States Worth the Best Bang for Your Buck

With a strong stock market and the housing market on the mend, physicians are looking to change jobs and even location. For those who want to get the most out of their money, these are the best states to make a living.

With a strong stock market and the housing market on the mend, physicians are looking to change jobs and even location. For those who want to get the most out of their money, MoneyRates.com has compiled a list of the best states to make a living.

The 10 best states to make a living in 2013 allow residents to earn a decent wage, stay ahead of inflation and cope with taxes.

The study of the best and worst states to make a living uses the average wage and unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cost of living figures from C2ER and state tax information from Tax-Rates.org.

The worst states to make a living are located, unsurprisingly, in the Northeast, mostly, with a few surprise entries from South Dakota and West Virginia (with low average wages) and Alaska (with a very high cost of living). Hawaii was ranked the number one worst with a high state tax burden and the highest cost of living.

While the list of worst states was filled with the usual suspects for the most part, the list of best states is mostly filled with states in the middle of the country, where the low cost of living makes up for low average wages.

Would you consider to moving to one of the following states? O

r are you willing to contend with a higher cost of living to stay where you live now?

Let us know in the comments!

(Median home prices are from Zillow.com and median income is from the U.S. Census Bureau.)

10. Oklahoma

Philbrook Museum of Art and formal gardens. Copyright Dustin M. Ramsey.

Median home price: $99,700

Median income (2011 data): $43,225

Lately, Oklahoma (particularly Oklahoma City) has appeared on multiple lists for most affordable cities and for where to live during retirement. Muskogee was named one of the least expensive to live by the Council for Community and Economic Research.

This is the first year (of three) that Oklahoma has made it into the top 10 for this list, helped by the low cost of living and strong job market.

9. Kansas

Kansas State University stadium. Copyright Alison H | Flickr.

Median home price: $125,000

Median income (2011 data): $48,964

The income may be below average in Kansas, but the cost of living and unemployment rate are both low enough to make up for that. Like Oklahoma, this is Kansas’ first appearance in the top 10.

Last August, Money Magazine again named Overland Park one of the best small cities to live.

8. Utah

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

Median home price: $219,900

Median income (2011 data): $55,869

Another state with below average income but a low cost of living and low unemployment (seeing a pattern?). In fact the Logan area has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country at just 3.8%. This is Utah’s second year in the top 10.

At the end of 2012, Utah had one of the best tax climates, according to the Tax Foundation. The state had the fifth best corporate tax and the third best property tax.

7. Nebraska

Downtown Omaha from Heartland of America Park. Copyright Raymond Bucko, SJ | Flickr

Median home price: $121,900

Median income (2011 data): $50,296

In addition to low incomes, low cost of living and low unemployment rates (like the previous three entries). Nebraska has a top five ranking for work environment. This is the state’s first time in the top 10.

Nebraska is good for both the old and the young, though. The youth unemployment rate was at 7.9% in August 2012 and the median rental cost was just $644 (more than $150 below the national average), according to a previous MoneyRates.com study. Lincoln’s overall unemployment rate was 3.2% in October 2012.

6. Minnesota

Downtown Minneapolis from across the Mississippi River.

Median home price: $168,400

Median income (2011 data): $56,954

Income is above average in Minnesota and the unemployment rate is relatively low. Unfortunately, Minnesota has one of the worst business state tax climates. Surprisingly, Minnesota is also one of the most expensive states to raise a child at an average yearly cost of $14,700, mostly because its child care is the second most expensive in the nation (second only to New York).

5. Wyoming

Yellowstone Falls, Yellowstone National Park. Copyright Scott Catron.

Median home price: $217,500

Median income (2011 data): $56,322

For the second year in a row, Wyoming has made the top 10 thanks to the second best work environment ranking, no state income tax and a very low unemployment rate. The state has the best business climate in the country.

4. Texas

Harlingen. Copyright Eric and Nancy Anderson | PhysiciasMoneyDigest.com

Median home price: $178,500

Median income (2011 data): $49,392

The income in Texas is average, but the state has no income tax and a low cost of living. For all three years of the study, Texas has landed in the top five. Plus, at the end of 2012, Dallas was one of just three cities in the U.S. that had made a full recovery from the recession. Texas cities regularly make lists of the most affordable cities to live.

3. Colorado

Downtown Denver. Copyright Matt Wright.

Median home price: $249,500

Median income (2011 data): $55,387

The average income is relatively high, which offsets the moderate inflation. Plus, the state had the third best work environment ranking. Unfortunately, at the end of 2012, Colorado had one of the worst foreclosure rates in the country with one in every 563 houses in foreclosure. However, Zillow is expecting Denver to see big gains in its housing market in 2013.

2. Virginia

King Street in Alexandria’s Old Town. Copyright Zach Rudisin.

Median home price: $229,900

Median income (2011 data): $61,882

A former number one, Virginia has a high average income, a low cost of living and a low unemployment rate. Plus, one of the great things about Virginia is that it’s close to the nation’s capital. However, don’t get too close. Five of Virginia’s counties were among the richest in the country because of proximity to Washington, D.C.

1. Washington

Seattle Center. Copyright Jeffery Hayes.

Median home price: $223,300

Median income (2011 data): $56,835

The average wage is one of the highest in the nation, which more than covers the fact that the state’s cost of living is slightly above average. Plus, Washington has no state income tax.

There’s something for almost everyone in Washington. It is home to one of the best places for suburbanites to live (Clyde Hill); it has the best tax rate in the country for the rich; it has the sixth best business tax climate; and Redmond is one of the best small cities to live.