Best & Worst Cities to Start a Career

by John S Kiernan

Wallet Hub 2014 Best Cities to Start a CareerWhile the struggles endured in recent years by America’s youth pale in comparison to those suffered by young people in Spain and Greece – where unemployment rates in excess of 50% have spawned great social unrest – finding a job, let alone laying the foundation for a long and prosperous career, is far from simple in the current economic climate. With many employers adopting a wait-and-see approach to both the economic recovery and Obamacare and many young people refusing to adjust expectations in the face of stiff competition, the effective unemployment rate for Americans ages 18 - 29 is currently 15.5%.

There is nevertheless reason for optimism among the graduating class of 2014 as well as the scores of young people who have become so disillusioned with the job market that they have given up their search for employment. Not only do more employers plan to hire recent college grads this year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, but hiring in general is also on the rise.

Increased hiring obviously doesn’t guarantee employment, though. Young people still must learn how to maximize their employability. In addition to customizing cover letters and making social media accounts safe for work, that could very well entail finding a new place to live and work.

While Americans in their 20s are now 40% less likely to move than they were 30 years ago, according to U.S. Census data, employment opportunities do vary significantly based on simple geography. So, in order to help recent college graduates find the best cradles for their burgeoning careers, WalletHub analyzed the 150 largest cities in the U.S. to determine the relative strength of their job markets, the attractiveness of their social scenes, and various other factors that are important to new job market entrants. A complete breakdown of our findings, additional information about the methodology we used to conduct this study, and expert financial management tips for young people can be found below.

Main Findings


Overall Rank

City Name

Quality of Life Rank

Professional Opportunities Rank

1 Washington, DC 3 3
2 Denver, CO 9 5
3 Irving, TX 32 2
4 Seattle, WA 4 20
5 Minneapolis, MN 11 24
6 San Francisco, CA 18 11
7 Austin, TX 8 30
8 Dallas, TX 27 27
9 Charlotte, NC 7 63
10 Houston, TX 30 23
11 Nashville-Davidson, TN 2 69
12 St. Paul, MN 36 14
13 Salt Lake City, UT 15 45
14 Raleigh, NC 5 72
15 Pittsburgh, PA 10 65
16 Atlanta, GA 1 106
17 Aurora, CO 106 1
18 Jersey City, NJ 47 11
19 Oakland, CA 75 4
20 Overland Park, KS 29 40
21 Tampa, FL 21 53
22 Boston, MA 23 51
23 Omaha, NE 24 50
24 Richmond, VA 19 60
25 Arlington, TX 79 8
26 Plano, TX 56 25
27 Fort Worth, TX 63 18
28 Orlando, FL 17 73
29 New York, NY 50 29
30 San Diego, CA 35 44
31 Tulsa, OK 69 15
32 Portland, OR 16 78
33 Fremont, CA 93 6
34 Los Angeles, CA 52 32
35 Kansas City, MO 48 35
36 Durham, NC 12 91
37 Anchorage, AK 53 37
38 Tempe, AZ 14 88
39 Oklahoma City, OK 44 47
40 Madison, WI 6 107
41 Irvine, CA 34 62
42 Fort Lauderdale, FL 42 53
43 Cincinnati, OH 31 74
44 San Jose, CA 112 7
45 Colorado Springs, CO 51 56
T-46 Columbus, OH 33 77
T-46 Miami, FL 67 35
48 Grand Prairie, TX 103 10
49 Pembroke Pines, FL 99 17
50 New Orleans, LA 26 96
51 Corpus Christi, TX 105 13
52 Tacoma, WA 116 9
53 Santa Clarita, CA 88 26
54 Chicago, IL 49 67
55 Chandler, AZ 62 52
56 Huntsville, AL 39 79
57 Huntington Beach, CA 114 19
58 Lexington-Fayette, KY 13 115
59 Scottsdale, AZ 58 66
60 Lincoln, NE 22 105
61 Knoxville, TN 37 98
62 Des Moines, IA 77 53
63 Grand Rapids, MI 40 101
64 Little Rock, AR 38 97
65 Louisville, KY 54 86
66 Sioux Falls, SD 20 116
67 Bakersfield, CA 107 33
68 San Antonio, TX 64 75
69 Yonkers, NY 130 21
70 Long Beach, CA 128 22
71 Gilbert, AZ 71 70
T-72 Garland, TX 122 28
T-72 Rancho Cucamonga, CA 100 43
74 Baton Rouge, LA 56 93
75 Worcester, MA 109 39
76 Amarillo, TX 86 59
77 Phoenix, AZ 80 71
78 Greensboro, NC 28 134
79 Glendale, CA 124 34
80 Newport News, VA 111 49
81 St. Louis, MO 46 113
82 Vancouver, WA 120 40
83 Indianapolis, IN 41 120
84 Aurora, IL 78 83
85 Virginia Beach, VA 55 110
86 Peoria, AZ 108 61
87 Lubbock, TX 60 103
88 Newark, NJ 136 31
89 Philadelphia, PA 90 76
90 Providence, RI 61 111
91 Sacramento, CA 84 85
92 Memphis, TN 66 108
T-93 Norfolk, VA 70 99
T-93 Boise City, ID 45 121
95 Rochester, NY 43 132
96 Anaheim, CA 135 42
97 Baltimore, MD 96 82
98 Oxnard, CA 140 38
99 Chesapeake, VA 119 64
100 Wichita, KS 94 87
101 Chattanooga, TN 82 104
102 Tallahassee, FL 24 148
103 Garden Grove, CA 149 15
104 Fontana, CA 131 68
105 Shreveport, LA 68 117
106 Birmingham, AL 85 102
107 Oceanside, CA 137 56
108 Chula Vista, CA 139 58
109 Buffalo, NY 65 129
110 St. Petersburg, FL 113 94
111 Mobile, AL 104 99
112 Springfield, MO 72 122
113 Glendale, AZ 121 84
114 Albuquerque, NM 73 124
115 Santa Ana, CA 145 48
116 Jacksonville, FL 81 123
117 Winston-Salem, NC 59 140
118 Santa Rosa, CA 127 89
119 Spokane, WA 95 112
120 Henderson, NV 74 133
121 Cape Coral, FL 134 79
122 Montgomery, AL 91 118
123 El Paso, TX 133 95
124 Mesa, AZ 138 81
125 Jackson, MS 92 125
126 Hialeah, FL 150 46
127 Reno, NV 76 142
128 Honolulu, HI 110 119
129 Moreno Valley, CA 141 92
130 Brownsville, TX 144 90
131 Fort Wayne, IN 86 137
132 Las Vegas, NV 98 135
133 Milwaukee, WI 83 145
134 Fresno, CA 132 114
135 Toledo, OH 115 130
136 North Las Vegas, NV 122 127
137 Laredo, TX 118 131
138 Tucson, AZ 117 136
139 Augusta, GA 102 141
140 Ontario, CA 143 109
141 Riverside, CA 128 128
142 Cleveland, OH 97 149
143 Fayetteville, NC 101 147
144 Columbus, GA 89 150
145 Detroit, MI 126 143
146 Akron, OH 125 144
147 San Bernardino, CA 148 126
148 Stockton, CA 141 138
149 Port St. Lucie, FL 146 139
150 Modesto, CA 147 146

Detailed Breakdown by City

WalletHub Best Cities To Start A Career

Ask The Experts: Starting Your Financial Life

What should recent graduates look for in a place to live?

At the start of one’s career mobility is a key component to future success and opportunities. While it is important that a recent graduate selects a location that is congruent with his or her lifestyle it is also important to consider current and future job prospects. A recent graduate should not consider the initial city or location as a permanent decision. He or she might select a city where, in fact, they do not want to live long-term, but for 2 or 3 years it is the perfect place to launch their career. For example, a leadership or management training program might be at a city where the organization is headquartered, but the employee will have opportunities to move to other locations after this initial training period. Or, a student doing non-profit work might want to spend some time in D.C. or various large cities that have particular issues that need to be addressed. Along the way the recent graduate is building his or her resume and portfolio of skills.

Housing costs, of course, vary greatly by city and location. It is suggested that not more than 30% of one’s salary be spent on rent/housing expenses. In some cities, particularly on an entry-level salary this can be quite difficult and going up to 40% is necessary. Beyond this price point it gets very difficult to manage one’s finances. Sharing an apartment can be a great way to cut those expenses. In addition to reducing the outlay of rent it also offers a recent graduate the opportunity to live with others and re-create – to some degree – the college experience where friends were just down the hall.

- Carl Martellino, University of Southern California

Consider the regional cost of living index including housing costs. Check commute conditions and time as well as public transportation. Consider if the region is compatible with personal life style interests.

- Jeff W. Garis, Pennsylvania State University

I guess we're talking two issues here: location (as in city) and type of living situation - apartment, condo, etc. The obvious answer is you live where the jobs are - but if you don't have a job yet, then one way to start thinking about where to live is: where do you want to live, and where do you have relatives or friends you could share living space with? Most young graduates can't afford to just move to a city, rent an apartment, and look for a job. So you want to look for ways to economize - even if that means moving home. The only danger in moving home is if you live in an isolated location where jobs are not readily available. While you will be able to live cheaply, that doesn't much matter if there are no jobs.

There are no perfect cities to move to-- location should be based on where your industry hub is. If you want advertising, for example, the bulk of entry-level opportunities will be in New York and LA - there will be options in other cities, but perhaps not as many.

- Kate Brooks, Wake Forest University

What should recent graduates look for in an industry?

While it is important to consider the future prospects of an industry it is equally important to consider one’s passion displayed through his or her interests, skills, and personality temperament. The most successful careers are launched when an individual’s likes and dislikes are well-matched with the particular job function and also with the industry. When all three of these areas match the individual has a myriad number of ways to thrive and succeed.

- Carl Martellino, University of Southern California

Growth associated with the industry products or services. Diversity of other industries that may have opportunities for advancement.

- Jeff W. Garis, Pennsylvania State University

Look for industries that are growing and developing and on a long-term trajectory (even if there's a slight dip now). This would include healthcare, technology, and service fields like the travel industry and personal services. Most fields are rapidly changing due to technology so if you have the skills to combine a tech background with a field (for instance, higher ed has been and will continue to be rapidly influenced by new technology) that's the way to go.

- Kate Brooks, Wake Forest University

What should recent graduates look for in an employer?

One of the most important areas for a recent graduate is the relationship with his or her director supervisor. A recent graduate should seek to work for someone who is a great leader, established in his or her field, and who will have and take the time to mentor and train. A supervisor who supports a recent graduate’s career growth, involvement in professional associations, provides them with a variety of projects, and introduces them to other individuals who are centers-of-influence within the profession are key factors. Beyond the direct supervisor a recent graduate will want to seek an employer who shares common core values and interests. For example, if a recent graduate is very passionate about the environment, social causes, etc. and the employer allows flex-time or the opportunity to do pro-bono work then this could be a great match.

- Carl Martellino, University of Southern California

Dependability and the extent to which the employer will make an investment in it's employees including salary, benefits, opportunities for advancement, professional training and development.

- Jeff W. Garis, Pennsylvania State University

Look for a place where you can learn and will receive mentoring. Recognize that you won't know everything-- you are, in essence, starting over and it's important to find an environment where you can observe, develop new skills, make a contribution (even if it's not glamorous) and where you can develop your work skills: punctuality, responsibility, learning to take on new tasks and meeting deadlines, etc.

- Kate Brooks, Wake Forest University

What is the biggest career mistake that recent graduates make?

The biggest mistake a recent graduate can make is selecting a position simply based on salary. This does not mean that this should not be a consideration, but it should be weighted with a whole host of other criteria. Chief among the criteria, at this early point in one’s career, are the opportunities to learn and to advance.

- Carl Martellino, University of Southern California

Over reliance on external factors including salary rather than pursuing careers based upon internal information such as interests, values/life style and skills.

- Jeff W. Garis, Pennsylvania State University

Not devoting the necessary time to do the job search well. They need to approach every opportunity in a professional manner and understand that looking for a job is actually a full-time job - not just something to do when they find the time.

Also, expecting the first job to be perfect or the beginning of their career trajectory. Sometimes a first job is just a transition-- it's a step away from the academic world and a step into the corporate or nonprofit world. It will likely not be the job of their dreams-- but they will learn, they will understand what they like and don't like on that job and that will help them when they are ready to look for the next job.

- Kate Brooks, Wake Forest University

What is the biggest financial mistake made by young people?

Not living below their means!  The advantage of starting to save early is amazing when you look at the power of compounding.  If a young person starts out on the wrong foot and accumulates debt vs. savings, that same power of compounding builds up a huge, difficult wall that they will have to eventually climb over if they want to reach financial success.

- Kay Lynn Mayhue, The Botsford Group

The most common mistake I see teens and young adults make is not being intentional when it comes to their money. They don’t think about how the decisions they make now will affect the rest of their lives. By learning how to create a simple budget you can get control of your money and avoid costly debt that will leave you struggling for years to come.

- Rachel Cruze, Personal Finance Author

The most common mistake continues to be getting in debt at an early age. High interest credit can take a very long time to pay off and if it’s not paid on time, will affect and lower credit scores. Choose debt carefully. Understand the difference between good debt and bad debt.

- Alana L. Golden, California Department of Business Oversight

Based on my experience, I would probably say that they have a general lack of motivation to learn financial literacy until it becomes absolutely necessary.  We've tried to conduct workshops for seniors to teach them about renting an apartment, buying a car, etc. and only a handful of students ever show up.

- Maura Hume Sweeney, College of the Holy Cross

The most common mistake that young people make with their money is that they don’t do financial planning. Many people don’t know how much they spend and how much they could save each month. As a result, when they over-consume, they have to rely on installment payment and not be able to pay off credit card balance in many times.

- Bing Yu, Meredith College

They don't know how to budget the limited funds they have. They can learn to budget their graduation money, allowance or even funds from their part time job. For a cool interaction budgeting tool, you can go to or I have found that the most common mistake is NOT that people don't have enough money, but that they don't have a plan for the money they have. In my counseling in the wealthy industry, I've seen people making $500k a year who still can't make ends meet and have an extraordinary amount of consumer debt. Develop a plan for your money and you'll not go wrong.

- Ellie Kay, Author of Lean Body, Fat Wallet

  1. Not budgeting (even if living with parents). Budgeting may not sound exciting, but it is the # 1, sure-fire way to stretch a salary and save money – and is one thing young adults do least often. Budgeting need not be complicated. An Excel spreadsheet, or pencil and paper, will work as well as budget-specific software. The key is to set goals – and as appropriate, with parents. Whether the goals are to save up for an apartment, save for retirement, or budget time and money to train for a marathon, write down the goals and build the budget with the goals in mind.

  1. Maintaining credit card debt. Few investments can top the rate of return for eliminating debt; by maintaining credit card debt, you not only bypass the chance to save that money, but you lose out further with the interest. Paying off credit card debt at typical interest rates effectively makes an investment that returns 20 percent or more per year.
  1. Treating savings as something for “money left over.” Savings needs to be a mandatory ‘bill.” Set up self-billing for savings. Some financial institutions let you arrange automatic withdrawal from your checking account to a savings account. Also check with your employer for automatic deposit into your savings accounts. Record this expense like a bill every month to painlessly accumulate savings. If necessary, start with a small amount like $25 or $50 per month and increase it whenever possible – when you pay off a credit card with a $50 monthly payment, increase your savings by that $50. With the same outflow you have today, you’ll be paying yourself.
  1. Paying bills when you get around to it. Big mistake!!!  Pay every bill in full and on time, period, to avoid increasingly high late charges, penalties and fees. More people spend more money paying interest (and late fees) than on many other expenses. You’ll up your credit score at the same time.

- Kevin Gallegos, Freedom Financial Network, LLC.

Americans are optimistic. When we’re young, add invincible to that optimism.  Although they seem like wonderful traits, and are in many ways, this attitude lends itself to causing young people to postpone boring stuff like savings.  We think… When I get that job, promotion, bonus, or get that degree, then I’ll be making enough money to save.  Year after year we tell ourselves this, but life gets more complicated… houses, children, etc. and our resources are even more stretched.  Time is your biggest ally…use it, don’t lose it.

- Sheryl Garrett, The Garrett Planning Network, Inc.

Many young people spend above their means and get deep into debt. Most graduating college students already have school loans. Adding credit card debt only makes things worse.

- Rick Ferri, Portofolio Solutions

Buying items they don't need...and paying extra for them in interest. Recent graduates have “real” money coming in for what may very well be the first time. It is exciting and they want to splurge a little bit to reward themselves. Every time they make an "impulse buy" and use a credit card but don't pay in full by the due date, they could be paying interest on that purchase for months or years to come. Spending money for something you really don't need can be a big waste of your money. But you can make the matter worse, a lot worse, by putting the purchase on a credit card and paying monthly interest charges.

Another mistake I see recent graduates making is getting too deeply in debt. Being able to borrow allows us to buy clothes or computers, take a vacation or purchase a home or a car. But taking on too much debt can be a problem, and each year millions of adults of all ages find themselves struggling to pay their loans, credit cards and other bills.

- Edna Grover-Bisker, Missouri University of Science and Technology

The most common mistake is they do not contribute enough to their employer’s retirement plan. At the very least they should contribute enough to participate fully in the matching! If they can maximize their contributions and adjust their lifestyle accordingly and keep it up for several straight years, they will be way ahead than their peers to building wealth.

- George Papadopoulos, Fee Only Wealth Management

The most common mistake young people make with their money is thinking and believing that since they generally have so little money, there's no point in getting educated about personal financial management. But, regardless of your income, you are always spending money and making decisions that impact your finances so it pays to get smarter sooner about handling money decisions for your sake and your parents' sake. And, once you have a steady, full-time job, there's even more at stake.

- Eric Tyson, Author of Personal Finance for Dummies

The most common mistake is not paying attention to personal finance at a young age.  When finance is ignored in life decisions, young people lose out big time on future opportunities.  The student who falls in love with a college because it has a cool campus and a new $80 million dollar fitness center, but borrows through the nose to go there, sets their life on a very limiting path.  (They must make choices that will support the massive debt payments.) Likewise, the new employee who waits just a few years to start their retirement fund cuts themself off from hundreds of thousands of dollars in compound interest earnings.  And the would be homeowner who doesn’t check her credit until she starts looking for houses, might find herself in with the 70% of Americans who have a mistake on their credit report that is not their fault.  So the best piece of advice is always START!

- Peter Bielagus, Wealth Educators International, LLC.

Oftentimes, young people accumulate debt on credit cards, which becomes a tremendous burden. With the interest that they have to pay, they cannot get caught up. This becomes a vicious cycle as they continue to charge with no way of paying off the debt.

- Debra Wheatman, Careers Done Write, Inc.

The most common mistake I see young people making with their money is trying to live beyond their means.

- Robyn Young, Professional Daily Money Manager Money Care, LLC.

Two out of three young adults graduate with student loan debt. The average debt load per borrower rolls in slightly above $30k for a 2014 graduate. While the jury is still out investigating the ROI of a college degree, what else can be a worse graduation present?

Student loan debt often paralyzes and forces young adults to make life decisions they don’t necessarily want.

- Andrew Josuweit, Student Loan Hero

Lack of savings for ‘emergency funds’ and unrealistic expectations for income/job prospects. Need to establish a personal spending plan (aka Budget) to know what expenses they have. Taking on debt without thinking of ability to repay it.

- Joe Downs, Reality Financial Planning Services

They seem to not realize how long a purchase takes to pay off if being charged to a credit card. The immediate gratification from a purchase is gratified but I think the time frame to pay for the item/service is not realized!

- Andrea Gutierrez, Bowling Green State University

They don’t start saving immediately; they put off saving until later…and they don’t develop the critical habit of saving.

- Erin Botsford, Author of The Big Retirement Risk: Running Out of Money Before You Run Out of Time

What’s the best financial advice you would give to recent grads?

Delayed gratification can be a beautiful thing!   If you live below your means and save your pennies, you will be able to afford that __________ (fill in the blank with car, apartment, boat, designer bag, etc.) in the future and I promise, you will appreciate it more by waiting!

- Kay Lynn Mayhue, The Botsford Group

Avoid debt. If you’re headed off to college, go to a school you can afford, get scholarships and work your way through school so you can avoid student loans. If you’re graduating college, remember that you’re 22, not 52. It’s okay not to have the best of everything right after college. Be patient and save so you can pay cash for things like cars, furniture and vacations. Debt robs you of your greatest wealth building tool, your income. By starting your adult life without debt, you’re able to lay a solid foundation for your financial future.

- Rachel Cruze, Personal Finance Author

Start saving early. It’s okay if it’s a very small amount. Small contributions to a retirement account now will pay off later. And please keep a rainy day fund for unexpected expenses.

- Alana L. Golden, California Department of Business Oversight

Know what kind of loans you're taking out and what the payments will be like after graduation.  It's not free money and although loans can be relatively easy to obtain, they can be quite difficult to pay off.

- Maura Hume Sweeney, College of the Holy Cross

Planning your monthly expenses well and make sure that each month you are able to pay off your credit card monthly statement balance. If you pay the credit card minimum payment only, your unpaid balance will be charged by daily-compounding interest. This daily-compounding interest charge will accumulate huge interest expenses over times.

- Bing Yu, Meredith College

Find a money mentor who has done a good job in paying off debt, living on a budget, paying cash for regular expenses and saved enough money for an emergency. Set up regular dates for a money workout and let them coach you on how they did it. This person may be an older sibling, a parent, a coach or teacher or a fellow grad who just happens to be really good with money.

- Ellie Kay, Author of Lean Body, Fat Wallet

One word: Save!

Save part of every paycheck received – whether from salary, a freelance engagement or a yard sale. Ideally, save 10 percent. But if that doesn’t work, save a smaller percent, but make sure it’s consistent.

While many experts believe the No. 1 challenge today for young adults is preparing for retirement, it’s easy for young adults to ignore this advice because retirement seems so far away and so irrelevant. It’s better to think of it as saving to create options – the option to do what you want with your time, whenever that time may be.

- Kevin Gallegos, Freedom Financial Network, LLC.

You’re an adult now. Everyone wants your money.  Use cash.  It’s real.  It’s tangible.  Credit cards are not your friends.  Save a nickel of every dollar you earn.

Young people don’t resonate with the concept of retirement (or even planning for the long-term) and taking some of their “pent up demand” spending money to save for retirement isn’t going to work.  My 17 year old nephew said he doesn’t want to retire or even think about it.  “That’s for old people!”  When I reframed the question and asked him if he’d like to have enough money that he wouldn’t have to work for a living… that got him excited.  If he started saving 5% of every dollar he makes, he’ll be in great shape to achieve financial independence before he’s too old to enjoy it.

- Sheryl Garrett, The Garrett Planning Network, Inc.

Read “The Richest Man in Babylon” by  George S. Clason. First published in 1926, this is perhaps the best book on personal money management ever written. Follow the link to a free version!

- Rick Ferri, Portofolio Solutions

Here are my top two.

  1. Learn to live within your means right out of the gate – and understand that means your life likely won’t look like mom & dad’s right away.
  2. Respect the incredible power of compounding – start saving right out of school no matter how hard it hurts & how unpleasant the tradeoffs.

- Edna Grover-Bisker, Missouri University of Science and Technology

I mentor some young college students in my alma matter and at times I email them this below. Feel free to use any of the advice tips.

First, I would concentrate on getting a good education in something you enjoy doing that will provide you with good income with potential [for growth].

Whatever you do, work a little harder than the next guy and always be connected by getting involved in your chosen profession/industry. Never stop networking.

Always have some money laying aside in the bank or an online savings account for emergencies. As you will find out, [bad stuff] does happen when you least expect it.

Avoid carrying credit card balances, they are truly evil!

If you have a 401(k) at work, sign up right away and maximize your contributions!

Start saving for a house down payment. Renting is also okay, too, until you have a 20 percent deposit for you first purchase. And whatever you get, do not buy more house than you can afford!

Marry well. (Just kidding…well, not really.)

Never ever spend more than you earn!

Always save, at a minimum, 10 percent of what you earn. 15 percent is better, 20 percent is super.

Don’t blow your money in a brand new sports car. Buy one a little used and have two or three dealers compete against each other on the price you got on the Internet. And, don’t fall in love with those wheels, they are just transportation.

When you do have an investment portfolio, always diversify with no-load mutual funds, preferably cheap index funds and ETFs.

Never believe that there are gurus who have “proven” systems who can make you rich, they are full of it and are looking for suckers to separate from their money.

- George Papadopoulos, Fee Only Wealth Management

Take the time to get educated now regarding personal finances by reading my book and other quality resources!

- Eric Tyson, Author of Personal Finance for Dummies

For college students:  If you have student loans, you need to know the amount of your monthly loan payments.  Many students know how much they have borrowed, but very few can identify how much their monthly student loan payments are.  Knowing this number will affect all of your post college decisions; what job you accept, where you live, the car you have, and whether or not you can afford HBO (hint: you can't.)  So ask the financial aid office for the total monthly payment on your student loans.

For high school students headed to college:  Remember you go to college for only one reason: to increase your opportunity. Debt decreases opportunity.  So students and parents MUST weigh these two factors against each other.  The brand name, education, and experience you believe you will get from the expensive school must outweigh the lost opportunities the debt burden will take away.  College is no longer an experience (it used to be) but now it is an investment and it has to be treated like one. You must get a good return on your time and money.

- Peter Bielagus, Wealth Educators International, LLC.

If you cannot afford to pay for it in cash now, then you cannot afford to buy it. This is an important lesson to learn. Spending on credit cards gives a false sense of security because no actual "cash" is being exchanged. If you had to bring real money to a transaction, you might reconsider whether or not you should be spending money on a particular service or product.

Keeping a budget so that you remain aware of how much you have vs. what can be spent will keep you on track and help avoid situations where you spend too much and cannot afford to pay debts at the end of the month. If you do use credit cards, make sure you have enough money to pay the full balance when the bill comes due at the end of the month. Consider using American Express as the card of choice. They have many card options, some of which are not credit cards; the balance must be paid in full at the end of the cycle. This can help keep spending in check.

- Debra Wheatman, Careers Done Write, Inc.

Don’t expect your parents to maintain your standard of living. Although they may have paid for your cell phone, car, and vacations while you were in high school and college, it is time to pay for these things yourself. If you can’t afford them, go without or use lower-cost services until you can. Now that you are out of school, your parents may need to save for their retirement, or you may be supporting them in their old age.

- Robyn Young, Professional Daily Money Manager Money Care, LLC.

Start building an emergency fund ASAP. As a young adult, it’s crucial to have at least a few thousand dollars in the bank to get you through the first few months after graduation.

- Andrew Josuweit, Student Loan Hero

Same advice as I give everyone: Spend less than you earn, pay yourself first, and monitor credit (reports and debt).

- Joe Downs, Reality Financial Planning Services

Pay cash for everything you can, keep credit card purchases to a minimum or emergency situation and try to stay on a budget as hard as that may be. Also, working a second job or finding additional opportunities to make an income can help them cover expenses.

- Andrea Gutierrez, Bowling Green State University

Start the saving habit immediately; take 10% of every dollar you make and set it aside, not in a ‘revolving’ account, but in something you won’t touch...

- Erin Botsford, Author of The Big Retirement Risk: Running Out of Money Before You Run Out of Time


WalletHub analyzed and ranked the 150 most populous cities in the United States based on the following 18 metrics, which were designed to collectively represent most of the issues that young people have in mind when looking for a place to set down roots - from professional opportunities to the odds of finding a mate. With that said, the two overall categories listed below were intended for organizational purposes only. In other words, they were used to group the metrics but were not taken into account when deciding the weight assigned to each metric.

More information, along with the sources we used to conduct this report are below.

Quality of Life

Average Annual Income, Adjusted for Cost of Living: 1

Arts, Leisure & Recreation Establishments Per 100,000 Inhabitants: 1

Percentage of the Population Ages 25-34: 1

Mating Opportunities (share of population that has never been married): 1

Strength of Social Ties: 1

Percentage of the Population with a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher: 1

Population Growth: 0.5

Average 2-Bedroom Rent: 0.5

Housing Costs: 0.5

Professional Opportunities

Number of Entry-Level Jobs Per 100,000 Inhabitants: 1

Monthly Median Starting Salary: 1

Technology Jobs as a Percentage of Total City Employment: 1

Annual Job Growth, Adjusted for Population Growth: 1

Median Income Growth Rate: 1

Economic Mobility: 1

Workforce Diversity: 1

Current Unemployment Rate: 0.5

Entrepreneurial Activity: 0.5

Sources: The information used to construct this report is courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Sharecare,, the Equality of Opportunity Project and WalletHub research.

John Kiernan is Senior Writer & Editor at Evolution Finance. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a BA in Journalism, a minor in Sport Commerce & Culture,…
1180 Wallet Points
Good study, but how do we see the actual results for a specific city on the 18 metrics used in your methodology? Just showing averages in Quality of Life and Professional Opportunities does not show the metrics that a city is strong or weak in. Are the individual city metrics results available? Thanks.
May 8, 2014  •  Reply  •  Flag