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The Top Ten Cities for Young Professionals

Last updated by on January 10, 2016

Kiplinger recently rated its picks for the top 10 Best Cities for Young Adults. The factors that they took into consideration when compiling this ‘best’ list were:

1. healthy economies fueling new job growth
2. large percentages of people under 35
3. cost of living and rental costs
4. culture
5. nightlife
6. time you’re likely to spend in traffic

That’s not a bad list of selection criteria. However, two of the bigger factors that young professionals probably over-weigh in their selection criteria of where to move are the ‘culture’ and ‘nightlife’. And, for the most part, those are two completely subjective variables. The other four factors have a more objective number you can put on them. But who cares, it’s all about the fun factor, right?


A scene from one of the top 10 – my hometown.

What cities did they pick? Here’s a review and my take on each:

  • Austin, TX: Austin is seemingly popping up on everyone’s top 10 lists these days – top 10 most livable cities, top 10 college towns, top 10 live music venue cities, top 10 places to bake a pizza. With an unemployment rate of under 7% (4th lowest of cities with populations exceeding 1 million), how can you keep them off the list?
  • Charlotte, NC: Charlotte has the second largest banking center in the country behind New York. That was the surprising fun fact of the day for me. It’s one of the few on this list that probably wouldn’t have made my own list. But then again, I’ve only driven through.
  • Chicago, IL: No big surprise here. Chicago ranks high for nightlife and culture, yet provides a much lower cost of living than other major metro cities in the country. I have seen countless young professional friends and co-workers leave Michigan behind for Chicago.
  • Houston, TX: Heavy pollution and crime rates, but a median rent cost of $775 in America’s 4th largest city make it a great value, with a strong economy to boot.
  • Kansas City, MO: Kansas City is in the midst of a $9 billion downtown development project to revitalize the nightlife in the town. Would have expected St. Louis before Kansas City though.
  • Lansing, MI: My home town! I was a bit surprised to see Lansing make this list, honestly. I can see why it did – it’s the capital of Michigan (gov. jobs), has one of the largest (and best, might I add) universities in the country in Michigan State University, and the cost of living is low. But unless you like the college night life or Michigan State athletics (go green!), the nightlife in the town is lacking a bit. Awesome to see my hometown make this list, but I think that another city in Michigan I have lived in – Grand Rapids, probably deserves it more. It has a more vibrant nightlife, better entertainment, a more diverse economy, the downtown area is 100% revitalized, and the cost of living is lower (I paid $430/mo. for a nice loft apartment). Grand Valley State University is too far outside of town though, to be a huge contributor to the culture and nightlife. If you could transplant Michigan State University in Grand Rapids, it would be mentioned in the same breath as Austin.
  • New York, NY: No surprise here. The nightlife and job prospects are limitless. But I could never get over the commuting challenges and cost of living being so ridiculously high. I’d never choose to live in NYC.
  • Portland, OR: Great choice. Portland is the next Seattle. Microbreweries, great food, and serial killers are abundant.
  • Salt Lake City, UT: Kiplinger refers to Salt Lake City as a cheaper version of Denver. Cost of living is low and the unemployment rate is 7%.
  • Washington, DC: Incredible job prospects and a very low unemployment rate of 6% (who says government jobs don’t help the economy?). But I’d never choose to live there for the same reasons I wouldn’t choose to live in NYC – traffic, crime, and high cost of living.

Top 10 City Discussion:

  • What cities would you have added to this list, and why?
  • What cities would you have subtracted, and why?
  • Did your hometown make the list?

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I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 10,000+ others by getting FREE email updates. You can also explore every post I have written, in order.

  • Alaska says:

    If you drop MSU in Grand Rapids you have what WMU is in Kalamazoo, without the hypothetical. Kzoo is an awesome city. The only thing it could use is a surplus of entry level jobs for people other than chemical engineers (Kellogs, Pfeizer, etc).

  • Griffin T. says:

    Most of my friends ended up moving to Chicago after graduation. What about Minneapolis/St. Paul area? I have a lot of family there, and it seems like a great city – I’m surprised it didn’t make the list.

  • Ira says:

    Dear G.E.:

    Please update your views on NYC to coincide with modern reality. You said: “…I wouldn’t choose to live in NYC – traffic, crime, and high cost of living.”

    You don’t need to experience any traffic in NYC unless you like riding in cabs, and crime is nonexistent. In fact, NYC has the LOWEST crime index of any of those 10 cities mentioned.

    Denizens of New York

    • G.E. Miller says:

      @ Alaska – I smell a Bronco. I love K-Zoo – home of none other than Bell’s Brewery (best regional microbrew in America). G-Rap has a far nicer downtown though.

      @ Griffin – Agreed – Minny/St. Paul is a nice city and employment rate is below 7%.

      @ Ira – I’ll give you the traffic argument – but there’s a strong caveat to that. You have to live and work close to the subway. Otherwise, you have to commute in and out of town somehow. And whenever you leave town, you will have to (via cab or another vehicle). As for the crime rate, the link you gave me doesn’t give me crime rates or comparison’s between cities. As for the cost of living – New York is the most expensive city in the U.S. –

      @ Gally – Agree – Seattle was mysteriously left off the list. Maybe they figured it got too much positive pub over the last decade.

  • Gally says:

    Uhhh. Where’s Seattle?

  • Joe says:

    I’m actually really, really surprised that Portland made this list. I know there are a lot of good colleges in the area, but doesn’t Oregon in general have a really high unemployment rate?

  • Jeremy says:

    9 out of 10 cities on this list don’t matter to me. Wanna know why? Because,
    Q: What has two thumbs and just decided two days before reading this to move to Austin?
    A: THIS GUY!

  • Fred says:

    In NYC, $90 is all you need for unlimited transportation. After being in Tucson Arizona for a while, then coming back to NYC, I can say that the cost of living argument is outdated. In fact, NYC is one of those few places where you can control how much you spend compared to other places where costs are pretty fixed.

  • Budgeting in the Fun Stuff says:

    Yay, Houston’s on the list! For what it’s worth, the crime rates go from awful in certain spots to almost nothing less than 20 miles away…it’s a big enough city you can still buy inexpensive in low crime areas (like we did…no probs in 5 years). 🙂

  • Julie says:

    I’m surprised a city in California isn’t on this list. My boyfriend and I just visited my dad in LA, and he (the boyfriend) absolutely loves the city and would rather live there than in NY. I’m a bigger fan of SF, personally.

    I love New York, and my job and family are here, but I think the cost of living is ridiculous.

    • G.E. Miller says:

      @ Julie – the weather is great in Cali, but their foreclosure rate is highest in the country, cost of living is still ridiculous, and state government is bankrupt. But man, is that weather nice. If you don’t mind the state government literally writing you IOU’s on your income tax return, it’s probably still a great place to be. But I hear that the job market is tough right now in Cali.

  • Julie says:

    G.E.–Yes, the weather is really nice, and I like the general atmosphere and I have a few restaurants I really like there. I would never move anywhere unless I already had a job lined up. As for the Government’s IOUs, isn’t the way to get (mostly) out of that just to pay as little income tax as possible? I think my last refund was like $40 in state taxes. My NY government isn’t so great either, plus the train fares keep going up and service keeps getting cut. Wouldn’t be so bad to just drive to work, or better yet, walk!

  • Marty says:

    I just recently accepted a job offer in the Grand Rapids area and plan on moving there in the next couple months. I’m 25 and single and from what I’ve seen, downtown Grand Rapids looks like the best area for me. I’d like to keep monthly living expense (rent, electricity, cable, parking, etc.) under $1000 and parking is very important for me since I will be traveling quite a bit for work. Any suggestions on what apartments to look at?

  • James says:

    Say, what’s Denver like?

    Right about now, any city is a better place to live than Houston. I work in communications and it seems like NY, SF, Chicago and perhaps LA are ideal for starting out my career. Houston’s economy is prominently fixed in petrochemicals, finance, health care, and industry.

  • stephanie says:

    As someone who grew up in Missouri and has quite a few friends in KC, I can definitely vouch for how awesome the city is. There are many museums, theaters, and other cultural aspects. The Power & Light district is awesome, I went to a concert there a couple summers ago in their Hot Country Nights series. (Free Dierks Bentley concert? Yes please!) They offer a ton of free shows like that, plus there are a ton of fun restaurants and bars in the area. The sports teams in KC aren’t impressive, but I did arrange a trip to visit a friend a few weekends ago with my Cardinals were playing the Royals. KC doesn’t have a “big city” feel, and doesn’t appear to have the “big city” cost of living, either. I’ve enjoyed all of my trips there.

  • Moneyedup says:

    Austin would be a great place to live and work. I would move to wherever the jobs are though, and traffic doesn’t bother me too much since I would opt for public transit to avoid driving in it. I would be more concerned about how the night life is in a city I would be going on vacation to and not so much a city I would be living it. I’m fine with just hanging out with friends, it is the company that matters the most to me.

  • Joel says:

    Grand Rapids is a great city to live in and it’s very affordable. I recommend living near Heartside or the Eastown/East Hills areas where there’s a lot of culture and things to do. Check out and Craigslist for places to live.

  • brian says:

    Being a citizen of Kansas City for 25+ years, working in Chicago and Portland both for months on end and then moving to Denver 2 years ago. The quality of life in Denver decimates anywhere I’ve lived or worked for any amount of time. The weather is pretty mild year round. It’s a young and vibrant city. It’s easily walkable and has great public transit. The mountains are less than 2 hours away for weekend ski trip. Southern Colorado has some of the best hiking, camping and fishing. Denver it self is a great sports town with the trifecta of the NFL, NHL and NBA. So, in closing, please move to one of those top 10 cities listed above and please leave Denver alone.

  • Brittany says:

    Way to go Kansas City! Grew up in the suburbs of KC (on the Kansas side though) and now live close by. I work downtown used to own a condo downtown when I first started work. It is a great city to live and work in with lots of things to do, places to go out, and some great cultural experiences, including the Nelson Atkins Museum, Negro Baseball Mueseum, and many more. They are trying to improve the nightlife with the downtown renovation and hopefully add some better public transportation in the near future 🙂

  • M Denis says:

    I grew up in Chi-town and moved to KC 3 yrs ago. One thing I love about KC, most commutes are 15 mins, none more than 30. they have great BBQ, Power & Light District, great sports fans for what they are subjected to. However, having lived in Wrigleyville, Lincoln Park, and stumbling distance from Rush & Division – the partying in KC cannot compare to Chicago – especially when you don’t need to drive home to the Chgo neighborhoods I lived.

  • Randy Reyes says:

    After spending a good amount of time in all 10 cities…I believe you miss the boat on 7 of the 10 cities.

    First, the main reason(s) there may be job opportunies in these 7 cities is simplly because there is less competition for jobs as a result of poor weather and or high crime rates!

    You have to be kidding about NY City with iit’s crappy weather, crime and over crowding and major ghetto conditions. Chicago is almost as bad. Wasjington DC is for high ranking officials that mainly live in Virgina and have drivers. Lansing is the last resort for the folkks that never want to leave the midwest. Kansas City is no St. Louis but has good BBQ and under rated jazz music and as for Portland…it will never be another Seattle cause it does not want to be..The master of Music Gino Vanelli left Malibu in the early 90’s and moved to Portland…Gino still has family in Portland but spends most of his time in Holland..for the cultural inspiration I gather!

    – Randy Reyes
    Malibu, CA.


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