The 10 "Real" Richest Counties in the U.S.

People living in the richest counties in America enjoy high incomes without the heavy cost pressures that usually come with them.

rich neighborhood from air
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The richest counties in the U.S. are found about where one would expect. The metro areas of Washington, D.C., New York City and San Francisco's Bay Area naturally dominate the top spots.

But as is usually the case with such things, the richest counties in the U.S. also tend to be the most expensive counties. So although residents of the richest counties might enjoy the highest incomes, they also often bear the highest costs of living.

In the real world, purchasing power and the number of digits on a paycheck are not necessarily the same thing. That's especially true in some of the richest counties in America, where sky-high costs of living can reduce real incomes by tens of thousands of dollars.

And so we decided to find the "real" richest counties in America. Thanks to data from the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER), we were able to locate the counties with the highest median incomes, and then adjust those incomes to account for the counties' costs of living.

This cost-of-living adjustment gives a much more pragmatic picture of the richest counties in the U.S. It shows where the highest incomes go the farthest – not just who's winning the paycheck race.

That's the key point here: The real richest counties in America are not automatically the highest income or most expensive counties. Keeping costs in check is a critical component of financial health for folks of all income levels.

That's why many of America's real richest counties are found in some surprising places.

So have a look at the 10 real richest counties in the U.S. Many of these names made the list because they enjoy high incomes without the heavy cost pressures such incomes usually create. Counties are listed by cost-adjusted median household income, from lowest to highest.


Data courtesy of the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER), the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Dan Burrows
Senior Investing Writer,

Dan Burrows is Kiplinger's senior investing writer, having joined the august publication full time in 2016.

A long-time financial journalist, Dan is a veteran of SmartMoney, MarketWatch, CBS MoneyWatch, InvestorPlace and DailyFinance. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Senior Executive and Boston magazine, and his stories have appeared in the New York Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News and Investor's Business Daily, among other publications. As a senior writer at AOL's DailyFinance, Dan reported market news from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and hosted a weekly video segment on equities.

Once upon a time – before his days as a financial reporter and assistant financial editor at legendary fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily – Dan worked for Spy magazine, scribbled away at Time Inc. and contributed to Maxim magazine back when lad mags were a thing. He's also written for Esquire magazine's Dubious Achievements Awards.

In his current role at Kiplinger, Dan writes about equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, funds, macroeconomics, demographics, real estate, cost of living indexes and more.

Dan holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from Columbia University.

Disclosure: Dan does not trade stocks or other securities. Rather, he dollar-cost averages into cheap funds and index funds and holds them forever in tax-advantaged accounts.