Human Capital & Careers

Which Cities Rule in Building Net Worth?

Surprise: Look to Plano, Aurora, and Omaha for the really big bucks. New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco? Not so much.
David McCannJuly 9, 2008

You may never have thought of taking a job in Omaha — but to build net worth and optimize your quality of life, it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

The one-time “Gateway to the West” places third on’s just-released Salary Value Index, which ranks the real economic impact of living and working in the 69 U.S. cities with more than 250,000 residents. The ranking primarily takes into account local salary norms and cost of living, but also factors in such elements as diversity of industry, level of unemployment, the population’s education level, proximity to post-secondary education, and median travel time to work.

It’s not as if there aren’t any big companies in Omaha to work for. In fact, no less than five Fortune 500 firms are based there: ConAgra Foods, Union Pacific Corp., Peter Kiewit Sons, Mutual of Omaha Cos., and Berkshire Hathaway.

The top city on the list, Plano, Texas, is home to a corporate smorgasbord that includes Ericsson Inc., Perot Systems, Electronic Data Systems, JCPenney, Frito-Lay, Rent-A-Center, Crossmark, Cinemark Theatres, and UGS. Many more companies, of course, are headquartered in nearby Dallas and Fort Worth. Aurora, Colo., a Denver suburb, takes the runner-up spot., which provides integrated salary-comparison and job-search tools to the Careers Center on, allows users to compare their current pay with that for comparable jobs in other cities. For example, click on Plano in the list below showing the top five cities in the ranking. You’ll see that the median base pay for “Accountant 1” (click on the title link for a job description) is $41,199 in Plano. Seventy-five percent of such workers make more than $37,452, and 25 percent make more than $45,579. Click on the “bonuses” tab above the bell-curve graph to see information on total cash compensation (salary plus bonuses).

To find the same information for other finance jobs, click “related jobs” below the bell-curve graph and select another title. The median base salary for chief financial officers in Plano, for example, is $293,994.

That is actually less than the $305,568 median for number-two city Aurora, which speaks to the role cost of living plays in the rankings. “The end result of this analysis is a list in which the most favorable cities offer the largest difference between pay and costs,” said Bill Coleman, chief compensation officer for


1. Plano, Texas

2. Aurora, Colorado

3. Omaha, Nebraska

4. Minneapolis, Minnesota

5. Albuquerque, New Mexico

The cities at the bottom of the list typically are ones where living is the most expensive and pay is not proportionally inflated.


1. New York City

2. Washington, D.C.

3. Los Angeles

4. Honolulu

5. San Francisco

Median base pay for finance chiefs in New York City shows up as $345,175. According to results of using tools found on, the cost of living in Omaha, for example, is 44.3 percent lower than in New York. Therefore, someone who brings in that median pay level in New York would have to earn only $192,262 in Omaha to maintain his or her standard of living. However, he or she could expect to do much better than that. Employers in Omaha on average pay 19.4 less than those in New York, so the median CFO base pay there is $278,088.

For’s complete ranking of the 69 cities, click here. did not provide the numerical ratings on which the city rankings were based, but rather simply a list of cities in order of their salary value. uses employer-reported data to establish national pay-range averages for each job that it tracks, and then converts that data to metro or ZIP-code data based on a geographic salary equivalent factor, similar to a cost-of-living adjustment factor.