Index for Best (and Worst) States for Becoming a Millionaire 

“I wanna be a billionaire so freakin’ bad” – Bruno Mars was onto something when he serenaded us about his wealth dreams back in 2010. Although “billionaire” is quite ambitious, most of us at least fantasize about the modest million or two.  

If you’ve been hoping to “toss a couple milli in the air for the heck of it” just know there are some places that are better for it. Some states have neighborhoods filled with McMansions while others scrape the barrel for a buck. We wanted to just where the entrepreneurs, the ambitious, and the idealist would have their best shot at earning $1,000,000,000.  

To determine this, we looked at a number of wealth factors, at the state and city levels, that crucially affect financial growth. Those factors include:  

  1. Cost of Living Index 
  1. Access to investment funds and venture capital 
  1. Average Income 
  1. Education Rates 
  1. GDP Per Capita 
  1. Current concentration of millionaires  

We combined these factors to create a weighted score that ultimately ranked states and 20 US cities by likelihood of becoming a millionaire. So where will you have your rags to riches story? 

Key Findings: 

  • San Francisco is the #1 city for becoming a millionaire, scoring 94/100 on the millionaire index 
  • The Golden State, California comes into 1st for “best state to become a millionaire” with 17.9% of it’s population being millionaires
  • Mississippi ranked as the toughest state for millionaires with a 2/100 score on the millionaire index

Move here if you want to become a millionaire 

All signs are pointing to the Golden State! Since the early days of the U S of A, pioneers headed west to strike it rich. Scoring 80/100 on the millionaire index, California earned the title of the #1 best state for becoming a millionaire. Cali topped the charts for several reasons. Home to Silicon Valley, California had more venture capital than any other state and more than most of the US combined. With $1.03 billion of investment funds in 2023 alone, The Golden State makes up almost half (41%) of the US venture capital total of $2.5 billion.  

Beyond investment, even the average joe makes more. The annual income sat at $73,220 avg. for Californians, 22% more than the national numbers. With that in mind, California did rank as the second highest cost of living in the country, following only slightly behind the expensive Massachusetts. Your bank account might have a few extra zeros behind it if you move to California, but just remember, a bottle of water can cost upwards of $26 at the Erewhon grocery store.  

If you’re California dreaming of capitalism, just know you stand a 9% chance of striking it rich. Not all that bad actually! 

The rich runner-ups  

If you’ve never quite pictured yourself living in the Malibu dream house, don’t worry. There are plenty of states to test your luck at the American Dream. The concrete jungle is also ample with opportunities! New York ranked #2 for best state to become a millionaire.  

Opportunities aren’t just limited to the Big Apple either. The state, in its entirety, had higher education rates (37% have a bachelor’s degree or more), higher GDP, and a bigger labor market. It’s interesting to note too that New York’s wealth doesn’t scream, it whispers. Instead of most of its money coming from investment capital, like California, it’s more of a slow burn (read: generational wealth). With higher annual salaries ($75k vs. $59k national average), New Yorkers are building their empires in different ways. Well… that and the highest concentration of extreme wealth in the country might mean a “small loan of a million dollars,” but they’ve earned it! Right? 

If you weren’t born into names like Rockefeller or Vanderbilt, fear not! In New York, you stand about a 7.52% chance of becoming a millionaire.  

Bay State? More like Bae State! Massachusetts wins our hearts (and our wallets) as the 3rd best state for becoming a millionaire. Massachusetts prides itself on having the most GDP per capita in the US, but it doesn’t stop there. That GDP translates to “by the people, for the people” with some of the highest salaries in the country ($77k avg.).  

Massachusetts isn’t wealthy in the same way that New York or California are. Where California boasts “start-up bro” rich and New Yorkers are “dad’s money” it’s a different ball game in MA. Consider that Harvard, MIT, and Boston College are some of the richest universities in the country and you get a better idea as to why there’s money to be made in Massachusetts.  

If you’re Ivy or otherwise, Massachusettsans stand a 9.38% of hitting millionaire status.  

Best US cities for becoming a millionaire 

Let’s get granular. The chances of striking it rich in Oakland versus Presidio Heights, for example, might vary drastically and they’re only miles away. Looking beyond the state level, we wanted to know, out of the top 25 most-populated cities, what urban areas are best for accumulating wealth.  

Just as California is a rich state, so are its stand-alone cities. 3 out of the top 4 best cities for becoming a millionaire are in California. #1 goes to San Francisco followed by San Jose for #2, and Los Angeles at #4. San Francisco isn’t just rich, it’s rich rich. Every 1 in 1,060 city residents is ultra-wealthy – this goes far beyond a couple of lousy millions! All that money does however mean steep housing costs which shines light on why San Francisco has the 10th highest amount of unsheltered homeless populations.  

San Jose is just as techie as its San Fran counterpart. Coming into 2nd place as the best city for becoming a millionaire, San Jose has the third highest GDP per capita in the world (just behind Oslo and Zurich) in part thanks to the tech giants who reside there. Cisco Systems, eBay, Adobe Inc., PayPal, Broadcom, and Zoom all call San Jose home. With the medium household income at $113k, it doesn’t seem so farfetched to become rich in Teal Town. 

California can’t have all the fun. Boston ranks as the 3rd best city for becoming a millionaire. Boston is the 9th richest city in the world with plenty of wealth to go around. The latest figures show that Harvard’s endowment is $49.44 billion. A smooth tenure at the university can really add up! For those outside of academia, Boston’s millionaire households had the third highest amount of bonds, stocks, and personal retirement funds. Education helps of course, but with the high concentration of assets, we can see that investment goes a long way too.  

The Worst States for Becoming Millionaires  

Not everything that glitters is gold. By the numbers, we can already see that a vast majority of America’s wealth is held up in only a few states. Some states fare worse than others when it comes to moving up the wealth ladder.  

At the bottom of the list is Mississippi, where they scored a 2/100 on the millionaire index. Only 4% of the state has millionaires’ status and 2, who happen to be brothers, have earned billionaires’ titles. Mississippi isn’t kind to those trying to make a dollar either. CNBC claimed the court system to be one of the most hostile towards business. On the upside, Mississippi has one of the lowest cost of living rates, so even if you don’t hit the magic number of $1 million, you can still live a decent life on less. 

For the bottom 2, West Virginia and Arkansas tied at a 4/100 on the millionaire index. Both states had relatively low education rates compared to the national average as well as minimal job opportunities (per the labor index) for both degree and non-degree holders. Much like Mississippi, these 2 states don’t necessarily require millions to live a good life. Both states make it into the top 10 cheapest states to live in the US at a 90.2 on the cost of living index. That certainly beats a $12 coffee in NYC! 

US cities where you’re least likely to become a millionaire  

Compare the $18.07 minimum wage in San Francisco to El Paso’s $12.11 and you begin to see the wealth disparity a bit clearer. Out of the 25 most populated US cities, El Paso ranked last with a score of 13/100 on the millionaire index. With a count of 6,000 millionaires and 1 billionaire, the community with the deep pockets is a small one. The chances of becoming a millionaire in El Paso? Less than 1%.  

Indianapolis also doesn’t bode well for aspiring millionaires. Scoring 21/100 on the millionaire index, the factors work against those trying to earn big. The exact amount of millionaires in Indianapolis is unknown, but only 5.34% of the whole state holds that kind of wealth. Ranking 9th in the nation for the number of impoverished neighborhoods, the millionaire dream seems challenging. With that said, there are stories of inspiration that show us that even if the odds are low, not all is lost. Herb Simon, owner of the Indiana Pacers with a now approximate net worth of $4 billion was raised in poverty. The odds are slim in Indiana, but nothing is impossible! 

The million-dollar question 

Alright Sharks, show us the money! If you’ve got an idea that you’re itching to share to make the big bucks, there are certainly some states that are more receptive than others. That said, the US, on the whole, still has the American Dream to share. The probability of becoming a millionaire in the US is 6.4% – slim, but not futile! Just remember, Kim Kardashian is a billionaire. If Ms. (and I quote) “Stretchmarks are my biggest fear in life” can do it, you can too! 


In May 2024, we collected state and economic statistics to combine for a weighted score. The weighted score used wealth factors to determine the best states to become a millionaire. 

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