2014′s Metro Areas with the Best and Worst Budgeters

WH Best Budgeters BadgeThe economic struggles we’ve endured in recent years have placed considerable emphasis on both the importance of budgeting and our overall inability (or unwillingness) to do so. Roughly three in five adult Americans do not maintain a budget, and 13 percent say they don’t even have a good idea of what they spend on expenses such as housing, food and entertainment, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

In the interest of giving the most responsible consumers their just due while putting everyone else on notice, WalletHub searched for the best and worst budgeters in the United States. We did so by examining 16 key metrics, ranging from the average credit score to the percentage of unbanked households. The results of our study, as well as useful budgeting tips, additional insight from experts and a detailed methodology, can be found below.

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2014′s Best and Worst Foodie Cities for Your Wallet

WH Best Foodies BadgeFor cash-strapped foodies, mastering the art of good eating also requires conquering the science of smart budgeting. Today, Americans spend almost 10 percent of their disposable income on food and nearly a third of every food dollar on restaurant services.

But even though the United States currently has the cheapest food in history, a 2014 report from the National Restaurant Association suggests dining out is too pricey for a sizable portion of Americans. According to the association, 72 percent of consumers would consider eating out more frequently “if menu prices were lower during off-peak times.”

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2014′s Best and Worst States for Student Debt

WH Best and Worst States for Student Debt BadgeLocation, location, location. The real-estate industry can stop claiming ownership of the mantra. In the present economic climate, where college graduates choose to put down roots reflects even the value of their degrees. With nearly 11 percent of all student loan debt in delinquency or default and jobs still in short supply, location plays a renewed function in the size of return that higher-education investments can yield.

Save for mortgages, student loans constitute the largest component of household debt for Americans. As of June 30, 2014, total outstanding student loan balances disclosed on credit reports stood at $1.12 trillion, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported in August. The latest figure represents an increase of $7 billion from the first quarter and $124 billion from a year ago.

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Guide to SR-22 Insurance: Cost & Quote Comparison, State Info & More

SR 22 Insurance

Certificate of Financial Responsibility (SR-22)

States ensure that risky drivers carry at least the minimum auto insurance required by having them file a certificate of financial responsibility called an SR-22.This is important since high-risk drivers may be more likely to commit other violations in the future. Although sometimes referred to as an “SR-22 insurance” or an “SR-22 bond” it is actually just a form filed with the state on the driver’s behalf by the car insurance provider that verifies state insurance requirements have been met.

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2014′s Richest and Poorest States

Richest and Poorest StatesThe wealth gap in post-recession America can be summarized in one cliché: the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. In 2014, the aid confederation Oxfam International reported that “the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009.” Within the same period, overall income levels declined for the bottom 90 percent.

In even deeper trouble is the middle class, whose incomes “have been either stagnant or declining since peaking in 1999,” according to the Center for American Progress. At an income of $51,939 in 2013, the average middle-class household still earns almost $4,500 less than it did pre-recession. In fact, the median household now makes less compared with how much it earned in 1989.

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2014′s Most and Least Energy Efficient States

WH Best Badges Energy EfficiencyEnergy constitutes one of the biggest expenses for consumers. The average American household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills, almost half of which goes to heating and cooling expenses.

For the entire country, energy plays a key role as well. Besides having an impact on our environment, it is essential to our national security and prosperity. And its economic implications are great. A McKinsey & Company report estimated that a $520 billion initial investment on energy efficiency measures could save the economy more than $1.2 trillion. In addition, annual greenhouse gas emissions could potentially be reduced by 1.1 gigatons — “the equivalent of taking the entire U.S. fleet of passenger vehicles and light trucks off the roads.”

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Liability Car Insurance Guide, Requirements, & Quote Comparison

Liability Car Insurance
If you cause a car accident, liability insurance will cover injuries to other people and damage to their property.Liability car insurance is one of the most important types of car insurance. In fact, states typically require drivers to have a minimum amount of liability insurance coverage.

Liability auto insurance comes in two forms. One is bodily injury liability coverage, which covers all expenses related to physical injury to other parties. The other is property damage liability coverage, which pays for repairs to the victim’s damaged property, including a car or a house.

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Collision Insurance Coverage: What it Covers, Cost, Deciding to Buy It

Collision Insurance

What is Collision Insurance and What Does it Cover?

Collision insurance covers some or all of your car repair or replacement costs if you are in an accident with another vehicle e coverage, when to drop collision insuranor drive into an object such as a tree, building, or telephone pole. It also covers damage from accidents where no other car or object is involved, such as if you roll over or flip your car. Collision insurance is one of five basic types of car insurance coverage.

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2014′s Best & Worst Cities for People with Disabilities

WH Best People with Disabilities BadgesWhen searching for a new city to call home, most people share a common list of priorities. Among their concerns are affordability, jobs, schools and attractions. But people with disabilities often have a larger list of considerations. Factors such as the accessibility of various facilities, the quality of health care and even the cleanliness of the air can take precedence. The availability of such elements allows them to play an important role in the community and make significant contributions to the economy.

In the United States, people with disabilities bring valuable skill sets to the workplace that build upon the strength and diversity of the American labor market. According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, a little more than five million people with disabilities were employed in 2013. However, the unemployment rate for those with a disability continues to be almost double the rate for persons without a disability.

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2014′s Best and Worst States for Teachers

2014 Best and Worst States for Teachers BadgesMost educators don’t pursue their profession for the money. That’s a no-brainer these days. But that also doesn’t justify low pay, especially for a profession that makes such a profound difference in young people’s lives. And the sad reality is this: Many teachers are shortchanged with salaries that fail to keep up with inflation. Meanwhile, their workloads have grown with heightened demand from the law to elicit better student performance.

It’s no surprise that the high turnover rate within the field has been likened to a revolving door. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about a fifth of all newly minted public school teachers leave their positions before the end of their first year. And almost half never last more than five.

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2014′s Fastest Growing Cities

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Some cities have it all: the jobs, the schools, the museums, the nightlife, you name it. They know the recipe for attractiveness. People come, and they stay — sometimes for good. But other cities like Detroit are still mired in recession. Chances of soon turning upward are slim. And their most productive citizens, an economy’s best chance of recovery, search for greener pastures.

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2014′s Most and Least Happy States in America

WH-Best-Badges-150x150The question of whether money can buy happiness has continually baffled humanity. The ideal, morally principled response might be “no.” But money can indeed buy happiness — that is, up to a certain dollar amount. A comprehensive study on the topic suggests that life satisfaction, one of the two main components of happiness besides emotional well-being, increases as income rises but only up to $75,000. Beyond that, money makes little difference in a person’s overall happiness.

Reinforcing those findings are the annual results of a Gallup-Healthways poll, which measures well-being around the world. According to the pollsters, “there was a 10-percentage-point gap globally between the highest and lowest income brackets.” But income isn’t the only determinant of personal happiness. Apart from financial security, a pleasant state of being also depends on one’s mental and physical health, job situation, experience of positive feelings, environment, social connections and general outlook on life.

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S&P 100 Tax Rate Report

Wallet Hub 2014 Highest and Lowest S&P 100 Tax RatesConcerns over the proper role of taxation lie at the very foundation of United States history. They haven’t gone away either. In fact, matters of tax reform are set to play a central theme in this year’s midterm elections, fueling partisan discussions of economic patriotism as well as debates over whether Main Street or millionaires should foot more or less of the bill.

In the spirit of advancing the discussion, WalletHub analyzed annual reports for the S&P 100 – the largest and most established companies on the stock market – in order to determine the rates at which they pay taxes at the state, federal and international levels as well as how their tax burdens compare to those of American individuals. You can read more about our Methodology and review our complete findings below.

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2014’s Most and Least Educated Cities

WH-Best-Education-Badges-150x150Call them what you will: the cream of the crop, the best and brightest, the intellectual elite. But it’s official; the college-educated third of Americans are society’s new upper crust. Research has shown that skilled workers who are also degree holders tend to pump the most money into their local economies over time. A city’s prosperity, one then can assume, depends in large part on the productivity of its educated citizens.

However expensive college may be in 2014, its economic returns “remain high and provide a pathway for individual economic mobility,” according to a recent report from the Treasury and Education departments. The latter further pointed out that education “expands job opportunities” and “boosts America’s competitiveness” in the global arena.

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2014′s Most & Least Fair State Tax Systems

WH-Best-Badges-150x150With summer ending, the 2014 elections are starting to heat up. And as usual tax policy is a hot button issue as candidates for Governor, state legislatures and other state and local offices from both parties claim their plan is more “fair.” But what does a fair tax system look like? Which states actually have the most fair tax systems?

As a follow up to our 2014 Tax Fairness Survey which focused largely on federal tax policy, WalletHub has analyzed and ranked the 50 states based on the fairness of their state and local tax systems — including income taxes, sales & excise taxes, and property taxes. To rank the states, Wallethub conducted a nationally representative online survey of 1,050 individuals to assess what Americans think a fair state and local tax system looks like. Our analysts then compared what Americans think is fair to data on the real structure of tax systems in all 50 states.

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2014’s Best and Worst States to Have a Baby

2014-Best-and-Worst-States-to-Have-a-Baby-BadgeHaving a baby is expensive. Between one-time expenses such as a crib and stroller and ongoing costs that include diapers and formula, prospective parents must evaluate not only their life situations but also their finances before jumping at the deep end.

Moreover, families in the United States pay the highest birthing costs in the world, according to a report from the International Federation of Health Plans. The average cost of a conventional delivery at an American hospital is $9,775. For a C-Section, it’s $15,041. In France, the price tag for normal delivery pales in comparison at $3,541 and dips to an even more modest $2,641 in the U.K.

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2014′s Best and Worst Cities for Hispanic Entrepreneurs

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The United States is often dubbed “a nation of immigrants.” But lately the path to American citizenship has been a rough road, especially for an increasing number of Hispanics. Whether they’ve entered U.S. borders lawfully or otherwise, many have felt the sting of marginalization, racism and discrimination in every kind of social environment. And despite the unfriendly welcome, they’re as motivated as ever to put down roots in American soil in order to find better opportunities and improve their lives.

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2014′s Best and Worst Places to Retire

2014-Best-and-Worst-Places-to-Retire-BadgesAfter decades in the workforce, it seems only natural for retirees to expect financial security in their Golden Years. But gone are the days when Americans looked forward to a worry-free retirement. Many are working longer years with an increasingly unreachable goal of securing financial freedom for the rest of their lives. In 1991, only 8 percent of Americans delayed retirement to age 65. Today, that figure has doubled, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s annual “Retirement Confidence Survey.”

And the reasons for extending their working lives are somewhat obvious: With a number of local economies still struggling to rebound from the Great Recession, a quarter of respondents to the EBRI’s survey said they can’t afford to retire when they want or plan to. Eighteen percent cited “inadequate finances” as the other primary hurdle to retiring on schedule. Fifty-eight percent of workers and 44 percent of retirees also disclosed having problematic debt levels, which some claim are higher than they were five years ago.

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2014 Checking Account Cost Comparison Report

WH Study Statistic Report Badges With all the current costs associated with a basic checking account — from monthly maintenance fees to ATM withdrawal charges to money transfer costs — one can hardly keep track of their growing structural complexity. These days, a customer could even be assessed a fee just for speaking with a bank teller. And those costs can vary by hundreds of dollars depending on several factors, including one’s usage habits and banking institution.

On the heels of WalletHub’s annual Checking Account Transparency Report and to further assist consumers, WalletHub compared the annual costs of 65 checking accounts offered by the 25 largest U.S. consumer-facing banks, based on total asset volume as reported by the FDIC. In order to do so, we constructed five consumer profiles by using a variety of theoretical usage patterns.

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2014’s Metro Areas that Most and Least Resemble the U.S.

WH-Best-Badges-150x150-US-AverageIt’s hard to think of modern-day America’s identity in black-and-white terms. Although we can’t patent freedom, we can safely claim buffalo wings, country music and Jay Leno as uniquely ours. But what else? Contrary to popular belief, English isn’t the official language of the United States. And the rumor that pizza was invented by Italian immigrants in New York? That’s been laid to rest. Heck, even the Statue of Liberty used to be a French citizen. Cuisine, religion, sports and vernacular are only among the myriad cultural identifiers that depend on region and give the U.S. its personality.

For centuries, diversification has perpetually blurred cultural lines. And though American “culture” can easily be described, it’s more difficult to quantify. Demographics, however, are not. Characteristics such as ethnic makeup, household size and median income can paint a picture of a country from a statistical vantage point. Why is this relevant to you, the consumer? There are many reasons. Parents, for one, may want to move their families to a city with a demographic anatomy resembling that of the U.S. to expose their children to more diversity. That way, their children might adapt more easily when they move to other parts of the country as adults. Others may wish to live in a city that is less representative of the U.S. in certain dimensions such as education standards or cultural variety.

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