CNBC make it 2024-07-10 08:25:35


15 U.S. states with the lowest cost of living—a single person can live there on $20 an hour

As a single person, you’ll need an annual income of $40,000 to cover basic expenses in the cheapest U.S. states, according to a recent SmartAsset analysis.

The state with the lowest costs of living is West Virginia, closely followed by Arkansas and Oklahoma, the analysis says. In West Virginia, a one-person household needs a pre-tax income of $39,386 to pay for necessities like housing, transportation, health care, taxes and other common expenses — as tracked by the MIT Living Wage calculator.

The good news: The median American yearly wage for full-time workers is nearly $60,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But minimum wage workers in many of the least-expensive U.S. states lag significantly behind that figure. With a 40-hour workweek, West Virginia’s $8.75 hourly minimum wage translates to just $18,200 per year, for example.

Here’s a look at the 15 U.S. states with the lowest cost of living, based on how much a single person needs to cover basic costs:

  1. West Virginia: $39,386
  2. Arkansas: $39,724
  3. Oklahoma: $40,211
  4. North Dakota: $40,262
  5. Kentucky: $40,355
  6. Ohio: $40,359
  7. South Dakota: $40,718
  8. Louisiana: $41,233
  9. Mississippi: $41,361
  10. Iowa: $41,678
  11. New Mexico: $41,807
  12. Nebraska: $41,849
  13. Alabama: $41,911
  14. Missouri: $42,024
  15. Wisconsin: $42,062

Based on a 40-hour workweek, these totals work out to an hourly wage that ranges from about $19 to $20. In contrast, the most expensive state for a single person is Massachusetts, where a single person needs $58,009 per year to cover basic costs. That works out to roughly $28 per hour.

While rural states have lower costs, they tend to have lower wages, too. The median household income in West Virginia is $52,460, compared with $75,910 in New York, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent data from 2022.

The difference in basic costs between states is largely due to housing, which tends to be most affordable in rural states. Urban areas typically offer a higher concentration of jobs, attracting more residents — and increased housing demand drives up home prices.

Annual housing costs in heavily urban states like California and New York are close to $20,000, compared to roughly half that figure in the 15 least expensive states.

Rural states also tend to have lower taxes than states with large cities, because their public services and infrastructure are less expensive. Taxes vary by about $5,000 to $10,000 per year between states, according to SmartAsset’s analysis.

MIT’s Living Wage calculator is based on data from various federal agencies, adjusted for inflation as of December 2023.

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Why Serena Williams tried to deposit her first $1 million check at a drive-thru ATM

In the early days of her tennis career, Serena Williams cared so much about winning that she forgot to collect her earnings — repeatedly.

Williams, 42, brought in $94.8 million in prize money as a tennis player before retiring in 2022, according to the Women’s Tennis Association. Early in her career, she nearly left a decent chunk of it behind: She was so singularly focused on her performance that she’d nearly leave cities without picking up her money, she told First We Feast’s YouTube talk show “Hot Ones” last week.

“Is it true that you rarely collected your winnings your first year on tour and then once tried unsuccessfully to cash your first million-dollar check in a drive through ATM?” host Sean Evans asked her.

“Those are all true,” responded Williams, who won 23 Grand Slam singles titles and 73 career singles titles during her 27-year career. “I never played for money. I played because I loved the sport … I wanted to win.”

Williams’ professional debut — in which she played a single game, losing a qualifying match at the 1995 Bell Challenge in Quebec City, Canada — reportedly resulted in a $240 check. At age 14, she was in no rush to spend that money, she said.

The same was true when Williams got her first million-dollar check. People around her were excited about the dollar figure, but all Williams wanted to do was deposit it and get back to work, she recalled.

“I never really spent a lot of money,” said Williams. “I just went through the drive-thru and the guy was like, ‘Uh, I think you need to come inside for this.’”

As her career evolved, her “tax guy” had to remind her to get her money while she toured, she recalled.

″[He] would be like, ‘You didn’t get your money?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, I didn’t get that one in Zurich. I forgot that one in Moscow,’” Williams said. “I was playing to win, and if I didn’t win, I wasn’t thinking. I was just so angry that I wanted to just figure out a way to get better and win the next time.”

When to teach kids money lessons

Williams’ early-career experiences were part of her financial literacy education: When she started making her own money as a teen, her dad Richard made sure that she was in charge of it, she told Bloomberg’s ‘The Deal’ podcast in May.

“I remember having to figure that out and having to learn how to manage from a very early age and not get crazy with it, and so he empowered us to do that,” Williams said, adding that when it came time to weigh sponsorship deals with companies like Puma and Nike, she always had a seat at the table.

“I’m 16, my dad is negotiating, they’re going back and forth, and he wants me there for the whole time to make sure I know what to do in the future,” she said. “I learned early on that your paycheck from tennis — maybe that’s why I forgot them — should be your smallest earning.”

Personal finance lessons for kids are important, experts say. If you start teaching kids basic money lessons as early as ages 5 to 8, they’ll be ready to learn about concepts like saving, spending and investing by ages 8 to 12, Eric Landolt, head of family advisory and art & collecting at UBS Global Wealth Management, told Make It last year.

By the time they’re teenagers, they’ll be well-equipped to effectively manage a small budget or allowance, said Landolt.

“Financial literacy should be a basic skill, a basic skill in the sense of like, reading or writing or doing so something in a way that should be brought to everyone in any circumstance,” he said.

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How a couple making $230,000 have set themselves up to ‘constantly feel poor,’ from a money expert

Maddie, 29, and Paul, 33, live well in London.

Although Paul recently left his job, they’re still earning $230,000 a year from Maddie’s income, the couple tells self-made millionaire and money expert Ramit Sethi on a recent episode of his “I Will Teach You to be Rich” podcast. Their last names are not used.

Maddie’s high salary, along with some savvy money habits like regularly saving and investing, have helped them live comfortably even in a high-cost area like London. But they still stress about money, especially as they plan their wedding for next year.

Maddie oscillates between two mindsets when it comes to finances. One tells her, ”‘I’m going to live a bougie, great life. I work hard. I’ve made great money. I can do what I want, and we can travel a ton and have a great wedding, and all these things,’” she tells Sethi. “And then the other side, constantly feeling stressed and guilty about it.”

Though Sethi encourages his listeners to keep a “guilt-free spending” category in their monthly budget, Maddie and Paul seem to be overdoing it. “You’re actually setting yourself up to constantly feel poor relative to everyone else around you,” Sethi says.

Spending on travel, shopping, means ‘losing money every single month’

Going through their finances, Sethi found the couple has done relatively well at keeping their fixed costs in check. Their rent, groceries, car payment and other necessities come out to about 63% of their take home pay, even while Paul isn’t working.

But a look at their discretionary spending showed that Maddie has good reason to feel anxious about their finances. The couple admitted they spend around $7,000 a month on travel and shopping. That brings their total spending above their monthly income. 

They’ve managed to stay out of debt thus far aside from a small auto loan, but with several friends’ weddings as well as their own around the corner and their spending habits unchecked, Sethi worries they’re on a path to destruction.

“I think you earn the right to feel okay about being in the red occasionally if you have a very large net worth,” Sethi tells them. “But I think when we factor in the fact that you’re losing money every single month, that you’re planning to continue that for the foreseeable future … that starts to be trickier.”

Overdoing it on trips and social events because ‘we want to keep up’

Maddie and Paul say they hesitate to change their lifestyle in order to rein in their spending and feel more comfortable about money. They know Paul getting a job will help improve the situation, but they don’t want to rely so much on high incomes that they can never stop working.

Yes, Paul bringing in any income, especially a six-figure salary as he expects, would help, Sethi agrees. But the spending is the real problem.

“It’s not actually normal for people making $230,000, which is a very good income, to be traveling eight times a year internationally, plus your own personal travel, plus Barry’s Bootcamp, plus shopping and golf trips,” Sethi says.

Maddie and Paul admit that a lot of their spending is prompted by pressure from their friends and culture.  “We hang out with people [for whom] money feels to be less of a concern due to their backgrounds,” Maddie says. “There’s definitely a sense like we need to keep up. Or not [that] we need to; we want to keep up.”

“It’s this compulsion to be at everything and live such a social life [that] just drains us,” Paul adds.

‘Your income is not commensurate with your vision’

Sethi presses Maddie and Paul about what they actually want out of life and what sacrifices they may be willing to make to get there.

Having a big wedding for themselves is important to Maddie and Paul, as is their financial security, they reply. They plan to have kids within the next several years and want to make sure they’re setting themselves up for success in that phase of life.

Even if Paul gets the salary he expects at his next job, the couple would be wise to make some changes, Sethi says. “I love your vision for an even greater life. It’s beautiful,” he adds. “But your income is not commensurate with your vision, nor will it be.”

The idea of “keeping up with the Joneses” and lifestyle creep are common pitfalls because humans are social animals, Sethi says. But Maddie and Paul need to acknowledge that their friends’ lifestyle choices have nothing to do with their personal financial situations and goals.

Decide which societal influences you want to accept and which don’t align with your rich life.
Ramit Sethi

“We’re all part of a larger community that influences our spending,” Sethi says. “The minute you start accepting that is the minute you can decide which societal influences you want to accept and which don’t align with your rich life.”

Paul and Maddie acknowledge they need to work on declining when their friends invite them to go on trips or to attend weddings that aren’t a priority so they can put their money towards the things that are most important to them.

“We have to be more intentional and purposeful with our spending decisions, especially by getting more comfortable saying ‘no’ both to ourselves and to outside commitments,” Paul says in his follow-up video. 

Check out the full podcast episode here.

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The No. 1 question to ‘always’ ask in a job interview, from a LinkedIn career expert

The final minutes of a job interview — when the interviewer is done with their questions and opens up the floor — is time you don’t want to waste. 

Asking smart, thoughtful questions can give you an edge over other candidates and help you decide whether a role is the right fit for you. 

There’s one question, in particular, that you should “always” ask in a job interview, says LinkedIn career expert Andrew McCaskill.

“What does success look like to you in the first 90 days of this role?” 

By asking how success is measured within the team or company, you’re demonstrating that you’re proactive, and someone who wants to learn the skills needed to excel in the role, McCaskill explains. 

The first 90 days of a new position is the most common timeframe employers use to assess your fit for the job and company culture, McCaskill adds, so it’s a helpful reference point to include — otherwise, the question might feel too broad.

“It cues to the interviewer that you’re curious, and really thinking about how you can help them solve whatever challenges they’re facing at the moment,” he says.

With this question, you’ll better understand what kind of learning curve you’ll face and how your performance will be evaluated. 

The interviewer’s response could make you feel more confident about the role or uncover some red flags. 

If the hiring manager avoids spelling out the specific tasks and responsibilities of the role or is vague about scheduling and expectations for working overtime, “those could be signs that a job is high-stress,” McCaskill explains. 

This question can also help you prepare for any follow-up interviews.

“It gives you a vantage point into what skills and traits the employer is prioritizing in hiring for this role, and what language they use to describe their ideal candidate, so you can mirror it,” says McCaskill. “It helps you get to the very heart of what they’re looking for.”

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28-year-old left the U.S., relocated to Thailand, and pays $544/month for his 1-bedroom apartment

In April 2021, Paul Lee took a vacation to Thailand. Five months later, he decided to leave the United States behind and make a permanent move to the Asian country.

Lee, originally from Georgia, had been living in New York City and grossing around $1 million a year thanks to his e-commerce business. Despite doing well enough to pay for his parent’s retirement, the 28-year-old tells CNBC Make It he found himself without purpose, feeling depressed, and needing to make a change.

“When I first arrived to Thailand, I just felt rejuvenated. Everything was completely new to me, and I felt like it was a fresh new start,” Lee says. “The more and more I live here, the more and more I fall in love with the city.”

Since moving to Bangkok, Lee has been making around US $150,000 a year as a content creator and real estate agent, according to documents reviewed.

Working in real estate helped Lee find several living arrangements in Bangkok, including luxury condos. The apartment he’s in now is a one-bedroom in the Thonglor neighborhood which Lee says is “the Soho of Bangkok.”

It’s a 650-square-feet unit that costs 20,000 baht — around USD $544 — in monthly rent. Lee also pays $20 for Wi-Fi, $80 for electricity, and $3 for water each month. The apartment came furnished, and Lee has access to amenities, including a pool and a gym.

To move in, Lee had to pay a security deposit of two months’ rent or about $1,088.

Despite lower grocery costs in Bangkok, Lee eats out for every meal and spends $500 a month on food. “I’m not gonna lie, the food in New York City was very good as well, but I think in Thailand, it’s just a lot more homey, a lot more local, and a lot spicier,” Lee says.

His other expenses include a $93 monthly gym membership which is a bit of a splurge considering Lee has free access to a gym in his building. But the cost is worth it for Lee, because he can take advantage of the co-working space, coffee, and numerous networking opportunities in the space.

Also his current gym’s price is nothing compared to luxury gyms in New York, like Equinox, where memberships can start at $240 a month.

Lee has only returned to the U.S. one time since his big move to Thailand — for his sister’s wedding. He tells CNBC Make It he chose to leave New York City because he found himself being too materialistic and living in an “environment that was just very individualistic, very doggish, and very hyper-aggressive.”

“Bangkok stood out to me because it seemed very metropolis. It seemed very fun. It seemed very affordable and it just had a very good culture and didn’t really have any major compromises to me,” Lee says.

Lee has made a new life for himself in Thailand, he says, and returning to the U.S. doesn’t feel likely.

“I had to go through this journey of being poor and becoming quite wealthy to realize all this wealth that I had accumulated didn’t really give me what I wanted and didn’t give me the satisfaction I was looking for,” Lee says.

His parents were initially shocked he’d moved so far but ended up following in his footsteps when they moved to South Korea. They visit him in Bangkok from time to time, and Lee travels to see them, too. He says it’s one of the best perks of his new life in Thailand.

“At the end of the day, even though I don’t make nearly as much money as I made in New York City, I am far… wealthier in terms of my happiness, in terms of my well-being, my peace,” he added. “These are things I never was able to achieve back home in the States.”

Conversions from Thai baht to USD were done using the OANDA conversion rate of 1 baht to 0.02 USD on July 1, 2024. All amounts are rounded to the nearest dollar.

Want to be a successful, confident communicator? Take CNBC’s new online course Become an Effective Communicator: Master Public Speaking. We’ll teach you how to speak clearly and confidently, calm your nerves, what to say and not say, and body language techniques to make a great first impression. Sign up today and use code EARLYBIRD for an introductory discount of 30% off through July 10, 2024.

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