MONEY

Top-earning towns

Luxe homes, great schools and exclusive communities. It takes a big paycheck to live large in these 25 posh patches.

  • Bethesda, MD

    An easy commute from Washington D.C., Bethesda is a hotspot for the highly educated, with nearly half of its residents boasting a graduate or professional degree. That may explain the incomes — the highest on our list this year. They enable people to afford the luxe homes here, which are more than twice as pricey as the state average.

    Though Washington D.C. is a quick Metro ride away, there’s no need to head to the nation’s capital for culture. Bethesda’s urban downtown offers its own live theater, international cuisine and a variety of events, from monthly art walks to annual juried art competitions.

    See comp<a href="http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/best-places/2012/snapshots/PL2407125.html?iid=gdetail” title=””>lete data and interactive map for Bethesda

  • North Hempstead, NY

    Residents of suburban North Hempstead earn top salaries in the Big Apple and spend their leisure time enjoying life on the Long Island Sound. That means shopping in high-end boutiques, strolling along the town’s waterfront, visiting its botanical gardens and attending the Gold Coast International Film Festival, a weeklong summer celebration of the arts and cinema.

    Naturally, with beachfront property in the mix, housing is pricey. A six-bedroom waterfront property with a guesthouse and heated in-ground pool asks for $12 million.

    See complete data and interactive map for North Hempstead

  • The Woodlands, TX

    If you could plan a community, it would look like the Woodlands — which is the whole idea. Some 27 miles north of Houston, designers created a nature-centric suburban ideal, complete with almost 200 miles of hike and bike trails, lavish neighborhoods dotted with playgrounds and parks. A sparkling waterway connects the township’s outdoor amphitheater to much of its downtown office space.

    If you want an estate with a theater, game room, and a sunken wine grotto, you can find it here. The area’s amenities have attracted a variety of employers, from energy company Anadarko to Aon Hewitt.

    See complete data and interactive map for The Woodlands

  • Wayne, NJ

    Where can you find great schools, fun recreational opportunities, a family-oriented community and lakefront property for under $1 million? Wayne, that’s where. Four lakes and several high-end subdivisions provide plenty of luxury home prospects, but prices aren’t nearly as high as they’d be in nearby areas, so why not throw in a heated pool with waterfalls and a koi pond?

    Or you can visit the 15,000-square-foot James Roe Pool, which offers a flume ride, drop slide, and geysers. Residents like it so much that every year the township celebrates Wayne Day, complete with petting zoo, dunk tank and rock climbing walls.

    See complete data and interactive map for Wayne

  • Carmel, IN

    Life is sweet in Carmel. Among its upmarket amenities, the city counts a $24.5 million water park and mega-fitness center, a 1,600-seat concert hall, a 500-seat theater and even a Japanese-style garden — smack in the middle of the Midwest. The culture and manicured beauty of the area attracts high-paid professionals, many of them executives at the headquarters of Delta Faucet, Pearson Education and CNO Financial Group.

    The city is even a particularly safe (and picturesque) place to drive, thanks to 80 landscaped roundabouts that curb traffic instead of traditional signals — the most of any city in the country.

    See complete data and interactive map for Carmel

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