10 Best & Worst States to Make a Living

Last Updated Jul 27, 2011 1:43 PM EDT

Hawaii: Worst state to make a living
The job market is finally picking up some steam, providing hope to long-suffering job seekers everywhere. But if you're among the applying masses, you probably want to do more than just get a job.

If you want to make a living -- in other words, make enough after tax and fixed expenses to prosper -- your chances of getting a job that pays enough to live in comfort varies dramatically based on the state where you live and work. MoneyRates.com pulled unemployment rates, average wages, tax rates and cost of living from all 50 states and found that the best places to find a job were not necessarily the best places to make a living.

The unemployment rate is only 3.7% in North Dakota versus 11% in Michigan, for example. But Michigan is a much better place to make a living, with "adjusted average income" of $37,427 versus $35,365 in North Dakota, according to MoneyRates. MoneyRates rankings are based on their analysis of what you have left to spend, after adjusting for paying your state taxes and dealing with the comparative cost of buying groceries and keeping a roof over your head, among other things.
Based on that analysis, where are the best and worst places to make a living?

The best, according to MoneyRates, is Illinois, where the adjusted average income is $41,987, thanks to reasonably high average wages, relatively low state income taxes and a reasonable cost of living.

2. Washington (state). The cost of living is higher than average, but so is the average wage and the state imposes no income tax. Adjusted average income: $41,456.

3. Texas. Also benefits from no state income tax. Adjusted average income: $41,427

(From here out, we're just going with the highlights. If you want the explanation for why each state received its ranking, you can check out MoneyRates full story here.)

4. Virginia: $41,120

5. Delaware: $39,105

6. Massachusetts: $38,665

7. Georgia: $38,228

8. Tennessee: $38,038

9. Colorado: $38,020

10. Minnesota: $37,721

Where are the worst states to make a living?

1. Hawaii: $22,108

2. Maine: $29,159

3. Montana: $29,496

4. California: $29,772

5. Vermont: $29,986

6. Oregon: $30,343

7. Rhode Island: $30,612

8. Mississippi: $30,953

9. West Virginia: 31,357

10. South Carolina: $31,636

Wondering about your state? To make this fun, I'd like to see where you think your state should rank and your best guess of what the spendable average income might be. If you put those in the comments below, I'll respond back with the average based on MoneyRates analysis.

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