Top 10 Best Cities For Financial Independence

Top 10 Best Cities For Financial Independence

Here at ChooseFI, we truly believe that Financial Independence (FI) is for everyone. But let's face facts, some places are just more “FI friendly” than others.  We reached out to our community and put together a list of the cities we like best for reaching FI.

While compiling this list we considered factors such as:

  • Cost of living
  • State and local taxes
  • Median household income
  • Access to free community events and amenities
  • Quality of public transportation
  • Ease of using travel rewards at nearby airports
  • Access to higher education
  • Availability of a Financial Independence community

So without further ado:

Table Of Contents

  1. Richmond, VA
  2. Gainesville, FL
  3. Rochester, MN
  4. Chattanooga, TN
  5. Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX
  6. Sioux Falls, SD
  7. Las Vegas, NV
  8. Charlotte, NC
  9. Boise, ID
  10. Vancouver, WA

1. Richmond, VA

Richmond

It's fitting that we start our list with Richmond, VA. After all, it's the hub of ChooseFI, the place where founders Jonathan and Brad live and where they started their podcast in January 2017. In addition to being the “capital” of ChooseFI, Richmond is also the capital city of Virginia.

Why We Love It

  • Low cost of living
  • Low sales tax and state income tax
  • Good public transportation
  • Good for travel rewards
  • Outdoor lifestyle and free activities
  • Access to higher education
  • Active Financial Independence community

If you're considering a move to Richmond, here's what you need to know about the River City and whether or not it's the right place for you as you journey towards Financial Independence.

Low Cost of Living

On the whole, the cost of living is six points lower than the national average. The median per capita income is similar. In 2017, it was $29,782 in Richmond and $31,786 nationally. So the cost of living is on par with the average income.

Low Taxes

The sales tax rate in Virginia is 5.65%, which is an excellent rate in comparison to other states. Only Wyoming, Wisconsin, Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine have a lower sales tax.

Virginia's income tax ranges from 2%-5.75%, which is lower than the national average.

Housing

In Richmond, the median is $233,200 (up impressively from $87,400 in 2000.) This is higher than the national average which is $217,600.

High demand and low inventory keep the market hot. While that's good if you've already purchased, it might mean that you have a more difficult time buying, and you'll potentially pay more than the asking price.

However, compared to the median home value in Washington, D.C. ($600,000) or Virginia Beach ($261,400), Richmond is significantly less expensive.

Options For Commuting

Reducing transportation costs is a pillar of FI. So any city that is FI friendly better have some good public transportation.

Richmond has an active bus system that will take you just about anywhere in city that you want to go. You can get a monthly pass for between $60-$80 (unlimited rides), depending on what routes you need to take.

The joke among Richmonders is that you can get anywhere in 20 minutes. What residents might be amused at is the average commute time is 19.8 minutes, which means that the joke definitely has a ring of truth to it!

In addition to using the bus system or your car for short local commutes, there are lots of trails and parks that help make it easier to walk or bike to work each day.

Richmond even hosted the 2015 UCI Road World Cycling Championship, so you know that the city is working hard to be a friendly environment for cyclists. Overall, the sense is that it's getting easier to commute to work on your bike, but there is still a way to go to giving cyclists the safest commute.

Good For Using Travel Rewards

Using travel rewards for almost free travel is another favorite past time of those on the path to FI. And again, Richmond doesn't disappoint.

Richmond boasts its own airport, albeit a small one–it only has three runways. However, locals love that they can get to a number of cities quickly by using RIC–time from curb to jetway is less than 45 mins, including getting through TSA security checks on most days.

If you need more options, Dulles Airport in D.C. is two hours and 15 minutes from Richmond, and Baltimore's BWI is two hours and 45 minutes away. Ther are also two Amtrak stations in town for easy access to trains that run up and down the east coast.

If you want to learn more about travel rewards check out our free course.

Outdoor Recreation

Richmond's nickname is the River City, named because of the James River that flows through it. Richmond prides itself on the swimming, kayaking, fishing, and canoeing that you can do on the water, not to mention the jogging, biking, and walking that you can do on the trails that run by the rivers.

Serious bikers and walkers should try out the Virginia Capital Trail. It's 52 miles of a dedicated pedestrian biker path that takes you through hundreds of years of history while you explore the Richmond countryside.

Other highlights for free outdoor recreation include the Canal Walk, Pony Pasture Park, Floodwall Park (with a gorgeous view of the Richmond skyline), Belle Isle, Tredegar Beach, the Wetlands, and Laurel Recreation and Skate Park.

Free Activities

In 2012, the Downtown Arts District was created. It's 80 city blocks of art galleries, performance spaces, and concert venues that give the vibrant Richmond arts scene a place to continue to thrive.

A highlight of the area is the First Fridays Art Walk, where galleries, shops, and restaurants open up their doors to allow people to leisurely walk through and see what they have to offer. While you'll have to pay to eat or buy something, you can explore the area for free with a group of people on the first Friday of every month.

If you like free walking tours, check out The Richmond Tour Guys. They have several options and it's a great way to get to know the city.

Richmond frequently hosts free or low-cost festivals such as the folk festival, Broad Appetit, and Friday Cheers. Check out this site for upcoming and past events.

There's also a number of local sites that you can visit for free.

  • For art lovers, there's the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
  • For architecture buffs, check out Maymont. Access to this historic mansion's exterior is free, as is the stunning gardens and grounds of the same name.
  • For history fanatics, visit the Hollywood Cemetary, the Virginia Holocaust Museum, the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, or St. John's Church, the site of Patrick Henry's famous “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech.
  • For nature lovers, there are the Rockwood Nature Center and the Three Lakes Nature Center to give you your nature fix for free.

Universities/Colleges Nearby

In addition to the variety of community colleges, technical schools, and a seminary located in and around the city, Richmond is also home to two larger universities.

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is located in the heart of the city and boasts a total enrollment of more than 31,000 students. The University of Richmond (UR), which is obviously named after the city but located about six miles outside of it, has an enrollment of just over 4,000 students.

There are advantages to living near a university, and access to the library is one of them. For instance, VCU offers limited access to non-VCU academic researchers. If you are affiliated with an academic institution, you can use the library's resources for free. If you are not, you can pay $100 to join the VCU Libraries' “Friends of the Library” program, which allows you borrowing privileges.

However, local high school students whose schools are partners with VCU Libraries have access to the materials for free. This connection is worth considering and asking about if you're moving to the area with school-age kids.

Local Financial Independence Community

The FI community is alive and well in Richmond. That's in large part due to being the birthplace of ChooseFI, but the members keep it alive and strong.

A quick check of the ChooseFI Richmond group will show you that they have more than 730 members, they host regular gatherings such as potlucks, social meetups, and panel discussions.

Local support is critical when pursuing FI as they can be a resource as well as support. Members are quick to support one another in quests to find good areas to live, reliable local services for less money, and solving general financial inquiries.

Check out the local Richmond group here.

Final Thoughts

Frommer's named Richmond as one of its top destinations of 2014. It was one of only three U.S. cities to make the cut and joined the incredible company of other locales such as India, Bali, Hawaii's Big Island, Taiwan, and Scotland.

A quick poll of the larger ChooseFI community about why they love Richmond brought answers as diverse as the city itself.

They mentioned things like the low taxes and cost of living, the great restaurants and bars, a fiscally conservative local government, eclectic local art, and entertainment scene, and how it's small enough to feel like a real community but large enough that there is always something unique to do.

A move to Richmond makes solid financial sense as you work to save more towards Financial Independence. It's a city that can easily be lived in and enjoyed for less, and one worth serious consideration before even more people find this hidden gem!

To see all information sources click here.
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2. Gainesville, FL

gainsville

This college town of 128,394 people located just 60 miles south of the Florida/Georgia state line is primed for its time in the financial spotlight.

Why We Love It

  • Colleges/universities nearby
  • Low cost of living
  • Affordable housing
  • Low taxes
  • Year-round outdoor lifestyle

Gainesville is a town that is passionate about the Univesity of Florida, which is located in Gainesville. While that college presence is actually a huge factor that makes Gainesville financially attractive, there are other reasons we love it too.

Colleges/Universities Nearby

There are actually three colleges in Gainesville. UF is the most well known with over 52,000 students and an annual in-state tuition of almost $6,400, but the other two have good reputations and are worth noting as well. They are Santa Fe College, a four-year public school with over 14,000 students that costs about $2,600 in tuition each year, and City College Gainesville, a much smaller (190 students) private school that costs more than $14,500 in tuition per year.

We love the access to in-state tuition that you get to a highly competitive school like UF. By comparison, you would pay an additional $22,278 to attend as a non-resident of Florida. Members of the public do have access to the UF library and computer system for free, but if you want to check out books, you'll need to pay $100 a year for a special library card. However, you can enjoy the fun atmosphere of college football game day for free!

Since figuring out how to spend less on a college education is a fundamental principle of FI, you're on your way to successfully checking that off of your list in this town. And if none of these three schools work for you, there are 38 other colleges to consider within a 100-mile radius of the city. One of them will surely work for you!

Low Cost Of Living

The cost of living in Gainesville is 89.9/100, making it the second cheapest place to live on this list.

The main thing that keeps the cost of living low in Gainesville is the affordable housing. The national median price of a home is $231,200, but it's only $183,00o in Gainesville. So keeping your housing costs low, a key focus of becoming FI, will be easier to accomplish in this Florida town.

Notable other low costs in Gainesville include transportation and groceries. Health care and utilities tend to skew higher than the national average, but the cost of housing is so low that it still gives Gainesville a great COL rating.

Great Place For House Hacking

One of the top pillars of FI is putting your house to work for you. If the house costs less, as it does in Gainesville, that's a bonus. But being situated in a college town gives you two other important opportunities to let the affordable housing market work for you.

  • Consider purchasing a rental property. 51.6% of the Gainesville population rents instead of buying their home. Combine that statistic with the low cost of houses, and you have a prime opportunity to make money. See if you can purchase a small house that you can rent out to cover the mortgage and bring in a little extra cash.
  • List your home on Airbnb. UF fans flock to the town on game day. Consider posting your home on Airbnb for rent on weekends with a game day or around the time of graduation.

Related: How To Get Started With House Hacking

Low Taxes

Florida is one of the seven states we've talked about that don't collect state income tax, so you'll save money there. The sales tax is also remarkably lost for a state that doesn't collect income tax. The current rate is 7%, which includes both state and county sales taxes.

Additionally, Florida also doesn't collect an estate or inheritance tax. The same is true for investments.

However, before you think you've totally hit the tax jackpot, let's talk property taxes. Florida definitely has those, although they're in line with national averages so you shouldn't expect to pay too much more.

Overall, you're going to spend less in taxes than in Gainesville, Florida, then you will with a lot of other cities and states.

Outdoor Lifestyle That Includes Biking

Still another pillar of FI is cutting down your transportation costs. In other cities we've profiled, it can be very hard to commute to work on your bike. Gainesville is not one of those cities.

Thanks to consistently nice weather that allows for an outdoor lifestyle all year round, riding a bike to work is fairly easy to do. Because, as we've noted, Gainesville is a college town, you'll see a lot of college students biking all around town. The city is very bike-friendly and even adopted updated building codes several years ago to include mandatory bike parking for every new construction project.

In addition to biking to work, there are also 18 trails in and around Gainesville that cover more than 241 miles. You can walk, bike, jog, rollerblade – however you want to travel – on all of them all year round.

Access To Air Travel

At first, this may seem like an odd thing to include in our Gainesville Report because the city only has one small regional airport. It's used mostly for connecting people to larger airports from which to fly.

The reason we put this on the list was the proximity to other larger airports. Jacksonville is 80 miles away and Orlando is 120 miles away. So you're between an hour and a half to two hours away from a huge number of flights. You'll be able to pick airlines much easier and amass those reward points before you know it.

Free Activities

Florida is full of fun things to do. With great weather most of the year, it's definitely true that most Floridians love living in the state for the outdoor lifestyle and the access to local lakes and beaches. Gainesville isn't any different. Here are a few of the free things you can do.

  • Florida Museum of Natural History: The Department of Natual History at UF oversees this museum, so students and professors have access to the collections and species.
  • 352walls: A major art project that's taken over the walls of buildings all over Gainesville.  You can walk through the city and see more than 30 different murals promoting the vibrant culture of the Gainesville community.
  • City of Alachua SplashPad Park: Give your kids a chance to cool off in this free splash pad. It's open every day for the spring/summer months.
  • Gainesville Solar Walk: Take your time and stroll through a four-billion-to-one scale model of the solar system to give you an upfront view of what it's like to live in space.

Local Financial Independence Community

There is a local ChooseFI-Gainesville chapter on FB. There are less than 100 members, but lower numbers don't mean they aren't passionate about the pursuit of FI in their chosen city! As with other ChooseFI subgroups, we recommend joining this one and asking any questions you have about the city from the members' perspective before you move.

Check out the local ChooseFI Gainesville group here.

Final Thoughts

On the whole, Gainesville has a lot to offer. While it's obvious we'd rank the access to higher education at the top of the list, it's easy to see that Gainesville has other positive factors that make it a wise choice for people chasing FI. If you like the warmer weather of Florida, it's tough to find a better city in which to live than Gainesville.

To see all information sources click here.
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3. Rochester, MN

Rochester MN

Rochester is a city that doesn't have the popularity or population of some of the others on our list, but we were very impressed by what it had to offer people striving for FI.

Why We Love It

  • Low cost of living
  • Higher median household income
  • Affordable real estate
  • Home value appreciation
  • Low average commute time

Rochester is a city with its eye on the future, which isn't something that we can say about every city on our list. They've been recognized for greatness and have plans to continue that reputation in the years ahead.

Low Cost Of Living

Their score is 94.1, which is six points under the national average. Just about every stat is on par or slightly below the national average, which means you'll pay less in Rochester for your groceries, utilities, transportation, and health care.

High Median Household Income

This might be what Rochester has going for it most. The national median household income is $57,652. Rochester's median household income is $69,003, which is more than $11,000 higher than the national figure.

That number's great all on its own, but when you reconsider the low cost of living in Rochester, it's even more impressive. It means extra money in your pocket to invest and save at the end of each month.

Home Value Appreciation

The Rochester median home price ($229,800) is just about the same as the national median ($231,200). But what sets Rochester apart is the home appreciation. In the last decade, the homes in this city have appreciated by 31.2%. That's a big rate. Signs point to this continuing, at least into the near future, as the current appreciation rate is 6.8%.

Short Commutes And Affordable Car Insurance

The path to FI often means committing to public transportation as a cheaper alternative to owning a car. Rochester does have that. They offer the Rochester Transit Service, their public bus line that will cost you $42 for a monthly pass to take it everywhere around town. We also love that they have ZIPS Paratransit service which gives riders who are physically unable to board the RTS busses an option for door-to-destination outings.

There is also a substantial amount of bike trails that may allow you to bike to work, weather permitting!

However, if you want to keep your car, Rochester is also a good place to do that. The average commute time is just over 18 minutes, a fraction of larger cities like Dallas/Fort Worth. And even with the harsher winters, buying car insurance in Rochester is less expensive than many other cities and states. The national average is $1,311/year for car insurance, but in Rochester, the average is $787.

Related: How To Shop For Car Insurance

Outdoor Lifestyle

There's no disguising the distinct four seasons that Rochester gets, so if a mild year-round climate is important to you, Rochester is not your town. In January the average high is 22 degrees and in July it's 81. But that temperature swing does give you the opportunity to experience all different outdoor activities.

For your free or cheap summer entertainment, Rochester offers more than 100 parks and over 85 miles of trails for your hiking, biking, or even horse-riding enjoyment. They also have a large number of public pools and even a lakeside beach at Foster Arend.

For your free or cheap winter entertainment, Rochester has public ice skating rinks and sledding hills. The city also maintains miles of cross-country ski trails.

Proximity To The Mayo Clinic

While you would still need to secure your own health insurance, we would be remiss if we didn't mention that the Mayo Clinic is located right in Rochester, MN. It's recognized as worldwide as an example of exceptional health care with a huge network of specialists and branch offices in the area. If you live with a health condition, you might add the proximity to this clinic as a reason to consider Rochester.

Free Activities

All cities have free activities that allow you to explore the town and learn their history, but we challenge you to find free activities more unique than Rochester.

  • SPAM Museum: That's right. A whole museum dedicated to the wonder that is SPAM. And it's totally free. You're welcome.
  • Hok-Si-La State Park: Tent camping, a lakeside beach, a dining hall, and bird-watching in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. You'll have to pay to stay in a cabin overnight, but it's free to roam about and use the rest of the park.
  • Whitewater State Park is a common destination with its spring wildflowers, hiking trails, and beautiful bluffs.
  • Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial Park: A beautiful tribute to local servicemembers who died in the line of duty. Nine thousand veterans are honored as part of the display.
  • Quarry Hill Nature Center: The nature center offers an opportunity to learn about animals all year round, and the 320 acres that surround the center give you a chance to see many species in their natural habitat.

Other cool Rochester events include live music and street food from lunch until evening every Thursday in the summer. There is also a free concert series “Down by the Riverside” which features local bands every Sunday night.

For one weekend in February enjoy SocialICE. This event turns the area into a winter wonderland with ice bars–yes, bars made out of ice each serving their own signature drink–ice sculptures, and DJs.

Colleges/Universities Nearby

There are seven colleges in the Rochester area. Five are private, one is public/state, and one is a community college.

The public school is the University of Minnesota: Rochester, which is a branch campus of the University of Minnesota. It has a small enrollment (459 students), giving students a very personal experience. Rochester Community and Technical College is much larger with 4,204 students pursuing a two-year degree.

Local Financial Independence Community

The Rochester local group has just been established. Get in on the ground floor of what is sure to be a great group. Check it out here.

Final Thoughts

Rochester may not seem like such an obvious choice when compared to some others on our list, but we really encourage you to give it a try. Members of the ChooseFI FB group who live there routinely recommend their town as a great place to live in pursuit of FI and after researching it, we think they're on to something.

To see all information sources click here.
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4. Chattanooga, TN

Chattanooga TN

Set in at the base of the Appalachian Mountains along the banks of the Tennessee River, Chattanooga is a city primed for FIers to come in and start saving.

Why We Love It

  • Really low cost of living
  • Low median home prices
  • No income tax
  • Access to airports
  • Outdoor lifestyle

Chattanooga often plays second fiddle to other Tennessee cities like Nashville and Memphis, but after reading about this affordable city and all it has to offer, we're betting it moves to the top of your Tennessee list.

Low Cost Of Living

Chattanooga has the lowest cost of living of all of the cities on our list by a full six points. What's cheaper in Chattanooga? Just about everything, from housing to groceries to utilities to transportation. It just plain costs you a lot less overall to live there.

Unfortunately, the median household income is less than the national average too. In Chattanooga, it's $41,911, and it's $53,482. However, if you end up with a lower-paying job, you might consider a side hustle to put some of that money back in your pocket.

Housing Market Primed For Hacking

The median home price in this Tennessee city is $150,100. That is $80,000 below the national median price.

One other figure that needs to be mentioned alongside housing prices is the high percentage of renters in the city. 40.5% of the Chattanooga population rent their homes or apartments. That's 4% higher than the national average.

Since your dollars obviously go a lot further on homes in Chattanooga than they do in other places and the rental market is ripe, you can capitalize on one pillar of FI: low-cost housing. Stretch your money and pick up a few rental properties to bring in extra cash. Alternatively, you could also purchase a larger home and rent out space in it.

Just like every other city, you'll need to make sure that you buy in the right neighborhood to rent. Certain parts of the city have higher crime rates than others, so research where those are and purchase in different areas to protect your investment and give yourself the best chance of finding renters.

Low Taxes–With One Small Temporary Catch

Tennessee technically has no income tax. Eagle-eyed FIers will immediately gravitate towards the word “technically.” What does that mean?

To start, the state has no income tax. However, they do have something else unique called a “Hall tax.”And you say again, what does that mean?

A Hall tax (named for the Senator who introduced it in legislation) is a 6% tax on all interest and dividends. So if you're someone who lives off of the interest and dividends of your investments, this can be a big negative, especially as you look to retire.

There is good news, however. In 2016, the state legislature voted to roll back the Hall tax until it went away completely on January 1, 2021. So if the Hall tax turns you off of Tennessee, remember that you only need to wait one more year before Tennessee is truly a state free of income tax.

Access To Airports

Most of the cities on this list made the cut because they have one of the ten pillars of FI. Chattanooga has a second because not only does it have a small airport of its own, it has three major airports within approximately two hours of the city.

With two runways and five gates, Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport obviously isn't a large airport. But if you can't get a good connecting flight out of Chattanooga, you can rest easy knowing you're a short drive away from three major airports: Nashville, Atlanta, and Birmingham.

That's good news if you travel for business. It's also good news if you're up on how to earn and leverage your travel rewards so you can roam the world for a whole lot less money. After all, using travel rewares is another great way to stay on the path to FI.

Outdoor Lifestyle

The year-round temps in Chattanooga are envious. It's hot and humid in the summers, but the fall and spring average temps in the 70s. Winters are mellow with average temps during those months between 50-55 degrees.

What does that mean? It means for the majority of the year, you can enjoy the great outdoors in Chattanooga. The city features 56 miles of trails in and around the city. Because it's located in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, you won't be surprised to learn that there are more than 50 trailheads within a 30-minute drive of the city. Hiking and biking are no doubt favorite activities of many city residents.

Chattanooga has a strong bike-to-work culture. Since 2014, the city has implemented new bike routes and road markings to make it safer and easier for bikers to take leisurely rides on trails or utilize roadways to get to work. Chattanooga supports its bikers and even offers a free class on how to stay safe on the roads. If you don't own a bike, you can use one through the city's bike-share program.

Also, about an hour from downtown Chattanooga is one of the premier whitewater kayak courses in the US. The Ocoee River was site of the 1996 Whitewater Olympics and that same course is still available to be run today.

Chattanooga also has some great steep creek boating in North Chickamauga Creek and Suck Creek. What's steep creek boating? It's kayaking or canoeing that goes down steep whitewater.

Free Activities

Chattanooga has a good number of free and fun things to do for entertainment in the city.

  • Chattanooga Riverwalk: A scenic trail down the Tennessee River that allows you to see different parts of the city.
  • Bluff View Art District: Overlooking the Tennessee River, this area lets you view fantastic art, architecture, and gardens.
  • Coolidge Park: A great place to take the kids, Coolidge Park features seven acres of fun, including a restored carousel ($1/ride) and an interactive splash fountain.
  • The Passage: Pedestrian walkway between the Tennessee River and downtown Chattanooga. This historical path also marks the beginning of the Trail of Tears.

Colleges/Universities Nearby

There are 64 colleges or universities within 100 miles of Chattanooga. The Chattanooga State Community College offers two-year degrees and is home to more than 8,000 students. The University of Tennessee – Chattanooga is also right in town. Given that it costs twice as much per year as the community college, this would be a good city to implement a third FI pillar: college hacking.

As we've mentioned, there are tons of financial benefits to starting at a two-year school and then transferring to a four-year school to finish your degree. That should be pretty easy to accomplish in Chattanooga.

Local Financial Independence Community

There is a local Chattanooga FI chapter on FB. They aren't extremely active, but they are passionate about Chattanooga and how to save and invest while living there. There aren't any meetups scheduled just yet, but the potential is there for future gatherings.

Check out the local ChooseFI Chattanooga group here.

Final Thoughts

Chattanooga has a lot to offer. It has its issues, sure, but so does every city. Walter Cronkite once called it “the dirtiest city in America,” but Chattanooga has come a long way since then, and we think the drawbacks to the city are far outweighed by the great things it has going for it. It's definitely worth your consideration if you're looking for a new city that can help you meet your FI goals.

To see all information sources click here.
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5. Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX

Dallas TX

the Dallas/Ft. Worth area has a population of 7.4 million and is growing steadily. Technically the DFW area also includes Arlington. The question is, is it a good place to be if you're working towards Financial Independence? Read on to find out!

Why We Love It

  • Lower cost of living
  • Great tax rates
  • Great for travel rewards
  • Access to public transportation
  • Access to higher education
  • Active Financial Independence community

Texans love to say that everything's bigger in their state. They're definitely right when it comes to the number of ways you can make strides towards FI in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.

Lower Cost Of Living

On the surface, the cost of living in Dallas/Fort Worth is higher than the national average by a little more than three points. However, if you dig a little deeper into that statistic, you'll see that the DFW area is generally affordable.

The biggest thing that drives up the cost of living in the area is housing. The national median house price is $231,200, and in Dallas/Fort Worth, it's $236,615. So it's not too much higher.

Compared to the national average, health care and groceries are slightly lower in the city, but utilities and transportation costs are slightly higher. So when you factor all of this together, you'll see that the area is more affordable than you might first think.

Taxes In Texas

Texas is a great place for low taxes.

Texas is one of only seven states without income tax. You're not required to file a state income tax return in Texas.

Instead, the state makes most of its money through the sales tax. However, considering that, the sales tax rate isn't all that high. The state sales tax rate is 6.25%. Local sales tax rates can add up to another 2%, making the largest sales tax you'll pay in Texas 8.25%, which is what it is in Dallas/Fort Worth.

Property taxes will run you between 2 and 3%, which is higher than the national mean of 1.13%.

Great City To Earn Travel Rewards

FIers love to amass travel rewards to indulge in free or reduced-cost travel that lets them see the world. Dallas/Fort Worth can help you get quite the collection of rewards and points.

The area is home to DFW International Airport, which serves as a hub for American Airlines. That hub is the second-largest in the world, smaller only than Delta's hub in Atlanta. DFW is the fourth busiest in the world for operations and the 15th busiest in terms of passengers, so you know you're dealing with an active place.

Lovefield, Dallas' smaller airport, is home to Southwest–another favorite for those earning travel rewards.

Within the Dallas ChooseFI FB group, there are lots of conversations about the best ways to get travel rewards in Dallas. You can read one of the posts, and see for yourself how American and Southwest emerge as the best airlines to fly (and the best credit cards to have) in order to get the most rewards.

Options For Commuting

Dallas is actually the second-worst city for commuting in America, second only to Atlanta. Dallas commuters average 55.8 minutes one-way to get to and from their jobs each day, traveling an average of 24 miles. If you want to save money on commuting, consider the following few options instead of driving.

One public transit option is the Dallas Area Rapid Transit System. DART can take you around Dallas and 12 surrounding communities. Passes will cost you anywhere from $48/month – $192/month depending on where you need to travel with the DART network.

If you're outside of the area that DART serves but don't mind joining other people in your area on their commute, you can come together in a DART van pool. You have to have a minimum of ten people and a maximum of 15, and DART will help recruit other riders and find a driver. The cost is anywhere from $35-$50/month, depending on how many people are in the van. The driver rides for free. The DART Vanpool's tagline is “Commute for a month on less than a tank of gas.” They're right, and that savings is hard to beat.

If neither of those options works for you and you can't end the love affair with your car, consider making some money off of it. Ask friends or co-workers who live near you to ride with you, and ask for a small fee to contribute towards gas. If you get a few people to do this with you, this hacking of your car might help you break even on the cost of commuting or even make a few dollars.

Huge Number of Colleges/Universities

There are an astounding 105 colleges or universities within a 25-mile radius of Dallas/Fort Worth. It goes without saying that this is a huge number to choose from when you or your child are beginning the college application process.

Nine of those 105 are community colleges that are located within 12 miles of the city area. If you're new to the world of chasing FI, one of the pillars of the movement is college hacking. That can mean take many different forms, and one of those is to spend your first two years of higher education at a community college before transferring to a college or university to get your degree from that school.

Getting your education this way has several benefits: You can save a lot of money, you still have a degree from a bigger-name school, and you're still getting a great education as the quality of a community college education has increased considerably over the years.

Free Activities

It's always important to have access to free activities to keep your spending down, but when the COL in a town skews on the higher side, it's even more important. Check out these eclectic free activities in Dallas/Fort Worth.

  • Guacamologist Experience at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel: If you didn't know that there were professional guacamole makers called “guacamologists,” don't worry–we didn't either. This experience is free to anyone who is in the hotel lobby at 6 p.m. whether you're a guest or not. You'll get to sample chips and guac made by a professional guacamologist.
  • The Fort Worth Trinity Trails are over 40 miles of hiking/cycling trails along the Trinity river, connecting over 20 of Ft. Worth's parks, along with the Ft Worth Zoo, botanic gardens and more.
  • Bureau of Engraving and Printing: Washington, D.C., and Fort Worth, TX, are the only two places in the world where American currency is printed. You can take a 45-minute free tour of the facility, catch a glimpse of millions of dollars, and see just for yourself how the money you're working so hard to save is made. This is a perfect tour for someone caught up in the FI movement!
  • The Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum–The Samurai Collection: This is the only museum in the world dedicated to samurai art, and you can see several hundred pieces of it as well as helmets and armor.
  • Klyde Warren Park–It's a five-acre park located on top of a sunken freeway in Dallas. It has designated areas for kids, dogs, and other activities. And if the park play areas weren't enough, Klyde Warren also hosts events like musical entertainment, film screenings, and fitness gatherings.

Local Financial Independence Community

The Dallas chapter of the ChooseFI movement is a strong one. Membership in the Facebook group is over 1,100 people. They have two meet-ups scheduled for January alone in the DFW area. They've had other meet-ups in the past, including going to happy hour together, and they'll likely have more in the future.

As we mentioned with Richmond, local support can be a crucial piece of achieving FI. There are general tips that are great for everyone, but it's important to be able to touch base with people who live in the same geographic area so you share tips and hacks that are local to where you live. If all other factors align for you and come together to make Dallas/Fort Worth a great place for you to live, the active FB group will be icing on the financial cake.

Check out the local ChooseFI Dallas group here.

Final Thoughts

Dallas/Fort Worth has a lot going for it. If the numbers that we already gave you weren't enough, consider these that might help tip the scale in Dallas/Fort Worth's favor:

  • 48.9 million people visit the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area every year. Could you hack your house and earn some extra money?
  • It's home to 21 Fortune 500 companies, including big names like Exxon Mobil and AT&T. Might you find a high-paying career at one of these 21 companies, with benefits to help you reach FI faster?
  • Dallas/Fort Worth has five professional sports teams and more than 200 golf courses. Would you consider driving for Uber or Lyft as a side hustle to take all of these sports fans to the different venues around town to see their teams play?

The area is only going to continue to grow. The question is, are you going to take advantage of the city on your way to FI?

To see all information sources click here.
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6. Sioux Falls, SD

Sioux Falls, SD

At first glance you might wonder why a medium-sized city in South Dakota is a good fit for our list. If you're asking yourself that question, you don't know Sioux Falls.

Why We Love It

  • Low unemployment rate
  • Low cost of living
  • Affordable transportation
  • Low taxes
  • Affordable housing

If you paid attention to that list, you'll notice that the two adjectives we used multiple times were “low” and “affordable,” two words every person striving for FI has learned to love. Read on for more information on just how low-cost and affordable Sioux Falls is in a lot of areas.

Low Unemployment Rate

The national unemployment rate is 3.6%. In Sioux Falls, it's a low 2.1%. So simply put, there are more jobs for fewer job-hunters in the Sioux Falls area.

For all the positives of a lower unemployment rate, it can sometimes also translate into lower wages or a slower future growth in the job market. However, what makes Sioux Falls unique is that neither of those is a consequence to the lower unemployment rate in this city.

Other Employment-Related Wins

You'll likely find that you are paid a decent salary in Sioux Falls. The median household income in the area is $62,047, which is about $4,600 higher than the national median household income of $57,652. That higher salary gives you a little extra breathing room with your expenses, which are also generally lower in Sioux Falls.

Finally, the job growth in Sioux Falls is on the upswing as well. The national average for recent job growth is 1.59%, and in Sioux Falls it's 1.69%. The future job growth is even more promising, with Sioux Falls coming in 3% higher than the national average (36.57% in SF and 33.51% nationwide).

Low Cost Of Living

We alluded to it as part of employment-related wins, but now we want to say it outright: the cost of living in Sioux Falls is much lower the national average, standing at 88.6, 13.4 points lower than the national average. Just about everything is cheaper in Sioux Falls, including transportation, utilities, health care, and housing. In fact, the main thing that costs more than the national average in Sioux Falls is groceries–and even that comes in at a score 100.1 when the national average is 100. So even that is a pretty good deal in this town.

Affordable Transportation

We mention the pillars of FI a lot, but one we don't get to mention in most cities is transportation. In Sioux Falls, we can single transportation out for all the right financial reasons.

Let's look at the two main ways you likely get to work.

  • Car: In SF, the cost of car insurance is lower than the national average ($1,180 in Sioux Falls vs. $1,311 nationwide). The average commute time is also less, coming in at 16.9 minutes compared to a national average of 26.4, potentially saving you ten minutes one-way or 20 minutes each day.
  • Bus: The cost of public transportation is also lower in SF than we've seen in most other cities. The cost of a monthly bus pass is just $30. In other states on our list, it might cost you triple that to ride public transportation.
  • Biking: Sioux Falls has ten trails in and around the city covering more than 79 miles, so there are definitely opportunities to bike in the area. And the city is making a concerted effort to be more bike-commuter friendly. They established the Greenway Trail Corridor, which circles the city, and their goal in the next several years is to expand bicycle trails so that no matter where you are in the city, you're no more than a mile from the closest bike trail.

Low Taxes

South Dakota is another one of the seven states in America that don't collect a state income tax. Sioux Falls also offers a relatively low sales tax as a nice complement to the lack of income tax. Because the sales tax can vary from county to county and city to city, the average sales tax in South Dakota is 6.4%, ranking it #31 in the nation for highest taxes.

Sioux Falls is slightly higher than the state average, coming in at 6.5% when you combine state, county, and city sales taxes.

Affordable Housing

The second pillar of Financial Independence is low-cost housing. Sioux Falls for the win! The median home price in SF is $188,000, a full $43,200 less than the national average. Your housing dollar will go farther in this city, so you can capitalize on more space for less money (if you need it), or more space for even less money. Either way, you should end up with a little extra money in your pocket each month.

Colleges/Universities Nearby

There are six colleges or universities located in Sioux Falls. Only one is a community college, so that's the best scenario if you're considering getting a college degree using one of the FI-recommended college hacks: spending your first two years at a community college to save money and then transferring to a larger school to graduate with a four-year degree.

Of the other five schools on the list, four are private four-year colleges/universities and one is a two-year technical school. If you're looking for a larger public university, there are three located within an hour of SF.

Outdoor Lifestyle

There is no doubt that some people move to Sioux Falls for the incredible nature experience that South Dakota and living in the western part of the U.S. can offer. Sioux Falls doesn't disappoint if you're a nature lover. There are more than 80 public parks in and around the city that vary in size and amenities. We've already mentioned the 79 trails, and in our list of free activities to do in SF (see below), you'll note that several center around experiencing nature.

We just want to make sure to point out that Sioux Falls is definitely a four seasons place. If you don't like winter, you may not love it here. The average temperature in January is a chilly 26 degrees. But if you heat-lovers can make it through that, you'll love July when the average temps climb to 84. Be prepared to spend free quality time indoors and outdoors.

Free Activities

As with the other states on our list, Sioux Falls has plenty of things to do for free so you can cut way back on your entertainment budget. Here are several of our favorites.

  • Falls Park: A beautiful 123-acre park where 7,400 gallons of water drop 100 feet over the waterfall every second. The water flows over Sioux quartzite, creating a beautiful sight to see.
  • SculptureWalk's Arc of Dreams: A stainless steel sculpture that spans the width of the Big Sioux River, it's meant to be a tribute to dreamers past and present.
  • Mary Jo Wegner Arboretum: A natural haven for wildlife, this arboretum was designed to foster a connection between plants, animals, and people, and teach respect for the land.
  • Pettigrew Home & Museum: A mansion once owned by a former South Dakota state senator who was dedicated to preserving the history and culture of Sioux Falls, as well as displaying his collections from his world travels.
  • Old Courthouse Museum: If architecture is your thing, this museum is a must-see. It stopped functioning as a courthouse in the 1960s and was declared a landmark in the 1970s. Now it's a museum of murals and architecture.

Local Financial Independence Community

Interestingly, the local ChooseFI FB group is a joint one, shared with Sioux City, Iowa. So the group is called “Choose FI – Sioux City, IA/Sioux Falls, SD.” Although the towns are 87 miles apart, they still share similar goals and advice. This is a small group of 60 members who love to talk about ways they can save in Siouxland, as they call it.

Check out the local ChooseFI Siouxland group here.

Final Thoughts

It's easy to see all of the things that Sioux Falls as going for it. However, we would be remiss if we didn't point out one significant issue: access to air travel.

It's true that Sioux Falls does have a small regional airport, but the closest major airport is 80 miles away in Sioux City, IA. Sioux Gateway Airport (also known as Colonel Bod Day Field Airport) is definitely larger than Sioux Falls, but doesn't have a great reputation for offering direct flights to many other airports, meaning it might take you a couple of extra legs of travel to get where you are going.

This may not be a big concern if you're an occasional traveler, but if you fly often (or want to fly often,) this is something to consider. Taking more flights also means your travel rewards may not go as far as you would like.

However, don't let this be a deterrent to exploring all of the great things that Sioux Falls has to offer!

To see all information sources click here.
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7. Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas, NV

What happens in Vegas, stay in Vegas, right? Maybe for some things, but when it comes to finding the right place to live to achieve FI, it's hard to keep this place a secret. As long as you can keep your vices under control, Sin City just might be the right city for you.

Why We Love It

  • No income tax
  • Access to an international airport
  • Higher median salary
  • Outdoor lifestyle almost year-round
  • Access to lots of parks and trails

Las Vegas has long been a draw for tourists and conventions, but it can be hard to find some solid information about what it's like to live there. Here's the information you need to know to help you decide if a move there is right for you.

No Income Tax And Decent Sales Tax Rate

Nevada joins Texas (Dallas is profiled above) as one of seven states in the U.S. with no income tax. Some of those states might compromise by making sales tax a lot higher, but not Nevada. The state sales tax is 4.6% and the Clark County sales tax (where Las Vegas is located) is 3.78%. There is no additional city sales tax in Las Vegas, so the total sales tax you pay is 8.38%. That's comparable with other states.

Options For Commuting

The good news about commuting Vegas is that there are lots of viable public transportation options for navigating the Strip. You can use the monorail, the Deuce (a double-decker bus) or the RTC (Regional Transit Commission of Southern Nevada) to get anywhere you need to on the Strip. The monorail and Deuce are mostly for tourists but great for locals wanting to get from one place to another too.

The bad news is that you have to get to the Strip to take advantage of those options. The RTC provides service to many outlying communities and has monthly bus passes for $65. They offer a lot of different routes, but you'll want to make sure the service runs near any potential home you might want to buy.

If you're interested in biking to work, read on for information about trails in the Vegas area.

Great Place For A Side Hustle

Having a side hustle is a huge piece of FI. Because of its huge tourist industry, you might not find another city on our list better suited for an easy side hustle than Vegas.

It's a natural location for an Airbnb rental, especially if you live on the Strip or have a home nestled in the nearby mountains. Tourists flock to the city and not all of them want to deal with the famous hotels. Your home might be just the vacation spot they're looking for–and for which they're willing to pay.

It does cost a little more to own a car in Las Vegas, but you can make that money back by putting your car to work for you. Pick up a side hustle driving for a service like Lyft or Uber. Tourists need rides up and down the Strip at all hours of the day and night, making it easy to fit this moneymaker into your schedule. If you don't want to deal with people but still want to put your car to work, consider renting it out using sites like Turo and Getaround.

Good Job Growth

The numbers don't lie in Vegas. The national average job growth rate is 1.6%, but the growth rate in Las Vegas is a much-larger 4%. From May 2018 – May 2019, Las Vegas added more than 55,000 jobs. Most of those jobs were in construction and manufacturing.

The unemployment rate in Las Vegas is 3.7% which is very close to the national average of 3.6%.

Outdoor Lifestyle

We could give you a bunch of stats on the phenomenal weather in Vegas. We could tell you how it has 294 days of sun on average per year and only five inches of rain, or that apart from the 90-plus degree summer months, the rest of the year is generally mild. But we're focusing on FI, so we'll tell you instead why the fantastic weather is so important.

Las Vegas is surrounded by 28 walking/biking trails that cover 176 miles in Las Vegas and the surrounding area. Some of the trails wind through the nearby mountains and others wind through communities close to the city.

What do the weather and the trails and outdoor lifestyle mean for FIers? You have the potential to walk or bike to work if you want to save on the cost of a car, and there are plenty of free outdoor spaces to enjoy during your downtime.

Higher Median Salaries And Home Prices

The median salary in the US as of the first quarter of 2019 was $47,060. By contrast, the median salary in Las Vegas at the end of 2018 was $54,694.

However, savvy FIers will know that a higher salary means a higher cost of living, and that's also true in Vegas. The cost of living is rated at 111.6, while the national average is 100. Don't be so quick to write Vegas off because of that though. There's a strong argument for living in higher cost of living areas while working towards FI.

Housing is the biggest factor for the higher COL in Las Vegas. The median home price is $273,200, while the national average is $231,200. If you live on the Strip, it will cost you a lot more for a lot less space, just like it does in most cities. However, if you live in a community that's on the outskirts of the city, you'll pay less for your home.

Free Activities

Las Vegas (and the Strip in particular) might be the unofficial capital for people-watching given its diverse community and casinos. You could spend hours and hours just doing that. Once you're done, here are other highlights of free activities:

  • Walking through the casinos: They all have incredible decor to go with the theme of the building.
  • Fremont Street: It's known for its overhead light display and the variety of artists that have taken up residence there.
  • Displays outside of the casinos: The MGM volcano display and the Bellagio fountains are particularly famous and fun to watch.
  • Ethel M Chocolate Factory: Free self-guided tours to see amazing treats get made.

UNLV Is Right There

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas is a thriving school of 30,000 students located right in Las Vegas. Because it's a state school, the cost of an education for Nevada residents at UNLV is also quite low. Annual in-state tuition is currently just under $8,300.

Locals have the opportunity to check out books for free from the University system, which is a huge bonus if you have high school-aged students.

Local Financial Independence Community

There is a local Las Vegas FI chapter on FB. They have over 200 members and have already had a few gatherings. If you're seriously considering a move, join the group and get answers to your pressing financial questions about Vegas!

Check out the local ChooseFI Las Vegas group here.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot to love about Las Vegas. The city that's the brightest one to see from space is a bright spot to those who love the outdoors lifestyle and the draw of a diverse community. It may cost you a little bit more to live in Las Vegas than other cities on our list, but the strong potential for side hustles means Vegas is a viable option.

To see all information sources click here.
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8. Charlotte, NC

Charlotte, NC

Just ten years ago, people trying for FI wouldn't ever have considered moving to Charlotte. The recession had hit the city particularly hard. Unemployment was a whopping 13%. The construction industry, which had been so promising just a short time before, was practically nonexistent (as it was in a lot of places around the country.) Companies that had been headquartered in Charlotte were pulling up roots and getting out of town.

What a difference a decade makes.

Why We Love It

  • Job growth
  • Home value appreciation
  • Colleges/Universities nearby
  • Affordable public transportation
  • House hacking opportunities

Today, Charlotte is a totally revitalized city. It has experienced tremendous population growth (it's now the 16th largest city in the country), booming development, and a resurgence of construction, spurred in part by the completion of a light rail service. Read on to see why the Charlotte, NC, of today might be right for you as you work towards FI.

Job Growth

The number of jobs in Charlotte is steadily increasing. Recent growth in the city has been at 2.7%, which is higher than the 1.59% happening at the national level. If you look further down the road at future job growth, that's where Charlotte really shines. The city's future job growth is 45.19%, almost 12% higher than the rate for the rest of the country. Charlotte has a great outlook on the job market in the coming years for sure.

The elephant in this job growth room is unemployment. At 4.2%, Charlotte's unemployment rate is still 0.5% higher than the national average. However, a little perspective goes along with this statistic. We previously noted that the unemployment rate was 13% a decade ago, so in ten years the unemployment has gone down almost 9%. That's huge progress and given the future growth we mentioned, we see no reason why that number shouldn't continue to go down.

Home Value Appreciation

The median home price in Charlotte is $228,800, which is on par with the national median price of $231,200. So while the home prices aren't remarkable, the appreciation value is.

Over the last decade, home values in Charlotte have appreciated 34.9%, earning the city one of the top spots on our list for that category. There's no reason to think that homes values won't continue to rise into the near future as more and more people move to Charlotte to fill the jobs that are soon to be available.

Colleges/Universities Nearby

There are 98 colleges within 100 miles of Charlotte. That high number means you shouldn't have a problem finding a school to meet your educational needs and your financial needs! Central Piedmont Community College is right in downtown Charlotte. It's a two year school costing just about $2,800/year.

Going to Central Piedmont will help you with the FI college hack of going to a community college for the first two years of your education, and then transferring to a larger, more expensive, bigger name school to get your degree. And with 97 other schools in and near Charlotte, you'll find a great one to get your diploma from!

Affordable Public Transportation

One impressive thing about Charlotte is how forward-thinking they were in building their light rail system. The first part was completed in 2007 and another extension opened in spring 2018. The system carries more than 23,000 passengers a day.

What makes it even greater is the relatively low cost to ride the light rail. You can get a pass for $88/month that gives you unlimited rides on either the CATS (Charlotte Area Transit System) buses or the light rail. That's really affordable compared to other major cities.

House Hacking Potential

We've already covered the great appreciation in home values that Charlotte has experienced. But let's take it a step further and consider how you can hack your valuable house. The rise in values means that there are people who are living in or moving to Charlotte who can't always afford to buy a home. Additionally, 40.6% of the Charlotte population are renters.

So how can you use this information to your advantage so that you can make some extra money? The answer is hacking your home. Consider renting a room in your house to someone looking for living space. You could also rent space in your home that someone else could use for storage if they end up settling for a smaller space because they can't afford a larger one.

Access to Air Travel

Charlotte-Douglas International Airport is, obviously, in Charlotte. It's a major airport that gives you access to all different airlines, allowing you to collect different travel rewards and points. There are people in the ChooseFI FB group who are practically experts at working the travel system and know how to leverage any and all travel so that they get rewards. If you learn how to work the system too, living this close to a big international airport can help you reap the benefits too.

Outdoor Lifestyle

Charlotte is another four-season city, although it trends a little warmer than places like Boise or Sioux Falls. The average winter temp in January is 51 degrees and the average temp in July is 89. That means that residents of Charlotte can experience just about a year-round outdoor lifestyle. Charlotte has been working hard on improving its parks after being voted 97 out of 100 cities in the nation in a survey of the top places with parks. The city does offer 27 trails, encompassing more than 63 miles for you to walk or bike.

Fewer than 1% of people bike to work in Charlotte right now, and the city hasn't invested much into creating a bike culture. They're working on improving that, but it takes time. They seem to have put more energy and resources into public transportation than bike trails.

Free Activities

Charlotte is an active area that has a lot going on, including more than its fair share of free things to do. Here are a few.

  • Wells Fargo Museum: If there is a free activity that is more suited to people who love to know their money is piling up, we're not sure what is. You'll want to check out this museum that houses an impressive collection of coins and gives you a history of the banking industry. Oh, and you'll be able to see millions of dollars all in one place.
  • Latta Nature Center and Preserve: Once you've checked out the greenbacks in the Wells Fargo Museum, head on out to check out the 1,460 acres of green landscape at this preserve. The nature center offers programs, a chance to see animals, bird feedings, and butterfly gardens.
  • Billy Graham Library: The library dedicated to the world-famous theologian sits on 20 acres and includes memorabilia from his life, interactive kiosks, and exhibits showcasing events from his life.
  • Polk Historic Site: Birthplace of James Polk, America's 11th President. You can tour grounds that feature a log cabin, living history interpreters, a small film about his life, and a museum dedicated to family artifacts.

Local Financial Independence Community

Charlotte's ChooseFI local group has over 600 members and is quite active. Check out the Facebook here for meetups, FI tips, local recommendations, and support.

Final Thoughts

Charlotte is a beautiful city that is experiencing remarkable growth. If you're considering a move, you might want to make the transition quickly. There are a lot of people jumping on this North Carolina city's bandwagon, and you will want to make your move before home prices go up even more.

To see all information sources click here.
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9. Boise, ID

Boise, ID

Boise is not just the capital city of Idaho, but it's also the largest city – not to mention a great city one those chasing FI.

Why We Love It

  • Low unemployment rate
  • Great biking culture
  • Lots of free activities
  • Overall lower cost of living
  • Access to public university

It might be tempting for people who have never lived in the west to overlook Boise as a possible place to live, but don't be one of those people. Boise has a lot to offer and its overall affordability may make it right for you.

Low Cost Of Living Despite High Cost Of Housing

The cost of living in Boise is slightly higher than the U.S. The main thing driving up the cost of living in the city is the cost of housing. It's gone up remarkably in the last few years and if you believe members of the Choose FI Facebook group, it's largely due to Californians relocating to Idaho for a slower pace and a lower cost of living.

Whatever the cause, it's high. The median home price is $303,100 vs. the national median home price of $231,200. That's significant, and all signs point to it continuing to increase in the near future. One FI member remarked that her house had increased in value by $60,000 from 2017-2018. It's great if you're already in a home, but it can create real challenges for people trying to buy now.

However, the good news is that many other expenses that factor into the cost of living are actually lower than the national average. This includes things like groceries, health care, transportation, and utilities. Taking those lower figures into consideration, the cost of living is actually brought down to closer to the national average.

The moral? Just like anywhere else, before you move to Boise, take a good luck at your budget and your housing needs. Talk to a realtor to get a realistic sense of your potential monthly housing costs based on your housing needs. Then see if you can make that work when you consider that your other expenses will be lower.

Great City To Hack Your House

Hacking your property and making money from it is a side hustle FI strongly recommends. Given the high cost of housing, make the most of what you have. Rent out an extra room for someone to live in or just store stuff in so that you can make extra cash.

Additionally, Boise is praised as a great city to visit, especially if you love nature, so you might also consider listing your home on Airbnb as another side hustle alternative.

Low Unemployment Rate And Sales Tax

The unemployment rate in Boise is currently 2.3%, which is 1.2% lower than the 3.5% national average. The highest rate of job growth came in the professional and business sectors, and the job market grew a remarkable 19.9% in the last five years, equaling more than 60,000 new jobs.

The sales tax in Boise stands at 6% while the national average is 7.4%, so it's a win for Boise in this column too.

Getting Around The City

Any FI-friendly city should have access to public transportation. Boise can also check that box. The Valley Regional Transit is the local bus service, and while it doesn't go tons of places right now, give it time. There are big plans to expand the service in the next few years. It's pretty affordable too, especially if you pay for a year pass at a time. You'll only pay $542 for a yearly pass vs. a total of $90/month or $1,080 for the year if you buy the monthly passes one at a time.

But the thing locals dearly love about Boise is the outdoor culture, and many choose to embrace it even more by biking to work. The city was ranked #21 of the top 50 bikeable cities in America in 2018. The highlights for Boise include 100 new bike projects that are in the works, ways that the city is embracing the shift from recreational to transportation riders. The roads are owned by the county, which is making strides in keeping the bike lanes safe.

If you don't have a bike, don't worry. Boise has you covered with a company called BoiseGreenBike, which rents bikes out. These bike-share services are popping up in cities all over the U.S. and Boise is now one of them.

The biggest drawback to biking is the distinct four seasons that Boise experiences. It can be challenging to bike anywhere in the winter, so locals recommend cross-country skiing on the bike trails to get around when it snows.

Cheaper To Own A Car

If you're not a biker and can't ever see yourself giving up your car, Boise might still be the place for you. The upfront cost of car-buying in Boise is a little higher than average because you have to pay a 6% sales tax on your car. However, as any passionate FIer knows, one of the pillars of becoming FI is buying a used car. So you'll obviously be paying less in sales tax when your car costs less.

But the best news for car lovers is the cost of insurance in Boise. Idaho is one of only eight states in the U.S. whose residents average less than $1,000/year on their car insurance. You'll want to check with a local agent for rates, but it's a promising statistic.

Outdoor Recreation

According to the ChooseFI FB group, the thing that drew the most people to Boise–and what keeps them there–is the incredible outdoor recreation opportunities. Boise has more than 100 parks in which to play and exercise. There are also nature walks to go on and two different botanical gardens to visit. Additionally, the Boise River Greenbelt has 25 miles of trails run all through the city, giving you an easy path to follow as you explore the town.

There are mountain ranges a short drive away that offer a ton of different hiking trails and more than 12,000 miles of mountain biking trails to explore. In this case, unlike with commuting, the four distinct seasons that Boise experiences make it a fun place to be with different activities all year round.

What might be most important for people pursuing FI to know is that all of these trails and parks are free to the public. You could spend years exploring at no cost and still not get to all of them!

Universities/Colleges Nearby

Boise State University is located in right in Boise. It's got 22,000 students that bring a great vibe to the city. Fans of the university's Broncos football team are so passionate about going to see the games that a shuttle is set up to pick people up around town on game day.

The university library allows Idahoans to access and check out its books free of charge. In addition, the university works with local students to allow them special access to its resources so that they can also benefit from what the library has to offer.

Local Financial Independence Community

There isn't a dedicate local-to-Boise ChooseFI Facebook group. However, there are lots of tips about Boise in the general ChooseFI group. We would encourage you to search “Boise” in that larger group for answers to questions about the city, discussions about how fast it's growing, and recommendations about touristy things to do when you visit.

Check out the general ChooseFI group here.

Final Thoughts

One concern we wanted to highlight other than housing is being able to travel affordably when Boise is your home base. Boise Airport is not international, so if you have to leave the country often, you'll pay a lot more and spend a lot more time en route to your destination. You also often have to utilize connections to fly within the continental United States. All in all, the cost of flying out of Boise is more than other cities we examined for this list.

As one more point in its favor though, Boise was rated as the #8 safest place in the world in a 2017 study. That's a significant honor and when you put it together with the other things Boise has going for it, it makes this city a strong contender for people on the road to FI. Boise has a couple of stumbling blocks on that road, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages and make this western city a great place to grow your savings and erase your debt.

To see all information sources click here.
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10. Vancouver, WA

Vancouver WA

When you say “Vancouver,” you need to be careful and remember to add “Washington” after it so people don't think you're talking about the Canadian city of the same name. Vancouver, Washington, is a town of 171,393 people on the southern border of Washington state, just north of Portland, Oregon.

Why We Love It

  • Low taxes
  • Job growth
  • Home value appreciation
  • House hacking potential
  • Bicycle friendly

With a high cost of living at 114.3 compared to the national average of 100, Vancouver isn't an obvious first choice for FIers. But we encourage you to read on to see why it just might make sense for you.

Low Taxes

Washington is one of the seven states that doesn't have state income tax, which makes Vancouver an attractive place to be financially.  Other no-income-tax states have considerably higher rate for sales tax, but Vancouver's is relatively average when compared to the rest of the country. The sales tax in the city is 8.4%.

Job Growth

Job growth in Vancouver is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you have some great statistics about the city's potential: 38.77% future job growth for Vancouver vs. the national average of 33.51%. Good things are poised to happen.

On the other hand, however, the current job market isn't great. The unemployment rate is 5.6%, almost 2% higher than the 3.7% national average, and the recent job growth is low at 0.9% compared to a national average of 1.59%. So if you move to Vancouver now, be prepared to search a little longer for your job. But know that down the road, the future job growth will make find jobs (and getting paid more to do them!) much more likely.

Home Value Appreciation

In the last decade, home values in Vancouver have appreciated 47.5%. That's a huge number, and all signs point to it continuing to increase.

While it might make finding a house on a smaller budget a more challenging task than other cities on our list, it is nice to know that your home value will likely increase at high levels for the foreseeable future.

House Hacking Potential

We've already explained the importance of house-hacking to people working towards HI so we won't explain it again here. But what is important to stress is that house hacking is how you can make a place like Vancouver more affordable despite its higher cost of living.

Once you get your space, put it to work for you. Have an extra room? Rent it. Extra storage space in your home, basement, or even a storage shed on your lawn? Rent it. Almost 47% of the people in Vancouver rent their living space. There's no reason why you can't take advantage of that high number and make some money off of the renters in the area.

Great Biking Culture

Washington is the number one bike-friendly state in America. That's fitting because Vancouver is the bike-friendliest place on our list for people who commute to work on a bike.

They have designated bike lanes all throughout the city and the surrounding area. Back in 2004, Vancouver implemented a 20-year bike plan, one where they would invest in roadway solutions for bikers, improve bike facilities, and upgrade the signal system. All of this was designed to meet the current need at the time and the anticipated future need for the city to support bikers. They are 16 years into that plan and are making great strides towards meeting the set goals.

What does this mean for you? It means you should buy a bike and not a car if you choose to live in Vancouver. Low-cost transportation is a pillar of the FI movement, and commuting to work on your bike instead of your car obviously costs much less money. When a city supports it, that just makes jumping on the bike bandwagon that much easier to do.

Related: How To Start Biking To Work

Outdoor Lifestyle–Mostly

Vancouver has a fantastic outdoor lifestyle ready for you to experience–mostly. We qualify it because although the temps are moderate year-round with winter temps averaging in the mid-40s and summer temps in the mid-70s, Vancouver does get a lot of rain. You can expect over 200 days of a rain a year, which can put a damper on some of your outdoor plans.

But if you weather-watch accordingly, you'll find that you can still do a lot outside in the city. There are 90 parks and 20 miles of trails in and around Vancouver for you to explore for free, with or without an umbrella.

Colleges/Universities Nearby

There are 35 colleges within 100 miles of Vancouver. Clark College is a two-year school that is actually in the city. Annual tuition is just under $4,300, making it a very affordable place to start your college career.

From there you can choose from the other 34 schools to finish your degree. Washington State University's Vancouver campus is obviously in Vancouver. Tuition at that public four-year school is currently at just over $10,500.

Free Activities

Vancouver has lots of free things to do. We've found four that we thought were great places to spend your time without spending your money.

  • Ft. Vancouver:  This was a 19th-century fur trading post. It served as headquarters for Hudson's Bay Company's Columbia Department. Now you can tour the grounds and learn about the history of this area of the country.
  • Pendleton Woolen Mill: During a tour of the mill, you can experience the making of a blanket from start to finish, from dyeing the wool to putting it together to the final stitches.
  • Columbia River Gorge: The gorge is 80 miles of beautiful views, waterfalls, and established forests. There may not be a better place to commune with nature and see unique views of the Pacific Northwest.
  • Gifford Pinchot National Forest: Featuring 1.3 million acres, there's a lot of nature to see, including views of Mt. St. Helen's.

Local Financial Independence Community

Vancouver has a small but active of local FIers on FB. It just started at the end of October 2019, so it is still getting up and running. Members have shared tips on everything from where they are on the journey to FI to local deals on produce and plants. It's a very encouraging group of people working hard to achieve FI!

Check out the ChooseFI Vancouver group here.

Final Thoughts

As we stated before, Vancouver isn't the most obvious choice of FI-friendly cities on our list. But upon closer examination, there are a lot of things about Vancouver that make it primed for those striving for FI. If you come already having a job and can get in the housing market soon before it grows beyond what you're comfortable paying, this city might be right for you.

To see all information sources click here.
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Summary

So, if you don't live in one of these cities are you doomed to work for money til you're 80? Not at all!

Every city has positives and negatives when it comes to pursuing FI and it can be a difficult thing to judge. Also, personal circumstances have a huge effect on the “FI friendliness” of your situation. Having family close by who can pitch in for childcare, living within walking distance of work, or just having a close group of friends to support you in your FI journey will all make a bigger impact on your journey than any city will.

Do you agree with our findings? If you live in one of these cities, leave a comment if you agree it's a great city for reaching Financial Independence. Or if you disagree, tell us why!

If your city didn't make the cut but you think it's great for FI, leave a comment and tell us why you love it.

Related Articles

Top 10 Best Cities For Financial Independence

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15 thoughts on “Top 10 Best Cities For Financial Independence”

  1. Fun list, and it’s great (and surprising) to see southern MN crack the top 3. I grew up in southern Minnesota, and it is a great place to earn good money with low cost of living (other than the state income tax — which is also top 3). I also spent a few years in Gainvesville, FL. It’s like I was born to FI.

    One correction — the SPAM museum is not in Rochester, but in Austin. If you don’t believe me, ask Jeremy of Go Curry Cracker. He grew up there in the home of Hormel, as did a number of my friends.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    • I’m surprised they didn’t play this up. Access to Portland 10 miles away is a big deal since it is a city with great culture, music scene, foodie culture, etc (that also bleeds over to Vancouver). Plus one can go shop in Oregon with a 0% sales tax which is a huge FI win.

    • Agreed. Also, the fact that most groceries are exempt from sales tax makes it even better for frugal people who really don’t spend all that much on (taxable) stuff.

    • The big caveat to Vancouver being “affordable” is not working in Oregon itself. Even if you’re domiciled in Washington, income earned in Oregon (like in Portland) is subject to pretty significant income taxes!

  2. Great list!
    It almost feels like there should be a different list for every stage of life as educational costs may not be as much of the equation for empty nesters as those with a full brood.

  3. Some more for consideration
    Taipei, TW
    Florianopolis, BR
    Buenos Aires, AR
    Atlanta,GA
    Lisbon, PT
    Chiang Mai, TW
    Canggu, Bali
    Budapest, HU
    Montevideo, UY

  4. Vancouver, WA was THE obvious choice for our FIRE retirement location: https://earlyretirementnow.com/2018/12/03/we-just-bought-a-house/
    We now live in neighboring Camas, WA and enjoy everything you listed plus:
    Very good public schools
    Portland, OR is just across the river
    Manageable home prices in absolute terms. Relative to other cities comparable in size to the Portland metro area size, I’d consider our area very, very affordable!
    PDX airport is just across the river. It’s one of the highest-rated mid-sized airports (WSJ ratings)
    High-tech, high-paying employers nearby (not just on the OR side, but also here in WA State), which is useful if you’re still pre-FIRE.
    Not one but two ChooseFI groups: Portland and Vancouver

    So, I’m surprised Vancouver is “only” tenth on that list! 🙂

  5. I grew up in Rochester, MN and still go there frequently. I’m quite surprised it made your list.

    It’s in Minnesota so state taxes are high.
    It’s not a metropolitan area so there are limited things to do.
    Public transportation? Yeah, there’s is the city bus I guess.
    Ease of using travel rewards at nearby airports? The Rochester airport is expensive to fly in and out of and it’s 90 minutes to get to the Minneapolis airport.
    It has low average commute time because it’s very small.
    I’m not sure Rochester has much to brag about with it’s “outdoor lifestyle”
    Free activities????
    Spam museum – 0k, there’s 2 hours of your life accounted for. Actually that’s 4 hours, because the Spam museum is not in Rochester! It’s in Austin, MN.
    Hok-si-la is not a state park, it’s a city park, and it’s not in Rochester. It’s in Lake City, MN, about 50 minutes away.
    Whitewater state park is a BEAUTIFUL state park! It’s about 40 minutes away.

    If you want a mundane, quite retirement, with easy access to world class medical facilities, Rochester certainly fits the bill!

  6. As someone who used to live in Vegas, you really can’t say that it’s friendly for outdoor activities year round. In the summer, you’ll get weeks where the high temp is 117 degrees F during the day. And since many of the jobs are service-industry oriented, you may be “biking” to work in the middle of the afternoon.

    Also, what about the safety for biking? Vegas was one of the most dangerous cities for pedestrians a few years ago and there are few bike lanes to speak of.

    Tl;dr There are lots of factors to consider about any of the places on this list but here are my extra thoughts about Vegas.

  7. Regarding sales tax information in your Richmond summary: NH has NO sales tax and is not listed. I live across the river in Vermont, which has a 6% sales tax, so this is a pretty big deal.

  8. You missed one of the best things Charlotte, NC has to offer! The US National Whitewater center is less than 20 min outside of town. It isn’t free – but $6 parking gets you in to walk/bike the trails, watch races (trail running, rafting), weekly concerts and festivals. They also have whitewater rafting, kayaking, multiple ropes courses and zip lines, mountain biking trails, rock climbing, SUP, yoga, and more! $220 for an annual pass and you can do all of these activities (includes gear) as much as you want, which if you go weekly makes it easily worth it in my mind. It would also make a great seasonal job for high school/college kids or anyone doing barista FIRE that loves the outdoors.

    https://usnwc.org/

  9. Thank you for the list. Very helpful as we consider geographic arbitrage. We live in the Bay Area, the highest cost location in this country (or it feels like it is anyway:)). But we love it here and 3 things that are definitely important to us that haven’t been addressed on this list are:

    1. Quality of education
    2. Weather
    3. Diversity

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