The Minimum Salary You Need To Be Happy in Every State

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Tomwang112 / iStock.com

Can money buy happiness? According to a Purdue University study published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, income can correlate with emotional well-being and life satisfaction, though this probably has to do with a variety of factors, such as having the money to fund the things vital to you, such as your healthcare.

To estimate how much money you might need to be happy in every U.S. state, GOBankingRates factored in each state’s cost-of-living index and used $105,000 — which the Purdue study found was the ideal income for life satisfaction in North America — as the “benchmark.” The states were ranked from least to most amount of money needed to be happy. GOBankingRates also included unemployment rates for many states for informational purposes.

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The Purdue study also included figures for being content at the “life evaluation” and “emotional well-being” stages. Globally, those were determined to be $95,000 and $60,000 to $75,000, respectively.

It’s important to keep in mind, though, that “happiness” is subjective. The cost of living comfortably can vary from person to person.

Keep reading to find out how much it takes to be happy in your state:

©Shutterstock.com
©Shutterstock.com

West Virginia

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $89,460

The unemployment rate in West Virginia is at 3.8%, and the cost-of-living index is 14.8% lower than the national average.

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DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images
DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Mississippi

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $91,035

Mississippi’s low cost of living means you can stretch your paycheck that much farther. And while $91,000 is a lot more than most Mississippians earn in a year, the range the study sets for emotional well-being goes as low as about $52,020 a year.

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tobynabors / iStock.com
tobynabors / iStock.com

Oklahoma

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $91,140

Oklahoma’s cost of living is 13.2% below the national average, and the unemployment rate is 3%. While you do need over $91,000 to be happy, you can settle for emotional well-being at as little as $52,080.

Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Kansas

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $91,770

Kansas’ salary to be happy is about $13,000 a year below the rate quoted for North America as a whole, representing a cost of living that’s 12.6% below the national average. However, the salary needed for emotional well-being is as low as $52,440.

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Alabama

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $92,610

If you’re looking at a figure of $92,610 and thinking it’s just not realistic in the state, you should know that the study’s band of incomes allowing for emotional well-being runs as low as $52,920.

JByard / iStock.com
JByard / iStock.com

Missouri

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $92,715

The “life evaluation” stage — in which you feel comfortable about providing for your basic needs and start considering other, bigger questions — would come at a more attainable $83,885 in the Show-Me State. In a state with a low unemployment rate of 2.9%, it’s a good place to be.

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Davel5957 / Getty Images
Davel5957 / Getty Images

Arkansas

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $92,925

That $92,925 might seem out of reach for many Arkansas residents, but it’s notable that a range of $53,100 to $66,375 would get you to the emotional well-being stage.

Davel5957 / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Davel5957 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Iowa

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $94,395

Iowans can enjoy lower costs than the nation on the whole — about 10% less. As such, Hawkeyes earning less than $94,395 a year have plenty of reasons to enjoy life. Those in a state of life evaluation can get by for $85,405.

digidreamgrafix / Getty Images/iStockphoto
digidreamgrafix / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Tennessee

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $94,920

Tennessee’s cost of living is 9.6% below the national average. Here, you only need to make $54,240 to achieve emotional well-being, though $85,880 is equated with the salary for being able to make a life evaluation.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Louisiana

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $95,235

While it takes nearly $96,000 to achieve happiness here, the cost of living in general is 9.3% lower than the national average. And the range for emotional well-being is a lot lower, from $54,420 to $68,025.

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Sean Pavone / iStock.com
Sean Pavone / iStock.com

Georgia

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $95,445

Georgians can claim to have one of the most attainable levels of income to be happy. It takes even less to reach emotional well-being, just $54,540 to $68,175.

Davel5957 / Getty Images
Davel5957 / Getty Images

Nebraska

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $95,550

Nebraska’s normally low cost of living is looking even better right now, as its unemployment rate continues to lag way behind the rest of the country. Sitting at just 2.1%, it’s among the lowest in the country.

Davel5957 / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Davel5957 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Michigan

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $95,550

The Great Lakes State has a lower cost of living than the rest of the United States by 9%. However, its unemployment rate is on the high side at 3.9% Still, emotional well-being can be had for as little as $54,600.

©Shutterstock.com
©Shutterstock.com

Indiana

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $95,655

Hoosiers boast a cost of living nearly 9% below the national average. To achieve a state of emotional well-being only requires $54,660 at a minimum.

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©Shutterstock.com

Illinois

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $96,390

Illinois’ unemployment rate hovers at 4.4%, suggesting that a lot of people there are currently focused on making ends meet for the present. However, people can still find emotional well-being at just $55,080.

ElsvanderGun / Getty Images
ElsvanderGun / Getty Images

South Dakota

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $96,390

South Dakotans can expect an easier time than the rest of the country when it comes to unemployment rates. It has an incredibly low unemployment rate of 1.9%, tied for second lowest on the list.

Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Ohio

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $96,810

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 13.7% of the Buckeye State was unemployed. However, that number has rebounded to 3.4%, hopefully improving the lives of many Ohioans.

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©Shutterstock.com

Texas

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $97,650

Residents of the Lone Star State are fond of saying “everything’s bigger in Texas,” but that definitely doesn’t include prices. The cost of living there is 7% below the national average. Residents can find a state of emotional well-being for $55,800.

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Davel5957 / iStock.com
Davel5957 / iStock.com

Wyoming

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $97,860

Wyoming has a median unemployment rate of 2.9%. While closing in on $100,000 seems a high bar to be happy, emotional well-being is equated with as low as $55,920.

©Shutterstock.com
©Shutterstock.com

Kentucky

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $97,860

Being able to stretch your paycheck farther than much of the rest of the country has got to make life easier for all Kentucky residents — even those making well under $97,000 a year. However, residents can also achieve emotional well-being at $55,920.

Davel5957 / iStock.com
Davel5957 / iStock.com

New Mexico

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $98,595

New Mexico’s cost of living of 6.1% below the national average makes it a decent place to live. However, while it takes close to $100,000 to be happy here, you can settle for emotional well-being at $56,340.

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

South Carolina

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $99,015

In the Carolinas, it is less expensive to live in South Carolina than in North Carolina. The state also has a lower unemployment rate than its northern neighbor — 2.9% compared to 3.4%.

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csfotoimages / Getty Images
csfotoimages / Getty Images

North Dakota

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $99,015

One of those lucky states where unemployment has remained low, North Dakota has a 1.9% jobless rate, just like South Dakota. Residents still are looking at a considerable sum to reach happiness, though. However, they can achieve emotional well-being at a minimum of $56,580.

Mark Herreid- / Shutterstock.com
Mark Herreid- / Shutterstock.com

Minnesota

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $99,120

In Minnesota, the cost to find happiness is nearly $100,000. If that is out of reach, emotional well-being can be had at $56,640.

Ultima_Gaina / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Ultima_Gaina / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Pennsylvania

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $99,540

Pennsylvania’s economy was hit harder than many others during the pandemic years — its unemployment rate, though lower than its peak of 13.1%, is still higher than many others at 3.4%.

FierceAbin / iStock.com
FierceAbin / iStock.com

Wisconsin

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $100,170

Plenty in the Badger State might view a salary of over $100,000 outside of what they can expect from their career, but that doesn’t mean they’re doomed to a life of being overworked. For a state of emotional well-being, anywhere from $57,240 to $71,550 will suffice.

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Davel5957 / iStock.com
Davel5957 / iStock.com

North Carolina

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $101,010

Making over $100,000 a year is often considered a long-term goal for many Americans, and North Carolina is among those states where you need to make at least $101,010 a year to be happy. But here, you can still achieve emotional well-being at $57,720.

vkbhat / Getty Images
vkbhat / Getty Images

Idaho

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $103,950

The people of Idaho certainly don’t think of $103,950 as small potatoes, but a salary ranging from $59,400 to $74,250 is enough to achieve emotional well-being status.

DenisTangneyJr / iStock.com
DenisTangneyJr / iStock.com

Delaware

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $105,840

Delaware is the first state on the list where the cost of living exceeds the national average. The amount needed to be happy is $840 above the national average. The cost of reaching emotional well-being is more than $60,000, making Delaware the first state over that benchmark, too.

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©Shutterstock.com

Florida

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $106,050

The Sunshine State is doing pretty well, despite previously high unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, unemployment is at 2.8%. While you do need to make a bit more than $106,000 to be happy here, well-being is possible at $60,600.

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artisteer / Getty Images/iStockphoto
artisteer / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Nevada

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $106,155

With its strong association with the hospitality industry, Nevada was among those hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has the nation’s highest unemployment rate at 5.4%. However, you can achieve emotional well-being for $60,660.

©Shutterstock.com
©Shutterstock.com

Virginia

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $106,470

Virginia has a cost-of-living index that is 1.4% above the national average. Here, even the salary to achieve life evaluation is high, at $96,330.

Daniel J. Rao / Shutterstock.com
Daniel J. Rao / Shutterstock.com

Montana

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $108,255

Montana residents need a salary approaching $110,000 to be happy, but jobs should be available. The unemployment rate is 2.7%.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Utah

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $109,725

While that six-figure income might leave some Utahans feeling a little intimidated, it should be noted that it only takes $62,700 to achieve emotional well-being.

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EdgeOfReason / Shutterstock.com
EdgeOfReason / Shutterstock.com

Colorado

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $112,245

Colorado is higher than the norm both in terms of cost of living and salary needed to be happy, but you can still expect to find emotional well-being in an income range starting at $64,140.

dszc / iStock.com
dszc / iStock.com

Arizona

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $115,500

Arizona is 10% higher than the national average for cost of living. The state’s 4% unemployment rate is not as low as other states, but Arizonans can get by on just $66,000 for “emotional well-being.”

DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images
DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

New Jersey

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $115,815

The Garden State has a high cost of living — 10.3% higher than the national average — as well as a relatively high unemployment rate of 4.4%. However, you can achieve emotional well-being at $66,180.

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Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Maine

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $116,235

New England remains one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S., and Maine’s cost of living is no exception, at more than 10% over the national average. You can still achieve emotional well-being at a more moderate $66,420.

SeanPavonePhoto / iStock.com
SeanPavonePhoto / iStock.com

Rhode Island

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $117,600

Tiny Rhode Island is one more New England state where it costs a lot to get by — and to be happy. The cost of living is $12,600 higher than the national average, but emotional well-being can be achieved at just $67,200.

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Connecticut

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $119,595

Connecticut also has a high cost of living that is nearly 14% over the national cost of living. Even though it takes nearly $120,000 to be happy, you can achieve emotional well-being at just $68,340.

zhudifeng / iStock.com
zhudifeng / iStock.com

Oregon

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $120,435

The cost of living is almost 15% higher than the national average, and the unemployment rate is not as low as some other parts of the country, at 3.5%. However, it’s possible to achieve emotional well-being for around $68,820.

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©Shutterstock.com

Maryland

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $120,540

Maryland’s unemployment rates register at 1.6%, the lowest in the GOBankingRates study. While residents need more than $120,000 to call themselves happy, people can still find emotional contentment here at $68,880 per year.

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Vermont

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $120,645

While it takes a lot of money to be happy in Vermont, unemployment is low, at just 1.9%, one of three states tied for second. And emotional well-being is possible at $68,940.

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

New Hampshire

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $121,380

New Hampshire is yet another New England state with a high cost of living, 15.6% higher than the national average. However, unemployment is low at 2.0%, and you can achieve emotional well-being at $69,360.

ferrantraite / iStock.com
ferrantraite / iStock.com

Washington

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $121,485

While more than $120,000 per year might seem like a lot to achieve, residents here can still find emotional well-being at less than $70,000, making it the final state on the list where you can say that.

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Rocky Grimes / Shutterstock.com
Rocky Grimes / Shutterstock.com

Alaska

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $132,720

It takes a pretty penny to achieve happiness in The Last Frontier, and unemployment is 4.1%. To achieve emotional well-being takes a lot less, though: $75,840.

Donald RSwartz / Shutterstock.com
Donald RSwartz / Shutterstock.com

New York

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $132,825

The Empire State comes with some empire-sized costs of living, with the average New York resident shelling out over $27,000 above the national average to be happy. And with an unemployment rate of 4%, times are tough for a lot of New Yorkers. However, one can still find happiness at $75,900.

Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto

California

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $143,220

California’s notoriously high cost of living is on display here, with just over $143,000 a year being needed to secure happiness. California’s unemployment rate of 4.7% trails only Nevada in the study.

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Massachusetts

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $155,400

As in the rest of New England, the cost of living is high here — over $50,000 higher than the national average. However, it’s possible to achieve emotional well-being at $88,800.

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SergiyN / iStock.com
SergiyN / iStock.com

Hawaii

  • Minimum salary needed to be happy: $188,160

The cost of living in Hawaii is a whopping 79.2% above the national average, making it especially costly to be happy there. You’ll need to plan on earning almost $190,000 a year to reach that state of bliss in the Aloha State, though you can settle for emotional well-being, which doesn’t seem as hard to achieve here, at $107,520.

Jami Farkas, Jordan Rosenfeld and Alexandria Bova contributed to the reporting for this article.

Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the cost-of-living-adjusted minimum salary needed to be “happy” based on income satiation levels identified by Purdue University researchers. Global income satiation levels are the following: $95,000 for “life evaluation” and $60,000 to $75,000 for “emotional well-being.” In North America, the income satiation level is $105,000 for finding happiness, according to Purdue. To get a state-by-state breakdown, we factored in each state’s cost-of-living index, sourced from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center: Composite Cost of Living for Q3 of 2023. For supplemental data, GOBankingRates found each state’s September 2023 unemployment rate as sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All data was collected on and is up to date as of June 6, 2024.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: The Minimum Salary You Need To Be Happy in Every State

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