Best & Worst Cities for Wallet Wellness

by John S Kiernan

WalletHub 2014 Best Cities For Wallet WellnessThere is a definite correlation between physical, emotional and financial wellbeing – or, what could be collectively referred as our “Wallet Wellness.”

Just consider the fact that money, work and the economy – in that order – are our leading causes of stress.  Stress, in turn, forces a million people to miss work every day at an average daily cost of $600 to employers and an average annual cost of $15 billion to the economy.  Then there’s the $62 billion in productivity that we lose annually to sleep deprivation – a common side effect of stress –and the $200-300 billion price tag associated with stress-related illness.

So, in celebration of National Financial Literacy Month and to promote the adoption of responsible habits – both directly and indirectly related to personal finance – WalletHub decided to identify and honor the U.S. cities that are altogether most conducive to Wallet Wellness.

We compared the 150 largest cities in the United States in terms of 8 key metrics designed to gauge the responsibility with which consumers manage both their finances and their lifestyles as well as the extent to which local dynamics promote wealth creation and upward mobility.  More information about our Methodology as well as a comprehensive city-by-city rankings breakdown can be found below.

Main Findings

Rank

City

Rank

City

Rank

City

1 Sioux Falls, SD 51 Irving, TX 101 Grand Rapids, MI
2 Bakersfield, CA 52 San Francisco, CA 102 Columbus, OH
3 Lincoln, NE 53 Washington, DC 103 Los Angeles, CA
4 Corpus Christi, TX 54 Las Vegas, NV 104 Albuquerque, NM
5 Omaha, NE 55 Aurora, IL 105 Glendale, CA
6 Des Moines, IA 56 Scottsdale, AZ 106 Indianapolis, IN
7 Anchorage, AK T-57 North Las Vegas, NV 107 Honolulu, HI
8 Colorad Springs, CO T-57 Modesto, CA 108 Fayetteville, NC
9 Fort Worth, TX T-59 Henderson, NV 109 Louisville, KY
10 Aurora, CO T-59 Boise, ID 110 Huntsville, AL
11 Arlington, TX 61 Lubbock, TX 111 Reno, NV
12 Gilbert town, AZ 62 San Antonio, TX 112 Detroit, MI
13 Chandler, AZ 63 El Paso, TX 113 Lexington, KY
14 Fontana, CA 64 Pittsburgh, PA 114 Toledo, OH
15 San Jose, CA 65 Garden Grove, CA 115 Memphis, TN
16 Wichita, KS 66 Worcester, MA 116 Milwaukee, WI
17 Seattle, WA 67 Anaheim, CA 117 Baltimore, MD
18 Amarillo, TX 68 Santa Ana, CA 118 Springfield, MO
19 Moreno Valley, CA 69 Austin, TX 119 Norfolk, VA
20 Fremont, CA T-70 St. Paul, MN 120 New York, NY
21 Peoria, AZ T-70 Tempe, AZ 121 Durham, NC
22 Santa Clarita, CA 72 Oklahoma, OK 122 Greensboro, NC
23 Irvine, CA 73 Brownsville, TX 123 Providence, RI
24 Rancho Cucamonga, CA 74 San Bernardino, CA 124 Newark, NJ
25 Madison, WI T-75 Boston, MA 125 Richmond, VA
26 Overland Park, KS T-75 Tulsa, OK 126 Little Rock, AR
27 Laredo, TX 77 VA Beach, VA 127 Augusta, GA
28 Oxnard, CA T-78 Dallas, TX 128 Akron, OH
T-29 Chula Vista, CA T-78 Chesapeake, VA 129 Chicago, IL
T-29 Salt Lake City, UT 80 Jersey, NJ 130 Philadelphia, PA
31 Denver, CO T-81 Buffalo, NY 131 Fort Lauderdale, FL
32 San Diego, CA T-81 Rochester, NY 132 Miami, FL
33 Mesa, AZ 83 Fort Wayne, IN 133 Montgomery, AL
34 Glendale, AZ 84 Pembroke Pines, FL 134 St. Louis, MO
35 Vancouver, WA 85 Kansas, MO 135 Cleveland, OH
36 Houston, TX 86 St. Petersburg, FL 136 Winston-Salem, NC
37 Spokane, WA 87 Cape Coral, FL 137 Atlanta, GA
T - 38 Minneapolis, MN 88 Raleigh, NC 138 Tallahassee, FL
T - 38 Ontario, CA 89 Jacksonville, FL 139 Columbus, GA
40 Plano, TX 90 Fresno, CA 140 Chattanooga, TN
41 Stockton, CA 91 Oakland, CA 141 Orlando, FL
42 Huntington Beach, CA 92 Tampa, FL 142 Knoxville, TN
43 Riverside, CA 93 Charlotte, NC 143 Mobile, AL
T-44 Garland, TX 94 Long Beach, CA 144 Shreveport, LA
T-44 Oceanside, CA 95 Newport News, VA 145 Hialeah, FL
46 Phoenix, AZ 96 Port St. Lucie, FL 146 Birmingham, AL
47 Santa Rosa, CA 97 Nashville-Davidson, TN 147 Cincinnati, OH
T-48 Tacoma, WA T-98 Portland, OR 148 Jackson, MS
T-48 Grand Prairie, TX T-98 Tucson, AZ 149 New Orleans, LA
50 Sacramento, CA 100 Yonkers, NY 150 Baton Rouge, LA

Top 5 Cities For Wallet Wellness

Ask The Experts:  Wallet Wellness Tips

In addition to WalletHub’s Editors lending their expertise, we decided to consult our community of WalletGurus for tips and advice on how people can improve their Wallet Wellness. You can find a list of the experts who helped out below, followed by the tips.

  1. Set Practical, Realistic Goals: Goals can easily crumble under their own weight. The trick is to only commit to a small number of difficult, yet achievable objectives and to make specific plans regarding the lifestyle changes needed to bring them about.

    “The power of goals is focus,” Latham says. “They direct attention. Too many goals and the eyes glaze over; focus is lost. While you should set no more than 3-5 goals for the year, it is fine to set weekly, monthly or quarterly subgoals.”

  1. Build a Budget: Only two in five Americans keep close track of their spending, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. That’s one of the main reasons why we’ve racked up more than $73 billion in new credit card debt since the beginning of 2012. Constructing and adhering to a clearly-defined budget is the most efficient way to pay down amounts owed and begin working towards savings goals.
  1. Expand Your Emergency Fund: With a robust financial safety net, you’ll be less at the mercy of the economy. You’ll be able to withstand a prolonged period of joblessness, should the need arise, and you’ll benefit from valuable peace of mind.
  1. Get Debt Free: Owing money is stressful, and seeing interest accrue on amounts owed just makes things worse. So, start by using a credit card calculator to develop a plan for reaching debt freedom. Then, devote the majority of your allotted monthly debt payment to the balance with the highest interest rate. Continue making minimum payments on any other balances until your most expensive debt is gone, then repeat.

    Eliminating amounts owed will become increasingly important as the economy continues to improve and interest rates climb from historical lows. “As the economy improves and incomes and employment grow, our ability to re-pay our debt and consume without incurring in debt will increase,” Gomez-Arias says. “At the same time, interest rates will eventually go up, and with them interest rates on credit card debt. For some people, that may mean the difference between a sustainable level of debt and an unsustainable debt spiral.”

  1. Maximize Your Credit Standing: Your credit score impacts not only the credit card and loan terms for which you qualify, but also things like your insurance premiums, your ability to lease a car or rent an apartment, and your job prospects. In other words, the higher your credit score, the more you save.

    The first step in maximizing your credit standing is to get a free copy of each of your major credit reports and verify that the information contained therein is correct. Next, make sure to have a number of trade lines open with as much available credit as possible and submit on-time payments every month. This will ensure a steady flow of positive information into your credit reports, thereby diluting any negative information that may exist or simply adding to a previously thin file.

  1. Get Covered: “The largest root cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States is uninsured or under-insured medical expense,” Haas says. “The Affordable Care Act is a first/baby step in health reform that will begin to reduce the number of uninsured Americans from 47 million by half, and to reduce the number of under-insured Americans by mandating comprehensive/adequate benefit design.”
  1. Save, Save, Save: There are two strategies in particular that lend themselves to regular savings, according to Fazzari. First, he says, “take advantage of any retirement saving benefits offered by your employer. Many plans match all or part of the employee contributions and retirement saving plans usually provide tax advantages.” Next, Fazzari recommends that consumers, “save for specific big purchases. This advice applies especially to college savings, but you could also carve out some part of your savings for a car, a vacation, or something similar.
  1. Make Use of Dead Time: If you face a lengthy daily commute, replace boredom and pop radio with an educational book on tape. This strategy will enable you to hone another marketable skill, or simply expand your horizons, while you’ve got nothing better to do. It can also be applied to a variety of other “dead times” throughout the day, but you must be careful to avoid overdoing things. A bit of quiet throughout the day is good for the psyche as well.
  1. Automate Everything: If the money is there, it’s getting spent. That’s how many of us operate. Others aren’t great with deadlines. Both habits represent important weaknesses when it comes to personal finance world, and the best way to account for them is to take tax human error out of the equation as much as possible. Ask that your credit limit be lowered to your budgeted spending amount if you need to, set up automatic bill pay and, perhaps most importantly, establish automatic withdrawals from your paycheck to a hands-off savings vehicle.

    “Almost no one can save money regularly unless their financial institution takes the money from them automatically. At least that is where almost everyone should start,” Mason says. “If they are making their donations regularly, then maybe they can save and invest regularly, but most cannot now and never will be able to do so.

  1. Find Your Passion: We’ve all heard others described as never having worked a day their lives -- figuratively, of course. Why can’t that be us? The work week doesn’t have to be drudgery; it can actually be fun. You just have to find something you love and leave the less important stuff – exorbitant riches, perhaps – behind. Ultimately, passion is what will help us make it through the tough times that inevitably wait ahead.

    “If you haven’t found your passion, keep looking, don’t try to force something on yourself or settle for what might be of interest,” Bachenheimer says. “Keep looking for new opportunities and experiences, expand your network, keep your radar on, and don’t settle!”

 

Methodology

  1. Median Household Income, Adjusted for Cost of Living – Weight = 1Earning potential clearly is a key component of Wallet Wellness, as the amount that we make dictates the type of lifestyle we lead as well as our overall susceptibility to financial catastrophe.

    This metric was designed to illustrate the relative income differential between cities in an apples-to-apples fashion. In order to do so, we needed to account for the local cost-of-living disparities that exist from one city to the next. We therefore adjusted publically available household income data in accordance with the amount by which local living costs strayed from the national baseline. In other words, if the cost of living was 4% above the national average in a given city, median income levels were adjusted down 4%. We then ranked the cities based on the resulting adjusted figures.

  1. Median Household Income / Median Home Price – Weight = 1This metric speaks to the relative affordability of local real estate, essentially illustrating how much house a resident family could purchase with one year’s salary. Given that a home is one of the most significant expenses that a consumer will ever incur, it stands to figure that getting a good deal would be quite conducive to the pursuit and attainment of Wallet Wellness. The ability to purchase a middle-of-the-road home for 50% of your annual salary as opposed to 100%, for example, would afford you a significant savings advantage as well as far more robust financial reserves far earlier in life.
  1. Rank in WalletHub’s Best & Worst Cities for Job Seekers Report – Weight = 1Wallet Wellness is hard to come by without gainful employment as well as the reasonable expectation of finding another job should you lose your current one. As such, the cities with the most employment potential would seem to offer the greatest hope for sustained Wallet Wellness.

    While only 60 of the cities included in this report were also represented in the Best & Worst Cities for Job Seekers Report, neither they nor the remaining 80 cities were disadvantaged as a result. We incorporated this metric into a city’s overall average ranking only if it appeared in the Job Seekers Report. Otherwise, one fewer ranking and one fewer metric were tabulated.

  1. Economic Mobility Rank – Weight = 1We all want our kids to have better lives than us and their kids to have better lives than them. It’s the natural order of things. As Americans, we also subscribe to the boot-strapping mentality – where something can always be made from nothing with enough willpower. One’s relative freedom to progress through the socioeconomic ranks as he or she ages would therefore seem to be a critical aspect of Wallet Wellness.

    We used The Equal Opportunity Project’s economic mobility rankings – in particular, the odds of a child in a particular city reaching the top quintile in terms of income after starting in the bottom – as a proxy for this metric.

  1. Average Commute Time – Weight = 0.5Not only does sitting in traffic raise blood pressure and stress levels, it also represents dead time and lost productivity. Small daily disparities add up to big differences over the course of a year as well. An extra 10 minutes both to and from work would add up to about an extra 2.5 days commuting after a year. People who live in cities with relatively short commutes therefore have the potential to allocate their savings to self-improvement. Whether or not they use it is another story entirely, however – one reason why this metric received only a half weight.
  1. Average Credit Score – Weight = 0.5This metric was intended to serve as a catch-all indicator of any under-the-surface dynamics that may be affecting the Wallet Wellness of local residents. Areas with relatively high average credit scores, one could assume, better promote financial soundness and stability than those with lower scores. However, given the lack of a direct correlation between credit scores and Wallet Wellness, and the fact we used state-level data in lieu of data being available for all 150 cities included in this report, we only assigned this metric a half weight.
  1. Well-Being Index – Weight = 0.5This metric was used to 1) gauge the overall mental state of residents in each city; and 2) serve as a universal hedge against the other metrics that speak directly to a city’s Wallet Wellness.

    It is based on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index – which, according to the organization’s website, “Includes topics like physical and emotional health, healthy behaviors, work environment, social and community factors, financial security, and access to necessities such as food, shelter and healthcare.”

    This metric was assigned a half-weight given its role in the report and the fact that applicable data can only be found at the state level.

  1. Physical Health – Weight = 0.5This metric accounts for the physical component of Wallet Wellness, illustrating the aggregate percentage of the population in each city dealing with 1) Obesity; 2) Tobacco Abuse; 3) Alcohol Abuse.

    We recognize that this may create a double-counting issue, but given the year-over-year uniformity of these rates, this approach nevertheless remains the most efficient way to highlight the relative prevalence of risky, not to mention potentially very costly, physical health problems in different areas of the country.

    We assigned this metric a half weight given that applicable data is only available at the state level.

Sources: The information used to compile this report is courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, Experian, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Equality of Opportunity Project, Gallup Healthways and WalletHub research.

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John Kiernan is Senior Writer & Editor at Evolution Finance. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a BA in Journalism, a minor in Sport Commerce & Culture,…
1221 Wallet Points
Highest Median Household Income /Median House Price is extremely misleading; i.e., DETROIT? Come on Detroit, MI is BROKE! Can you please explain this as this is incomprehensible how it is on your report.
Aug 31, 2014  •  Reply  •  Flag