Best Cities for a Career in Finance

Best Cities for a Career in Finance

Currently, I am a finance student finishing up my second year at Georgia State University here in Atlanta, Georgia. Knowing that I’m graduating in a couple of years I realized it was time to put in a little bit of research on where I could possibly move after graduation, if I move at all (I really like living here in Atlanta). Now, this decision would have been incredibly easy just 20 years ago when the only real cities on the list would have been Chicago and New York, but times have changed. As the internet grew and the world became more globalized the financial services industry began to grow outside of those two cities – offering up real opportunities for students like myself after graduation. It’s time to find the best cities for a career in finance.

10) Houston, TX

For a long time Texas has been building its reputation as a business friendly state. The result of this reputation is a number of fortune 500 companies having headquarters within the city. There are some specialty finance firms, but many of the companies are in energy and real estate.

Having one of the fairest costs of living in the country, it makes it easy to live on pretty much any income you will receive as finance professional. Personally, though it may be a dry heat, it’s still too hot for me. Here is a full breakdown of living expenses – Living in Houston

9) San Francisco, CA

We all know about Silicon Valley and just the sheer amount of opportunity that can be found in the area. However, it ranks as the number 2 most expensive city to live in in the United States. Living in California is already an expensive and difficult feat – having over 100,000 homeless people statewide. Some of whom are actually programmers in Silicon Valley who can’t afford to live in the area on generous pay. That said, there are plenty of jobs within the financial sector – whether it is for huge companies like Google or Facebook, or small start-ups. There are always companies looking for experienced and dedicated financial professionals.

As someone who loves tech, Silicon Valley will always have a special place in my heart, but the cost of living is just outrageous. – High prices in San Francisco

8) Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix shares a lot in common with Houston. It is a rapidly growing city with a reasonable cost of living where the residents will tell you how nice the “dry heat” is. With a large labor pool depth and low cost of doing business, companies are looking for young professionals – typically fed out of the two large Universities located within the city – to work in a number of financial roles from banking to simple services.

With all of the opportunity and growth, Phoenix has stayed relatively inexpensive – ranking 41st in the United States. How expensive is Phoenix?

7) Seattle, WA

Washington has grown significantly over the past few years – so much so that they are actually facing a housing shortage. The only experience I personally have with Seattle is flying into their airport on my way to go Sturgeon fishing on the Columbia River. Within Seattle there are a number of Aerospace and Technology firms that are always looking for finance professionals with a history of corporate finance and accounting.

Thanks to the massive growth and housing shortages – the cost of living in Seattle is a little higher than one would think, being the 9th most expensive city to live in here in the United States. You can see the full cost details here – Living in Seattle

6) Stamford, CT

Many funds and financial companies are moving out of the stereotypical shell of New York City to areas such as Stamford. These areas have a lower cost of living, and significantly lower state taxes for both individuals and companies.

The cost of living in Stamford is more expensive than the rest of Connecticut, but not by an insane amount – sitting at a Cost of living index score of 162, compared to the 128 of the state. Stamford Cost of Living

5) Atlanta, GA

Being slightly biased towards my own city, you can find a budding FinTech industry all around Atlanta. Here we have businesses experimenting with new payment processing methods and cryptocurrency machines are being placed in stores all across the city. Though it’s a step away from the stereotypical hedge fund analyst job, the work done by Atlanta companies to improve the way financial transactions work and the way people approach their finances will make a real difference on the lives of people around the world.

The cost of living in and around Atlanta is extremely reasonable depending entirely on where you live. However, even when living in the more expensive Buckhead area you can find a beautiful three bedroom condo for the same price or less than the cost of a one bedroom in New York City. A full breakdown of Atlanta’s living expenses can be found here – Living expenses in Atlanta

4) Boston, MA

Boston, like much of the North East is full of opportunity… at a cost. Being a good city for bankers, there are multiple funds located here such as Bain Capital and Fidelity Investments. The city is in fairly close proximity to New York – allowing one to travel if need be to meetings or even a job.

Though it is not the most expensive city on the list, living in Boston is pretty expensive. Ranking 6th most expensive in the United States you’ll be stuck paying $8 for a medium Big Mac meal at McDonalds as well as higher rent than most anywhere else. Cost of Living in Boston

3) Greenwich, CT

The second city from Connecticut on this list, you will be able to secure that traditional analyst position without having to deal with all of the hustle and bustle of New York City. Being close to the traditional financial center you will still have access to the funds and people there without having to live it every day.

With that said, you should be prepared to pay for this type of quiet suburban life. Greenwich has a cost of living of 2x the national average at 215. Here’s a breakdown of each of the indexes – Living in Greenwich, CT

2) Chicago, IL

Even though the Chicago Mercantile Exchange floor isn’t what it used to be, there is still tremendous opportunity waiting around every corner in Chicago. If your passions fall into the futures and derivatives box rather than into equities, Chicago may very well be the best choice for you.

The windy city can get pretty expensive if you want to live in the nicer areas. Though the cost of living isn’t outrageous, you’ll want to make sure you have a secure, well-paying job in order to live comfortably. Living in Chicago

1) New York, NY

Still pretty much the top place to live if you want to work in finance, you will have access to the top firms in the industry on a daily basis whether you’re working for them or not. While participating in Panthers on Wall Street last year, friends of mine were told that just by being on Wall Street and networking with the employees roaming around that you have a higher chance of being hired. It’s simply a case of right place right time.

There are of course some downfalls about living in New York city, most of which come in the form of living expenses – whether that be in the form of higher income taxes or the general price of goods and services being higher, if you want to make it while living in Manhattan, than you need to get a job that is able to pay accordingly. Here’s a full breakdown of the cost of living – Living in New York, New York.

Honestly, there will always be high paying jobs in finance regardless of where you go; so don’t go out and move somewhere for the job. Find a place that makes you truly happy and figure things out from there. You’ll likely be living there for a while.

About Tyler McCain

A student of finance at Georgia State University, Tyler has had a passion for the world of finance for as long as he can remember. Joining the Equities Lab team in 2015 he attempts to juggle the perfect mix of school, work, and giving back to the community. When he isn't working at Equities Lab he can often be found helping teach programs at the Rosen Family Foundation - a non-profit that teaches financial literacy to middle and high school students.

1 Comment

  1. Tyler McCain E. Darnel says:


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