NEW YORK (MainStreet) Lucky you: you have bona fide job offers from a company in New York City and also one in Texas. Which should you take?
You are luckier still because you also got a job offer in Mississippi.
How to decide?
Also See: 5 Great Places to Live...IF you Earn at Least $150,000 a Year
A new calculus has been offered by personal finance website MoneyRates.com, which recently unveiled its ranking of the ten best and ten worst states in which to make a living.
Know this: two of the three states in which you have offers rank very high among the worst. The third scores high among the best.
Also know this: the absolute worst state to make a living is one that habitually refers to itself as "paradise" - that's right, Hawaii. It may have the 1966 Elvis film "Paradise, Hawaiian Style."
What it also has is hideously expensive real estate and a cost of living some 50% above the national norm, per MoneyRates. Employment prospects also are meager, pay packets are thin, and, worse, research suggests employees there just don't like their working conditions.
Add it up and, said MoneyRates senior financial analyst Richard Barrington in a MainStreet interview, "Hawaii is a nice place to visit but it's a difficult place to work."
Barrington insisted MoneyRates did not make its best/worst decisions arbitrarily. Barrington said he sorted four metrics: average salary (per U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers); cost of living; employment/unemployment rates; and one intangiblem "Workplace Conditions," which, said Barrington, is a judgment based on data drawn from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
Bottom-line: the measure is a fairly comprehensive sifting of how much dough a person makes, how much it costs to live in the location, how likely they are to be working (or unemployed), and how happy they are in their job.
Barrington added that the point of the research is to make one conclusion plain: things are not the same all over. "If you are not getting ahead, you can recalculate," he said. "But don't do it blindly."
Know where the opportunity is - and also know there is little shifting among the winners and losers in the MoneyRates charts from year to year. Said Barrington: "Eight of this year's top ten were in last year's top ten. Seven of this year's bottom ten were in the bottom ten last year."
What's down stays down; what's up stays up.
Which state should top your wish list?
The big MoneyRates winner: First place went to the state of Washington where, per MoneyRates, paychecks are among the highest in the nation, there's no state income tax and employees express great happiness with their jobs. And who wouldn't want to work at Microsoft or Starbucks corporate or Amazon or Boeing and the many hundreds of satellite companies that have sprouted to serve them?
Other big winners are Minnesota, #3 (very low unemployment and excellent workplace conditions, per MoneyRates); Colorado, #4 (high incomes go far in a state with an average cost of living); Utah, #5 because, said Money Rates, "Cost of living and unemployment in the state are very low, and workplace conditions are above average."
Rounding out the top ten are North Dakota (#6); Virginia (#7); Nevada (#8); Oklahoma (#9) and Nebraska (#10).
As for the top ten worst, the losers include Rhode Island (#4 due to a high cost of living and the highest unemployment rate among the 50 states); Connecticut (#5 - high cost of living, high unemployment, and an unhappy workforce); Alaska (#6 - high unemployment and unhappy workers); Alabama (#7 - low wages, high unemployment); Arkansas (#8, also low wages and high unemployment); New Jersey (#9 - high wages are undermined by a very high cost of living); and South Carolina (#10 - "Wages are too low to be justified by the low cost of living").
So, about your job decision: immediately cross off Mississippi and that is because the wages are very low, despite the low cost of living. Added MoneyRates: "On top of that, unemployment is high, and workplace conditions here got the lowest rating of any state."
Mississippi ranked as the third worst place to work.
Texas vs. New York - it's no coin flip.
There's a clear winner.
It's not New York which ranked as second worst place to work, according to MoneyRates. Yes, paychecks are big, but huge rents and equally big expenses down the line eat up the perceived New York pay advantage.
As for Texas, it placed as second best, after only Washington. The Texas advantages: no state income tax, a cost of living and an unemployment rate below the national average and good workplace conditions that win the Lone Star state a top ten ranking in that category.
Add it up and. said Barrington, when it comes to where to work and live: "You have choice."
Use it to get ahead.
--Written by Robert McGarvey for MainStreet