drives up land prices and drives out everyone else.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      My personal experience with the cities in MD and VA is that those areas directly feed off the commerce in the DC Metro area. Maryland is getting to be a big biotech area and the suburbs of Reston and Burke are very conducive to working in DC or for the financial firms in Tysons Corner, which is only about 10 to 15 minutes away. There are hundreds of law offices in the region, there is a top notch health network, and great schools. The area is full of upper middle class because they were drawn there and built it up – it’s not where you go to be well off, but it’s where you go if you have a comfortable lifestyle you want to maintain.

  16. pantheonoutcast says:

    So, two working people with a family making $70K apiece while living in a $250,000 house is “Big Money” and “The Good Life”? Around these parts, we call that “struggling.”

    • tbax929 says:

      Agreed. Nobody making that little should even consider spending that much on a house. It’s a recipe for disaster.

      • halo969 says:

        I sure hope you’re being sarcastic. Owning a $250k house with a $140k/year salary is not struggling or a recipe for disaster. That’s actually quite doable with plenty of left over income for retirement too.

        • madanthony says:

          exactly. The rule of thumb is usually that mortgage payments should equal no more than 28% of gross. A $240k mortgage, if my quick calculations are correct, works out to somewhere around 8% of a $140k salary.

          And it depends on the person/situation. Mine was considerably higher before I refinanced, but I’m frugal and don’t have a lot of other debt, so it was fine.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        Add in property taxes, insurance, utilities, credit card bills (remember, it said “family”), and those particular numbers do not exactly scream “comfortable living.”

        I’m also basing it on the fact that $250,000 will buy the average family of 4 a nice, comfortable parking space in NYC. Adjacent to local shopping and quality schools.

    • mythago says:

      No, no. Two working people making less than $80K apiece and paying a mortgage on a million-dollar house is “the good life”!

      I swear that all these Places to Live articles are generated by rolling d20s.

  17. LINIStittles says:

    I live in Bethesda and make a decent salary for my age I suppose. There are plenty of restaurants / bars / events / attractions / amenities in Bethesda and in DC which is a 5 minute Metro ride away. I also live pretty easily without a vehicle. However, housing is fairly expensive. I was lucky to find an affordable apartment with the amenities I wanted, but most other places are more expensive or of less value. And for someone like me that would one day like to purchase a home (not a 600 sq ft apartment like I live in now) I can forget about being able to afford Bethesda any time soon.

    Overall, it’s a pretty good place to live – if you can afford it. I’d imagine many places in large metro areas are similar.

    • whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

      I’ve visited Bethesda a couple of times — stayed with a friend’s family a block or two behind the hospital. I loved their neighborhood, the downtown area, and most of the folks I met. I’d certainly look into locating there if I ever had a good reason to move to the DC area.

  18. erratapage says:

    If your goal is to “live large”, don’t you want to live someplace where you can earn a disproportionately large income in relation to others so that you can take advantage of a lower cost of living and low medium home price?

    • tbax929 says:

      This was the point of my post up top. My salary is way above the average family’s salary in my area (and I live alone). I’m certainly able to live better here than I did when I was near Philly.

  19. dcamsam says:

    I wouldn’t even rank Sandy Springs and Roswell among the twenty-five best places to live in the Atlanta metro area. They’re mini malls surrounded by suburbs.

  20. MuffinSangria says:

    Grew up in Bethesda, MD and it’s a great place. Live in another city on the list right now, which is good, but doesn’t have half of what Bethesda has to offer.

  21. SexCpotatoes says:

    You’re all reading these wrong. THESE are the places we need to rent trucks and grab our guns and drive to and PILLAGE! LAND PIRATES FOREVER! ARRRR!

  22. aliasmisskat says:

    As others have said, these are the places you live once you’ve made your money.

    There isn’t a whole lot of work in Carmel, IN, outside the service industry. There are a couple companies is the city proper, but most of the people who live there are high level managers and executives who drive 45 minutes to downtown or the westside of Indianapolis, or up to Tipton and Kokomo, or are already retired with hefty portfolios.

    • mythago says:

      Not really. Once you’ve made your money, you live in Atheron, Los Altos or the tonier parts of Cupertino.

  23. JulesNoctambule says:

    Sandy Springs and Roswell, GA are both absolute crap unless you love strip malls, heavily congested traffic and matchy-matchy housing developments.

    • ARP says:

      That’s true for many of these towns. They’re suburban hell and often commuter cities. It’s like like the people earn their money in these towns. Most likely they commute to DC, NY, Chicago, Atlanta, SF, Dallas, etc.

    • UncleAl says:

      For Roswell (and neighboring Alpharetta, where I live), that’s very much dependent on whether you’re on the east side of 400, which fits your description to a T, or the west side of 400, where the historic city centers are located. We’ve still got operating farms right around my subdivision, which is one of the earliest in the area (my house was built back in the 1980’s), and I have trees and more than a postage stamp of acreage (only 3/4 of an acre, but better than the cookie cutter subdivisions).

      Personally, I feel like I’ve got the best of both worlds — 30 minutes to downtown Atlanta and its accoutrements (outside of rush hour), but a nice quiet suburban neighborhood for raising kids. Of course, it helps that I’ve spent my career working in Roswell / Alpharetta (lots of technology companies up here), so I avoid the typical metro Atlanta commute. If I had to commute to downtown Atlanta on a daily basis, I might not be so content.

  24. Genocidicbunny says:

    Good luck finding a house in Palo Alto for that cheap without it needing some major repairs.

    Unless you make well over 200k, living in Palo Alto isnt the greatest of options.

  25. HenryES says:

    Burke? Really? There’s no businesses there outside of service industries supporting the residents, so you’d have a hellish commute to any of the employment centers in the DC metro area, and it’s not even close to Metro. I could sort of see Reston (also Fairfax Co.) since people actually work there, so you would have a chance of finding a well paying job in the area with a short commute.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Burke is valued because of its proximity to the hotspots of the metro area. It’s near Tysons and Arlington, and not too far from Alexandria and DC, either. The article gets it wrong because these aren’t places you go to to make money – they’re places you go to when you already have your money, and want to buy a larger home without spending the amount you would if you had stayed in DC. Burke is a good environment for families who want a yard, and who can afford it.

  26. Nighthawke says:

    The Woodlands are right on one of the busiest arteries in the state of Texas: Interstate 45. If you like to speed, that is the road you want to run on. Don’t get me wrong, Houston is a fun place to live in if you love big cities with big sprawl.

    It looks like the writer of this lineup did a Google search and used each community’s chamber or subdivision splash as their description.
    A shame really that they could not afford to send reporters out for each to do a travelogue of these places.

    • wild homes loves you but chooses darkness! says:

      Agreed, but it’s not like The Woodlands is really any part of Houston. Ask any resident of The Woodlands– they like to think of Houston as the mentally impaired kid next door. The Woodlands is pretty, if you like the suburbs. But it’s no kind of cultural paradise, unless you like going to the outdoor amphitheater to catch Dave Matthews.

  27. flyingember says:

    Seiously, the foliage is the reason to move somewhere?

  28. raleel says:

    I’d like to see a list that has median income with the lowest median house costs. That would probably be more telling on where to live to make money.

  29. hey_chris says:

    Lower Merion, PA! Where the schools spy on your kids through their laptops!
    http://boingboing.net/2010/02/17/school-used-student.html

  30. peepytweep says:

    My husband and I lived in Sandy Springs for 2 years…there are large sections that are for lack of a better term ghetto. Then you go over one street and there are million dollar homes. Go figure.

  31. misterfweem says:

    Always laugh when I hear cities of these populations described as “little.” I live in a town of 1,247 people. The “big city” nearby has a population of just over 27,000. Travel a little further, you get the metropolis which tops out at 55,000. You have to drive at least four hours before you hit a town that qualifies as “little” according to this list. And I love it here. Stay away, the rest of you.

  32. Sardis says:

    All are wonderful places to spoil your child.

  33. guymandude says:

    I noticed that you neglected to say that in Bethesda and Palo Alto the traffic negates any of the benefits to living in those areas.

  34. NotEd says:

    Man, I grew up in Bethesda and finally left there a few years ago precisely because of this line:
    Median home price: $725,000

    Now I live 5 miles from #10 (Naperville, IL) and make much less money, but own a house. I guess you have to live with trade-offs like that.

  35. HungryHippo says:

    I agree with the comments on Palo Alto. It seems its normal for people to live above their means there or fake it to mix in. I find that city pretty generic with dime a dozen mall brands and lacking true arts and culture. By default growing up there you are going into some tech industry because it is the “safest route to earn well” they lack any real passion for the humanities and are pretty selfish in terms of % of $ the spend on charities to what they make.

  36. CFinWV says:

    I would love to move back to Lower Merion Township, it was a great place to grow up. One day…

  37. DamanB says:

    The only good deals on there look like Lower Merion, PA and The Woodlands, TX to me, neither being a particularly exciting place to live – as said in other comments, articles like this are largely useless, other than to look at some statistics without relevance or correlation.

  38. PupJet says:

    What you get via your paycheck is what you lose in a home purchase. :P Did you see the median house prices on some of those places????? LOL