Cut Down These 5 Bills and Save $2,579

Bills, bills, bills. They never seem to end, do they? They take more and more out of your account each month before you even realize it.

You can’t escape them entirely (wouldn’t that be great?), but you can stop them from being so darn painful every month. All it takes is ending your loyalty to a few companies you currently use for bills and fees that come every month.

Trust us, they won’t miss you. And you definitely won’t miss them — especially when you realize how much money you’ve been needlessly throwing away every month.

1. Your Credit Card Bill: Save Up to 10x on Interest Payments

If you’re reading this, there’s a 50% chance you have credit card debt — nearly half of U.S. adults do. And if you don’t pay it off every month, you’re draining your bank account with unnecessary — and terribly high — interest payments.

And the truth is, your credit card company doesn’t really care. It’s just getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates — some up to a whopping 36%! But a website called AmOne wants to help.

If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster.

With a $5,000 balance this month, that could be an extra $150 to your credit card company, or about $15 to a personal loan matched by AmOne. That’s $1,620 going down the drain every year.

AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but don’t worry — they won’t spam you with phone calls.

2. Your Car Insurance Bill: Save $489/Year

When’s the last time you checked car insurance prices?

You should shop your options every six months or so — it could save you some serious money. Let’s be real, though. It’s probably not the first thing you think about when you wake up. But it doesn’t have to be.

A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.

Using Insure.com, people have saved an average of $489 a year.

Yup. That could be nearly $500 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.

3. Your Credit Monitoring Service: Cut $240 Down to $0

When it comes to your credit score, it’s important to stay organized and keep tabs on it. After all, it’ll play an essential role in any big purchase you want to make — whether that’s a home or a car.

But there’s no need to spend $19.99/month on a credit monitoring service, when you can get the same protection for $0.

So if you’re looking to get your credit score back on track — or even if it is on track and you want to bump it up — try using a free website called Credit Sesame.

Within two minutes, you’ll get access to your credit score, any debt-carrying accounts and a handful of personalized tips to improve your score. You’ll even be able to spot any errors holding you back (one in five reports have one).

James Cooper, of Atlanta, used Credit Sesame to raise his credit score nearly 300 points in six months.*** “They showed me the ins and outs — how to dot the I’s and cross the T’s,” he said.

Want to check for yourself? It’s free and only takes about 90 seconds to sign up.

4. Your Investment Broker: Never Pay Unnecessary Fees Again

Investing in the stock market is a great tool to grow your net worth. And for a while, it seemed like it was only available to the upper class — the people who didn’t mind paying up to $50 for each trade. What’s $50 when your investment broker is making you millions?

But if you work for a living and don’t happen to have millions of dollars lying around, smartly investing in the market can sound totally out of reach.

But with an app called Stash, it doesn’t have to be. It lets you be a part of something that’s normally exclusive to the richest of the rich — on Stash you can buy pieces of other companies for as little as $1.

That’s right — you can invest in pieces of well-known companies, such as Amazon, Google, Apple and more for as little as $1. The best part? If these companies profit, so can you. Some companies even send you a check every quarter for your share of the profits, called dividends.1

It takes two minutes to sign up, and it’s totally secure. With Stash, all your investments are protected by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) — that’s industry talk for, “Your money’s safe.”2

Plus, when you use the link above, Stash will give you a $5 sign-up bonus once you deposit $5 into your account.*

5. Your Banking Account: Skip the $15 Monthly Fees

The monthly fee your bank is charging you is a huge account-drainer. Especially because some banks charge when you don’t have enough money saved. We’re the people who need that $15 the most!

If you’re just looking for a place to safely stash it away but still earn money, a fancy account isn’t necessary. Under your mattress or in a safe will get you nothing. And a typical savings account won’t do you much better. (Ahem, 0.06% is nothing these days.)

But a debit card called Aspiration lets you earn up to 5% cash back and up to 16 times the average interest on the money in your account.

Not too shabby!

Enter your email address here to get a free Aspiration Spend and Save account. After you confirm your email, securely link your bank account so they can start helping you get extra cash.

Your money is FDIC insured and they use a military-grade encryption which is nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. 

***Like Cooper, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.

Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.

1Not all stocks pay out dividends, and there is no guarantee that dividends will be paid each year.

2To note, SIPC coverage does not insure against the potential loss of market value.

For Securities priced over $1,000, purchase of fractional shares starts at $0.05.

*Offer is subject to Promotion Terms and Conditions. To be eligible to participate in this Promotion and receive the bonus, you must successfully open an individual brokerage account in good standing, link a funding account to your Invest account AND deposit $5.00 into your Invest account.

The Penny Hoarder is a Paid Affiliate/partner of Stash. 

Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser. This material has been distributed for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended as investment, legal, accounting, or tax advice. Investing involves risk. 

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Where Americans Are Most and Least Financially Literate – 2021 Edition

Where Americans Are Most and Least Financially Literate – 2021 Edition – SmartAsset

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Individuals with higher levels of financial literacy tend to adhere to better financial practices – such as having an emergency fund and planning for retirement – and are also more likely to build wealth further by investing in the stock market. Many Americans, however, lack financial knowledge and do not follow financial best practices. Less than 50% of American adults have set aside three months’ worth of emergency funds, only 41% have tried to figure out retirement savings needs and just 32% have investments apart from retirement accounts.

In light of Financial Literacy Month this April, SmartAsset took a closer look at financial literacy in the U.S. In this study, we discuss the growing number of states with financial education standards along with how adults fare when asked a series of economics and personal finance quiz questions. Using data from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Foundation, the Council for Economic Education and Experian, we then identify the states where residents are most and least financially literate. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our findings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • A mismatch exists between perceived and tested financial literacy. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Foundation said in a recent national financial capability survey that roughly 71% of American adults believe they have a high level of financial literacy. However, when tested on personal finance topics, respondents struggle. On average, adults surveyed were able to answer only half of the literacy questions correctly.
  • Midwestern states perform well while Southern states fall behind. More than half of the 10 most financially literate states are in the Midwest: North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas and Wisconsin. All of them rank in the top 10 states for our financial knowledge & education index. At the other end of the study, Southern states rank in the bottom 10: West Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, Tennessee and Delaware. All of these except Tennessee rank in the bottom 20 states on our financial knowledge & education index.

Financial Education and Literacy in the U.S.

The number of states requiring that personal finance be included in their standards has grown substantially over the past two decades. According to data from the Council for Economic Education, only 21 states included personal finances in their K-12 standards in 1998, relative to 45 states in 2020. Notably, only some states additionally require that these standards be implemented by individual districts within the state. In 1998, 14 states required that personal finance K-12 standards be implemented, compared to 37 states in 2020.

Though the prevalence of financial education in the U.S. is growing, many adults struggle when asked to respond to questions covering fundamental concepts of economics and personal finance. The FINRA Foundation’s National Financial Capability Study asks respondents a series of six quiz questions, shown below. Multiple choice answers are shown below the questions. Correct answers are listed at the end of the study in the Data and Methodology section.

  • Mortgage Question: A 15-year mortgage typically requires higher monthly payments than a 30-year mortgage, but the total interest paid over the life of the loan will be less.
    a) True
    b) False
  • Interest Rate Question: Suppose you had $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2% per year. After 5 years, how much do you think you would have in the account if you left the money to grow?
    a) More than $102
    b) Exactly $102
    c) Less than $102
  • Inflation Question: Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account was 1% per year and inflation was 2% per year. After 1 year, how much would you be able to buy with the money in this account?
    a) More than today
    b) Exactly the same
    c) Less than today
  • Risk Question: Buying a single company’s stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund.
    a) True
    b) False
  • Compound Interest in Debt Question: Suppose you owe $1,000 on a loan and the interest rate you are charged is 20% per year compounded annually. If you didn’t pay anything off, at this interest rate, how many years would it take for the amount you owe to double?
    a) Less than two years
    b) At least two years but less than five years
    c) At least five years but less than 10 years
    d) At least 10 years
  • Bond Price Question: If interest rates rise, what will typically happen to bond prices?
    a) They will rise
    b) They will fall
    c) They will stay the same
    d) There is no relationship between bond prices and the interest rate

On average, adults surveyed were able to answer only half (i.e. 3.0) of the above questions correctly. In fact, only 7% of adults were able to correctly answer all six questions. About 34% and 40% of surveyed adults were able to answer five and four questions, respectively. The compound interest in debt and bond price questions were the most difficult for respondents. Less than one in three respondents were able to correctly answer either question. Meanwhile, more than 70% of adults correctly answered both the mortgage and interest rate questions.

Notably, there are distinct differences in performance on the financial literacy quiz questions across different demographics according to education, income and race. The average number of correct quiz questions among individuals earning $75,000 or more and college graduates is 3.6 and 3.8, respectively. In contrast, individuals earning less than $25,000 and those with a high school education or less answered an average 2.2 and 2.3 questions correctly. The chart below breaks out survey respondents by race, showing the average number of correct answers for each group.

States Where Residents Are Most Financially Literate

North Dakota ranks as the state where residents are most financially literate, taking the top spot on our financial knowledge & education index and the third spot on our financial practices index. According to the Council for Economic Education, the state of North Dakota requires that personal finance coursework be integrated into another course in the K-12 curriculum. In 2018, residents correctly answered about 55% of the National Financial Capability quiz questions discussed previously – almost five percentage points higher than the national average.

Minnesota and New Hampshire follow closely behind North Dakota. Minnesota is the top-ranking state on our financial practices index and ranks fifth on our financial knowledge and education index. Minnesota residents have the highest average credit score (739) of any state and the eighth-highest percentage of adults who report paying their credit card bill in full monthly (58.04%).

Six of the remaining seven states where residents are most financially literate are located in the Midwest and West. They include Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas and Wisconsin in the Midwest, plus Utah and Colorado in the West. All of these states require that personal finance be included in K-12 standards and survey adults rank within the top 12 of the study on FINRA’s financial literacy six-question quiz.

States Where Residents Are Least Financially Literate

West Virginia ranks as the state where residents are least financially literate, with the lowest financial knowledge & education index and third-lowest financial practices index. West Virginia ranks in the bottom five states for three of the seven individual metrics we considered: percentage of adults that believe they have a high level of financial knowledge (67.37%), average percentage of personal finance quiz questions answered correctly (46.79%) and percentage of adults with a three-month emergency fund (42.53%).

Like in West Virginia, Nevada residents fall particularly far behind on our financial knowledge and education index. Though the state includes personal finance in its K-12 standards, only about two in three adults believe they have a high level of financial knowledge, the ninth-lowest of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Additionally, the average percentage of correctly answered economics and personal finance quiz questions for Nevada is 49.14%, ranking within the bottom 15 of the study.

Across the eight other states where residents are least financially literate, three are not in the South: Indiana, Alaska and Pennsylvania. Of those three, Indiana ranks lowest for both the financial knowledge and education category as well as the financial practices category. Across the seven metrics, Indiana ranks in the bottom five states for its percentage of adults with a three-month emergency fund (44.05%) and percentage of adults paying their credit card bill in full monthly (49.82%).

Data and Methodology

To find the states where Americans are most and least financially literate, we examined data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia across two categories that include seven individual metrics:

  • Financial knowledge and education. For our financial knowledge and education index, we analyzed the state’s financial education score, percentage of adults that believe they have a high level of financial knowledge and percentage of correctly answered personal finance quiz questions. The state’s financial education score comes from the Council for Economic Education. Data for the other two metrics comes from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Foundation’s 2018 National Financial Capability Study.
  • Financial practices. For our financial practices index, we analyzed average credit score, percentage of adults with a three-month emergency fund, percentage of adults paying their credit card bill in full monthly and percentage of adults regularly contributing to an IRA or 401(k). Average credit score figures come from Experian. Data for the other three metrics comes from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Foundation’s 2018 National Financial Capability Study.

We created our final rankings by first ranking each state for each individual metric. Then we averaged the rankings across the two categories listed above. For each category, the state with the highest average ranking got a score of 100. The state with the lowest average got a score of 0. Finally, we created our final ranking by finding each state’s average score across the two categories.

The answers to the FINRA Foundation NFCS quiz questions are as follows:

  • Mortgage Question – a) True
  • Interest Rate Question – a) More than $102
  • Inflation Question – c) Less than today
  • Risk Question – b) False
  • Compound Interest in Debt Question – b) At least two years but less than five years
  • Bond Price Question – b) They will fall

Tips for Improving Your Finances

  • Take advantage of compound interest. One of the most important things to note about saving is that it helps to start early. Waiting to invest can potentially decrease your total return on a potential investment. Compound interest is interest that’s generated from existing earnings. In other words, when you put money into a savings account earlier, the interest compounds. As a result, you earn interest on the money you initially invested as well as the interest that money has already made. To see how this works, take a look at our investment calculator.
  • Some kind of retirement account is better than none. If a 401(k) is not available through your job, consider an IRA. 401(k)s are often valued more than IRAs since there is a possibility that your employer will match your contributions to the plan up to a certain percentage of your salary. This means that if you choose not to contribute, you are essentially leaving money on the table. However, if your employer does not offer a 401(k) plan, an IRA is another great option. In 2020, the IRA contribution limit is $6,000 for people under 50 and $7,000 for people age 50 and older.
  • Consider working with a financial advisor. Investing and planning for retirement are complicated and difficult tasks. A financial advisor could help you manage your money smartly. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that may be able to help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Questions about our study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Damir Khabirov

Stephanie Horan, CEPF® Stephanie Horan is a data journalist at SmartAsset. A Certified Educator of Personal Finance (CEPF®), she sources and analyzes data to write studies relating to a variety of topics including mortgage, retirement and budgeting. Before coming to SmartAsset, she worked as an analyst at an asset management firm. Stephanie graduated from Williams College with a degree in Mathematics. Originally from Philadelphia, she has always been a Yankees fan and currently lives in New York.
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Fastest-Growing and Fastest-Disappearing Jobs in Each State – 2021 Edition

Fastest-Growing and Fastest-Disappearing Jobs in Each State – 2021 Edition – SmartAsset

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It’s no secret that the U.S. unemployment rate peaked at 14.7% in April 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak — up from a pre-pandemic rate of just 3.5% in February 2020. As the job market continues to rebound with the vaccine rollout and the recent wave of federal aid, which could help many Americans prepare for financial emergencies and boost their savings, Americans looking to be strategic about their job searches would do well to examine employment trends over the last few years to see where the most robust opportunities may exist. Given that some sectors have seen more expansion while others shrank — with varied changes depending on location — SmartAsset took a closer look at the fastest-growing jobs and the fastest-disappearing jobs in each state.

This is the fifth version of SmartAsset’s study of the fastest-growing jobs in each state. Check out the 2020 version here.

To do this, we looked at information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for 2016 and 2020 for all 50 states. It should be noted that the 2020 data only partially accounts for the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as responses were collected from November 2019 to May 2020. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our analysis, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • Education jobs are both increasing and disappearing, depending on location, but growth is more robust than decline. Jobs that fall within the broader category of education, training and library occupations comprise many of the fastest-growing and the fastest-disappearing jobs across the 50 states. These jobs are the fastest-disappearing job type in eight states and the fastest-growing job type in seven states. In the states where these are the fastest-disappearing jobs, they saw an average decline of 71.57% (with the steepest decrease at 82.61% for secondary school career/technical education teachers in Montana). In states where these are the fastest-growing jobs, they saw an average increase of 276.75% (with a high of 466.67% for postsecondary agricultural sciences teachers in Illinois).
  • Jobs are growing almost 4.5 times faster than they are shrinking. The average increase for the growing jobs in this study is 333.00%, while the average rate of shrinkage was only 74.89%.

The Fastest-Growing Jobs in Each State

Education is the leading industry for growing occupations nationwide (even though it is an industry that has seen steep decline in particular states). All told, seven states in this study have occupations in education at the top of their list. As an example, postsecondary nursing instructors make up the fastest-growing occupation in Alaska. In Nebraska, foreign language and literature teachers have grown faster than any other occupation, and in Oklahoma, archivists have outgrown all other jobs.

There are two different job types that are the fastest-growing occupations in multiple states. Bailiffs are the fastest-growing job in both Kansas and Maryland, while psychiatric technicians are the fastest-growing occupation in Nevada and New Jersey (as well as the District of Columbia).

The state with the top fastest-growing occupation is California, where the number of hoist and winch operators (who use these machines to lift and pull loads using power-operated cable equipment) has grown by more than 1,487%.

The Fastest-Disappearing Jobs in Each State

Office and administrative support occupations are the fastest-shrinking jobs in 10 different states. Some of the specific occupations that are shrinking include:

  • Meter readers for utilities in California
  • Word processors and typists in Delaware
  • Correspondence clerks in Florida
  • Proofreaders and copy markers in Washington
  • File clerks in New Hampshire

There are five other occupations which are the fastest-shrinking jobs in more than one state:

  • Photographic process workers and processing machine operators in Alabama, Ohio and Pennsylvania
  • Word processors and typists in Delaware, Missouri and Mississippi
  • Career/technical education teachers in Arizona and Montana
  • Bailiffs in Colorado and Utah
  • Library technicians in Vermont and Rhode Island

In Idaho, the number of demonstrators and product promoters has shrunk by more than 88%, the biggest drop in this study.

Data and Methodology

To find the fastest-growing and fastest-disappearing occupations for each state and the District of Columbia, we looked at employment data from 2016 and compared it to 2020. The 2020 data only accounts for the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in part as responses were collected from November 2019 to May 2020. We filtered out any occupation for which the standard error for the estimated number of people employed in the occupation was greater than 20. We also filtered out any occupation with “other” in the title. To rank the occupations, we considered the percentage change in people employed in each occupation during this period.

All data, including earnings data, comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupation Employment Statistics.

Financial Planning Tips for Workers 

  • Need advice for a career change? If you are thinking about changing jobs, a financial advisor can help you manage multiple retirement accounts from different employers and create a financial plan to keep your retirement and investing goals on track. SmartAsset’s free tool connects you with financial advisors in five minutes. If you’re ready to be connected with  advisors get started now.
  • Taxes don’t have to be taxing. A career change may end up being what is best for some people. With that, you’ll likely have a new salary. See how much of it you can expect to give to the government using SmartAsset’s free tax calculator.
  • Use your budget to prepare for hard times. A budget can be a great tool for planning for unexpected expenses. You can use the budget to set up an emergency fund you can rely on if you lose your paycheck for a period of time.

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com. 

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/ablokhin

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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Even 6-Figure Earners are Living Paycheck to Paycheck. How to Break the Cycle.

When your salary finally tips over $100,000, all your worries about living paycheck-to-paycheck should be gone, right?

Not necessarily. In fact, 16% of six-figure earners said they have difficulty covering basic expenses, such as food, rent or mortgage and car payments, according to a November 2020 survey by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

They’re living paycheck-to-paycheck.

How is that possible? Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter how much money you make if your expenses outweigh (or are equal to) your income. That’s why it’s so important to have a solid plan for your budget. Otherwise, you could end up with no savings and in debt.

No matter how much you earn, here’s how to break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

Make a Budget and Stick to It

It’s no question that the cost of living is going up at a rapid pace — not just in big, growing cities, but all around the country.

Yet slowly rising wages can’t take all the blame for our $0 balances at the end of the month. Poor budgeting — and lack of budgeting education — is holding millions of us back. So if you don’t have a budget or haven’t updated yours in a while, get one together.

If you don’t know where to start, a simple and straightforward approach is a good way to begin your budget overhaul. We like the 50/30/20 method. You map out all your expenses like this:

  • 50% of your monthly take-home goes to what you need. That includes rent, groceries, utilities, minimum debt payments, childcare, etc.
  • 30% goes to your wants — like your Netflix subscription, dinners with friends and travel costs.
  • 20% is earmarked for financial goals, like paying down debt, growing your savings and adding to your retirement fund.

If you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, that last 20% likely isn’t getting the attention it needs from your bank account. And while the “wants” can easily get out of hand, it’s your “needs” that can be the biggest culprits.

So, how do you fix that? Here are some secrets to help you regain control of your spending and put more money in your savings:

Cut Costs and Bills Where You Can

Usually, your biggest monthly expense is your rent or mortgage payment. And unless you’re living the #vanlife or have a sweet month-to-month set up, chances are finding a cheaper place to live next month is out of the question.

But there are some necessary bills you can cut down significantly, without sacrificing the services you need.

  • Car Insurance: Shop around for new car insurance every six months, and you could save some serious cash. Compare car insurance prices on a website called Insure.com and you could save an average of $489 a year. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options. 
  • Homeowners Insurance: Homeowners insurance can be a huge waste of money if you get the wrong coverage. Luckily, an insurance company called Policygenius makes it easy to find out how much you’re overpaying. It finds you cheaper policies and special discounts in minutes. Plus, it saves users an average of $690 a year.

Eliminate Credit-Card-Debt Payments

If you have credit card debt that you’re just paying the minimum on, chances are you’re paying a ton in interest. And why would your credit card company care? They’re getting rich by ripping you off with those high interest rates — some up to 36%.

Credit card payments alone could keep you in the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle for years. That means it’s time to get rid of those payments for good. A website called AmOne wants to help.

If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but don’t worry — they won’t spam you with phone calls.

Create a Separate Account for Savings

Once you’ve cut down your monthly costs, make sure you’re prioritizing your savings. Whether that’s contributing to your retirement plan, investing in the stock market or building up an emergency fund — you did it! Congrats on breaking the cycle and cleaning up your spending habits.

But speaking of emergency funds, many Americans don’t even have $400 saved in case their car breaks down or their kid ends up in the ER.

Where should you start saving for one? A typical savings account won’t earn you much interest.

That’s why we like a free account from Aspiration. Its Spend and Save account could earn you up to 16 times the national average interest on your money, plus up to 5% cash back, if you use Aspiration’s debit card. It’ll help grow your emergency savings fund that much faster.

Enter your email address here to get a free Aspiration Spend and Save account. After you confirm your email, securely link your bank account so they can start helping you get extra cash. Your money is FDIC insured and they use a military-grade encryption which is nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

Follow these secrets, and you’ll be well on your way to breaking the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. 

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Weddings Are Back. Here’s How You Can Afford To Attend Them All.

You love your friends and are so happy they’ve found The One.

But there’s no shame in feeling a little relieved they all postponed their 2020 nuptials — it meant you weren’t shelling out hundreds or even thousands of dollars on flights, hotels, fancy dresses, tux rentals and gifts.

More time for you to save and focus on your own debts!

But now that the vaccine rollout is underway and cases are down in many parts of the country, more Save the New Date cards are showing up on your refrigerator door. And while many of us are chomping at the bit to go celebrate with friends and family, there’s still the same issue there was before Covid showed up:

Going to weddings is expensive.

So how do we manage to party after the crazy financial year we just had? Here’s how to save on registry gifts and earn extra money to afford the cash bars:

1. Don’t Overpay for Wedding Gifts Online

Wouldn’t it be nice if you got an alert when you’re shopping online and are about to overpay for a pasta maker on your best friend’s wedding registry?

That’s exactly what this free service does.

Just add it to your browser for free, and before you check out, it’ll check other websites, including Walmart, eBay and others to see if your item is available for cheaper. Plus, you can get coupon codes, set up price-drop alerts and even see the item’s price history.

Let’s say you’re shopping for a new TV, and you assume you’ve found the best price. Here’s when you’ll get a pop up letting you know if that exact TV is available elsewhere for cheaper. If there are any available coupon codes, they’ll also automatically be applied to your order.

In the last year, this has saved people $160 million.

You can get started in just a few clicks to see if you’re overpaying online.

Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the extension using the links provided.

2. Open an Account With This Company and Earn 16x More — Plus $100

How’s an extra $100 sound toward a flight or hotel? For free? Seriously. We found a company that will give you $100 just for opening a new debit card. It’s called Aspiration.

Sure, a lot of debit cards offer sign-up bonuses throughout the year, but they often require you to jump through hoops with minimum requirements that feel impossible to hit.

But Aspiration makes it simple. To earn your $100, here’s all you need to do: Open your Aspiration account and deposit at least $10. Then set up and receive three direct deposits of at least $500 each from your paycheck or government benefits. That’s it! Then just wait for your check.

Even better? Your debit card gets you up to 10% cash back on your purchases and earns you 16x the average interest on the money in your account.

Enter your email address here, and link your bank account. And don’t worry. Your money is FDIC insured and under a military-grade encryption. That’s nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

3. Get a Free $225 in Cash Just for Watching Videos

If we told you you could get free money just for watching videos on your computer, you’d probably laugh.It’s too good to be true, right? But we’re serious. It could get you that much closer to affording another bridesmaid dress.

A website called InboxDollars will pay you to watch short video clips online. One minute you might watch someone bake brownies and the next you might get the latest updates on Kardashian drama.

All you have to do is choose which videos you want to watch and answer a few quick questions about them afterward. Brands pay InboxDollars to get these videos in front of viewers, and it passes a cut onto you.

InboxDollars won’t make you rich, but it’s possible to get up to $225 per month watching these videos. It’s already paid its users more than $56 million.

It takes about one minute to sign up, and you’ll immediately earn a $5 bonus to get you started.

4. Get Paid Every Time You Buy Toilet Paper

Grocery shopping was never exactly pleasant. But these days, it’s a downright struggle. Fighting crowds; keeping six feet of space — just buying toilet paper is a feat. Shouldn’t you have something to show for it?

A free app called Fetch Rewards will reward you with gift cards just for buying toilet paper and more than 250 other items at the grocery store.

Here’s how it works: After you’ve downloaded the app, just take a picture of your receipt showing you purchased an item from one of the brands listed in Fetch. For your efforts, you’ll earn gift cards to places like Amazon or Walmart.

You can download the free Fetch Rewards app here to start getting free gift cards. Over a million people already have, so they must be onto something…

5. Let This App Pay You up to $83 When You Win Solitaire Games

Lots of us already play Solitaire on our phones for fun or just to pass the time. Want to see if you can win money at it? You’ll have plenty of time between the rehearsal dinner and cocktail hour to rack up a few wins.

There’s a free iPhone app called Solitaire Cash that lets you play for real money. You could get paid up to $83 per win.

You might be thinking: There’s got to be a catch. This is definitely one of those spammy apps, right?

Wrong. There really isn’t a catch. Sure, you can pay to play in some higher-stakes tournaments, but there’s no pressure. And, in fact, there aren’t even any annoying ads.

With each game, you’ll battle it out against at least five other players. Everyone gets the same deck, so winning is totally a matter of skill. The top three players who solve the deck fastest can win real money — anywhere from $1 to $83.

Over on the App Store, it has over a million downloads and more than 15,000 ratings, averaging 4.7 stars (out of 5).

To get started, just download the free app and start playing your first game immediately.

6. Knock $489/Year From Your Car Insurance in Minutes

When’s the last time you checked car insurance prices?

You should shop your options every six months or so — it could save you some serious money. Money you could use to afford your cousin’s destination wedding in Tulum.

Let’s be real, though. It’s probably not the first thing you think about when you wake up. But it doesn’t have to be.

A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.

Using Insure.com, people have saved an average of $489 a year.

Yup. That could be $500 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.

Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s earning extra cash so she can go to a wedding in wine country, another one in the mountains, celebrate with friends in Texas and round it out with a beach shindig before 2021 ends.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

What’s Your Next Splurge? 5 Tips for Saving Up for It Faster

What’s your next big purchase? What’s that one thing you really want?

Is it a new phone? A new car? A used car? A fancy dress? Expensive shoes? A laptop?

Or, wait, let us guess: You’re planning a big trip, aren’t you? After a year of COVID, you’re thinking about your next big vacation.

Whatever your next major splurge is, you ought to start saving for it now. The more proactive you are about saving up for it, the sooner you’ll get what you want.

Here are five tips for getting there faster:

1. See if You Can Get More Money From This Company

Here’s the deal: If you’re not using Aspiration’s debit card, you’re missing out on extra cash. And you’re going to need extra cash for your splurge.

Try a debit card called Aspiration, which gives you up to 5% back every time you swipe.

Need to buy groceries? Extra cash.

Need to fill up the tank? Bam. Even more extra cash.

You were going to buy these things anyway — why not get this extra money in the process?

Enter your email address here, and link your bank account to see how much extra cash you can get with your free Aspiration account. And don’t worry. Your money is FDIC insured and under a military-grade encryption. That’s nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

2. Add $225 to Your Wallet Just for Watching the News

Every little bit helps. Here’s a way to make a little extra money:

It’s been a historic time for news, and we’re all constantly refreshing for the latest updates. You probably know more than one news-junkie who fancies themselves an expert in respiratory illness or a political mastermind.

And research companies want to pay you to keep watching. You could add up to $225 a month to your pocket by signing up for a free account with InboxDollars. They’ll present you with short news clips to choose from every day, then ask you a few questions about them.

You just have to answer honestly, and InboxDollars will continue to pay you every month. This might sound too good to be true, but it’s already paid its users more than $56 million.

It takes about one minute to sign up, and start getting paid to watch the news.

3. Get Paid Every Time You Buy Groceries

Here’s another example of how every little bit helps get you closer to your goal.

A free app called Fetch Rewards will reward you with gift cards just for buying toilet paper and more than 250 other items at the grocery store.

Here’s how it works: After you’ve downloaded the app, just take a picture of your receipt showing you purchased an item from one of the brands listed in Fetch. For your efforts, you’ll earn gift cards to places like Amazon or Walmart.

You can download the free Fetch Rewards app here to start getting free gift cards. Over a million people already have, so they must be onto something.

4. Stop Paying Your Credit Card Company

Credit card debt is the most expensive kind of debt, and your credit card company is just getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates. But a website called AmOne can help you fight back.

If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but don’t worry — they won’t spam you with phone calls.

5. Find Out If You’re Overpaying

Wouldn’t it be nice if you got an alert when you’re shopping online at Target and are about to overpay?

That’s exactly what this free service does.

Just add it to your browser for free, and before you check out, it’ll check other websites, including Walmart, eBay and others to see if your item is available for cheaper. Plus, you can get coupon codes, set up price-drop alerts and even see the item’s price history.

Let’s say you’re shopping for a new TV, and you assume you’ve found the best price. Here’s when you’ll get a pop up letting you know if that exact TV is available elsewhere for cheaper. If there are any available coupon codes, they’ll also automatically be applied to your order.

In the last year, this has saved people $160 million.

You can get started in just a few clicks to see if you’re overpaying online.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. You better believe he’s thinking about his next big purchase. 

*Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the extension using the links provided.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

This Cash-Back Credit Card Matches Your Earnings at the End of Your First Year

Finding a rewards credit card that maximizes your cash-back earnings can be difficult.

There are a ton of options available. Heck, your mailbox is probably full of those “You’ve been pre-qualified!” flyers. But your goal is simple: Pocket as much cash back as possible.

That’s why we like the Discover it® Cash Back card.

Throughout the year, you’ll earn 5% cash back on your purchases from different places each quarter (up to $1,500 per quarter) when you sign up. All other purchases earn 1% cash back. Plus, at the end of your first 12 months as a new cardholder, the Discover it® Cash Back card will match your cash back. That means you’ve just doubled your money.

Earn 5% Cash Back — and Get it Matched at the End of the Year

After you sign up, each quarter, the Discover it® Cash Back card will reward you with 5% cash back on your purchases from various retailers. Here’s the quarter-by-quarter category breakdown for 2021:

  • January to March: Grocery stores, Walgreens and CVS (excludes Target and Walmart)
  • April to June: Gas stations, wholesale clubs and select streaming services
  • July to September: Restaurants and PayPal
  • October to December: Amazon, Walmart (online) and Target (online)

Anything you charge to your card during those months that doesn’t fall into those categories will still get you unlimited 1% cash back. Note: In the 5% cash-back categories, you’ll get 5% cash-back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter. In-category purchases over $1,500 will earn 1% cash-back.

And here’s the best part: At the end of your first 12 billing cycles, the Discover it® Cash Back card will double your cash back. So say you earned $150 in cash back. That means you just automatically got $300. That’s some solid passive income.

If you don’t want cash back, you can also redeem your rewards for gift cards and charity donations.

Curious to see how much cash back you can earn (and get matched) with the Discover it® Cash Back card? It takes minutes to apply online.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How COVID-19 Has Impacted Long-Term Job Growth – 2021 Study

How COVID-19 Has Impacted Long-Term Job Growth – 2021 Study – SmartAsset

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While many economists believe that the U.S. economy will return to pre-pandemic levels by late 2021, they are less confident that the job market will bounce back as quickly. According to February data from the National Association of Business Economics, 82% of economic forecasters surveyed expect real GDP to return to pre-COVID-19 recession levels sometime in 2021. By contrast, only 59% of respondents anticipate the total number of workers (excluding farm workers) will return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023 or later. As Americans scramble to boost their savings and map out their job prospects during the pandemic, SmartAsset analyzed data from 720 occupations to project the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the job market.

In this study, we use data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to examine the coronavirus pandemic’s long-term impact on specific occupations. The BLS annually publishes 10-year growth projections for all industries and jobs in the U.S. After publishing 2019-2029 projections in the fall of 2020 that did not capture the effects of the pandemic, the BLS issued alternate scenarios that model how jobs might be impacted if COVID-19 continues to have either a moderate impact on the economy, or a strong one. We compare pre-pandemic and strong pandemic impact projections to determine the jobs that could be affected most positively or negatively by COVID-19. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our findings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • Almost three million less jobs. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the BLS projected that six million jobs would be added to the U.S. economy from 2019 to 2029. In their revised strong pandemic impact scenario, less than 3.1 million jobs will be added over that time. With a total of about 163 million workers in 2019, the strong pandemic impact scenario represents an almost two percentage point drop in the preliminary 10-year employment growth projection, from 3.7% to 1.9%.
  • About four in five jobs may experience lower 10-year job growth due to COVID-19. Of the total 720 occupations we considered, strong pandemic impact projections are lower than pre-pandemic estimates for 560 of them, or about 78%. BLS data shows there is no difference between pre-pandemic and strong pandemic impact projections for 50 jobs (6.94%) and that 110 jobs (15.28%) may see increased growth than previously expected.
  • Restaurant, lounge, coffee shop and bar jobs face the most uncertainty. The BLS’ moderate impact scenario assumes that increased remote work is the primary change in the U.S. economy. However, its strong impact scenario accounts for more widespread and permanent changes to consumer and business behavior, whereby both consumers and businesses continue to limit human interaction. As a result, many of the occupations with the largest negative differences between pre-pandemic and strong pandemic impact projections are concentrated in service industries. The three jobs with the largest decreases in expected job growth are restaurant, lounge & coffee shop hosts and hostesses (8.2% to -18.0%); bartenders (5.9% to -13.8%) and waiters and waitresses (3.7% to -12.9%).

Jobs Most Likely to Be Positively Affected

Two occupations that focus on the research of diseases – epidemiologists and medical scientists – rank as the jobs most likely to be positively affected. Prior to COVID-19, the BLS predicted that over the next 10 years the occupations of epidemiologists and medical scientists would grow by 4.6% and 6.1%, respectively. But now the BLS predicts that they will grow by 31.0% and 28.9%, respectively, in the moderate pandemic impact scenario and by 31.2% and 30.7%, respectively, in the strong pandemic impact scenario.

Three other life, physical & social science occupations rank in the top 10 jobs most likely to be positively affected, reflecting the likelihood that more lab research will continue over the next decade. They are biochemists & biophysicists, microbiologists and biological technicians. Projections for all three jobs were more than four percentage points higher in the moderate pandemic impact scenario and more than five percentage points higher in the strong pandemic impact scenario than pre-pandemic projections.

The expansion of remote work will drive demand for information technology (IT) and computer-related occupations, particularly ones involved in IT security, as noted by the BLS. With the change in demand, the remaining five occupations in our top 10 are all computer & mathematical occupations:

  • Information security analysts
  • Web developers and digital interface designers
  • Network and computer systems administrators
  • Computer network architects
  • Database administrators and architects

Information security analysts handle IT for a variety of business and financial companies. Computer network architects design and build communication networks, while network and computer systems administrators are responsible for the day-to-day operation of computer networks.

Jobs Most Likely to Be Negatively Affected

Job growth estimates dropped more than 10 percentage points for 12 jobs. Beyond the three service industry occupations listed above – restaurant, lounge & coffee shop hosts and hostesses; bartenders as well as waiters and waitresses – other jobs affected this drastically include receptionists, flight attendants and cashiers. Across all 12 jobs, flight attendants and restaurant cooks are the only two with expected positive job growth in the strong pandemic impact projections, despite the growth rate being lower than initially projected. Prior to COVID-19, the BLS predicted that over the next 10 years the occupations of flight attendants and restaurant cooks would grow by 17.3% and 23.1%, respectively. The BLS predicts that they will grow by 9.2% and 13.9%, respectively, in the moderate pandemic impact scenario and by 3.7% and 10.9%, respectively, in the strong pandemic impact scenario.

Notably, there are large differences between the moderate and strong pandemic impact scenarios for many of the jobs likely to be negatively affected. For example, in the strong pandemic impact scenario, the number of bartenders may decline by almost 14% from 2019 to 2029. By contrast, BLS projections show that the number of bartenders may only decline by 2.1% over the next 10 years in the moderate pandemic impact scenario. The table below shows the top 20 jobs most likely to be negatively affected by the continuation of COVID-19 and its economic effects.

Data and Methodology

Data for this report comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) employment projections. We considered initial 2019-2029 projections that do not account for COVID-19 along with two alternate scenarios: a moderate impact scenario and a strong impact scenario. The alternate scenarios identify occupations whose employment trajectories are subject to higher levels of uncertainty. The BLS does not intend them to be precise estimates of employment change over the projection period.

To rank the jobs most likely to be positively and negatively affected by COVID-19, we compared pre-COVID-19 pandemic and strong pandemic impact scenario projections for a total of 720 occupations. We calculated the percentage point difference between those two projections. A positive difference indicates that strong pandemic impact projections are higher than pre-COVID-19 pandemic projections and that those jobs are more likely to be positively affected. A negative difference indicates that strong pandemic impact projections are lower than pre-COVID-19 pandemic projections and that those jobs are more likely to be negatively affected. Though we did not use the moderate impact scenario numbers in ranking occupations, we used them qualitatively to evaluate less severe lasting effects of the pandemic on certain jobs.

Tips for Improving Your Savings in Preparation for a Financial Downturn

  • If possible, keep your budget top of mind. One of the best ways to save more, and bolster your emergency savings if you can, is through budgeting. Our budget calculator can help with this. Beyond looking at how much you spend each month and what six months of expenses would look like, you can see how cutting back on discretionary expenses can increase your savings rate.
  • Consider professional help. A financial advisor can help you make smarter financial decisions to be in better control of your money and navigate the current market. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with advisors, get started now.

Questions about our study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Blue Planet Studio

Stephanie Horan, CEPF® Stephanie Horan is a data journalist at SmartAsset. A Certified Educator of Personal Finance (CEPF®), she sources and analyzes data to write studies relating to a variety of topics including mortgage, retirement and budgeting. Before coming to SmartAsset, she worked as an analyst at an asset management firm. Stephanie graduated from Williams College with a degree in Mathematics. Originally from Philadelphia, she has always been a Yankees fan and currently lives in New York.
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Source: smartasset.com

How the Discover it® Cash Back Card Could Earn You a Free Month of Groceries

Grocery bills are eye-popping these days, and there’s no way around it. You have to buy food, right? And every time you go to the supermarket, you pay dearly when you swipe your card at checkout.

What if you could get a month’s worth of groceries — for free?

If you use the Discover it® Cash Back card for your purchases, throughout the year, you’ll earn 5% cash back on your purchases from different places each quarter (up to $1,500 per quarter) when you sign up. All other purchases earn 1% cash back. Plus, at the end of your first 12 months as a new cardholder, the Discover it® Cash Back card will match your cash back. That means you’ve just doubled your money.

Plus, there’s no annual fee.

If you earned $150 cash back in a year — after your match, you’d have $300. That could buy one person’s groceries for a month!

Earn 5% Cash Back, Then Double Your Money

After you sign up, each quarter, the Discover it® Cash Back card will reward you with 5% cash back on your purchases from various retailers. Here’s the quarter-by-quarter category breakdown for 2021:

  • January to March: Grocery stores, Walgreens and CVS (excludes Target and Walmart)
  • April to June: Gas stations, wholesale clubs and select streaming services
  • July to September: Restaurants and PayPal
  • October to December: Amazon, Walmart (online) and Target (online)

Anything you charge to your card during those months that doesn’t fall into those categories will still get you unlimited 1% cash back. Note: In the 5% cash-back categories, you’ll get 5% cash-back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter. In-category purchases over $1,500 will earn 1% cash-back.

And here’s the best part: At the end of your first 12 billing cycles, the Discover it® Cash Back card will double your cash back. So say you earned $150 in cash back. That means you just automatically got $300. That’s some solid passive income.

Plus, the Discover it® Cash Back card is nice because it doesn’t have an annual fee. That means all these rewards are legitimately free.

Curious to see how much cash back you can earn (and get matched) with the Discover it® Cash Back card? It takes minutes to apply online.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Most Livable Small Cities in the U.S. – 2021 Edition

Most Livable Small Cities – 2021 Edition – SmartAsset

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Almost one in two Americans (48%, to be exact) prefer to live in a town or rural area, according to a 2020 Gallup survey – up from 39% in 2018. And while 27% still say that they want to live in a city, almost two-thirds of that group (16%) prefer a small city to a big one. The coronavirus crisis has also made places with low population densities more appealing, and small cities can offer the energy and creativity of urban life while boosting your savings in an affordable community. SmartAsset compared almost 300 cities with populations between 65,000 and 100,000 to identify and rank the most livable small cities in our 2021 study. 

We analyzed data from 291 cities across the following metrics: concentration of entertainment establishments, restaurants, bars and healthcare establishments, Gini coefficient (a measure of income inequality), home affordability, housing costs as a percentage of median income, percentage of residents below the poverty line, unemployment rate percentage of residents without health insurance and average commute time. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

This is SmartAsset’s fourth study on the most livable small cities. Read the 2020 study here.

Key Findings

  • Midwest ranks at the top. Eight out of the top 10 cities in this study are located in Midwestern states, with two in Missouri, two in Wisconsin, two in Indiana and two in Iowa. All eight of these cities rank within the top 70 (out of a total 291) for strong home affordability and within the top 60 of all cities for their low Dec. 2020 unemployment rate. The other two spots in the top 10 are claimed by cities in New York and Texas.
  • Unemployment tracks nationally. In December 2020, the national unemployment rate was 6.7%. That’s the exact same as the average unemployment rate in the small cities we analyzed for this survey, so living in a small city doesn’t appear to be a major factor when it comes to the availability of work. The lowest unemployment rate we found was 2.1% in Ames, Iowa.

1. O’Fallon, MO

Just over 30 miles away from St. Louis, O’Fallon, Missouri leads our study as the most livable small city in America. The city ranks 11th for low income inequality, with a Gini coefficient of 0.36. In addition, it ranks 30th for its relatively low proportion of residents living below the poverty line, at 4.0%. Median housing costs equal just 16.93% of median household income in O’Fallon, ranking 19th for that metric in the study overall.

2. Oshkosh, WI

Oshkosh, Wisconsin is located 75 miles from Milwaukee and ranks 15th in our study for home affordability with a 2.39 ratio of home value to household income. County-level data shows that Winnebago County, where Oshkosh is located, has the highest concentration in the study of bars compared to all establishments (2.63%) and ranks 20th for entertainment establishments compared to all establishments (2.46%).

3. Sioux City, IA

Sioux City, Iowa ranks 11th for home affordability with a 2.25 ratio of home value to household income. This city also has the 14th-lowest unemployment rate in our study, at 3.4% in December 2020. According to county-level data, it also has the 11th-highest concentration of bars (1.29%).

4. Flower Mound, TX

Only 1.9% of Flower Mound residents live beneath the poverty line, the third-lowest rate for this metric in our study. The county in which this Texan city is located has the 14th-highest concentration of restaurants, 9.07% of all establishments. Median housing costs equal 17.43% of median household income in Flower Mound, the 21st-lowest ranking for this metric.

5. Eau Claire, WI

Eau Claire, Wisconsin has the third-highest concentration of bars in our study, at 1.89% of all establishments at the county level, and the third-fastest commuting time with an average length of 15.1 minutes. Eau Claire also ranks 22nd out of 291 for its high number of healthcare establishments, at 14.08% of all establishments.

6. Lafayette, IN

Lafayette, Indiana has the 13th-highest concentration of restaurants, at 9.13% of all establishments at the county level. This city also ranks 15th for its high concentration of healthcare facilities, at 14.30% of all establishments. But 14.6% of the residents in Lafayette live below the poverty line, ranking 200th out of all 291 cities we analyzed.

7. St. Charles, MO

Median housing costs amount to 16.33% of median household income in St. Charles, Missouri, ranking 15th in the study. St Charles has the 39th-highest concentration of healthcare establishments at the county level (13.44%) and the 55th-lowest Dec. 2020 unemployment rate (4.7%) – both top quintile rankings.

8. Ankeny, IA

Median housing costs in Ankeny, Iowa equal 15.72% of median household income, the seventh-lowest rate for this metric in the study. This city ranks 14th for its relatively high concentration of bars, making up 1.04% of all establishments, according to county-level data. But ranks 215th for its concentration of restaurants, which account for only 6.72% of all establishments at the county level.

9. Fishers, IN

Median housing costs equal 15.39% of median household income in Fishers, Indiana, ranking fifth for this metric out of all 291 cities we studied. The city had the second-lowest unemployment rate in the study, with just 2.7% in Dec. 2020. And only 2.5% of its residents live below the poverty line, 11th-lowest in this study.

10. Cheektowaga, NY

Cheektowaga, New York has a 7.6% unemployment rate for Dec. 2020 (the highest rate for this metric in the top 10). Despite this, only 3.3% of residents are uninsured (29th-lowest rate for this metric out of 291). Cheektowaga also ranks 19th for home affordability, with a 2.43 ratio of home value to household income.

Data and Methodology

To find the most livable small cities in America, SmartAsset compared 287 cities with at least 65,000 people but fewer than 100,000 across the following 10 metrics:

  • Concentration of entertainment establishments. This is the number of arts, entertainment and recreation establishments as a percentage of all establishments in a county. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 County Business Patterns Survey.
  • Concentration of bars. This is the number of bars as a percentage of all establishments in a county. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 County Business Patterns Survey.
  • Concentration of restaurants. This is the number of restaurants as a percentage of all establishments in a county. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 County Business Patterns Survey.
  • Concentration of healthcare establishments. This is the number of healthcare and social assistance establishments as a percentage of all establishments in a county. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 County Business Patterns Survey.
  • Gini coefficient. This is a statistical measurement of income inequality. A Gini coefficient of zero indicates total equality of wealth distribution, while a coefficient of one indicates total inequality of wealth distribution across groups. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Home affordability. This is the median home value divided by median household income. A lower ratio indicates that homes are more affordable and vice versa. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Housing costs as a percentage of household income. This is the median housing costs divided by median household income. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Percentage of residents below the poverty line. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Unemployment Rate. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is for December 2020. This is measured at the county level.
  • Percentage of residents without health insurance. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Average commute time. This measures a worker’s average commute time in minutes. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.

First, we ranked each city in each metric. Next, we found each city’s average ranking, with each metric receiving an equal weight. We used this average ranking to create our final scores. The city with the highest average ranking received a score of 100 and the city with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0.

It is important to note that our 2020 study on the most livable small cities in the U.S. did not include one of the metrics we used this year – the unemployment rate in each city. Due to the drastic changes in unemployment at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, we decided to exclude that metric from last year’s analysis. We added it back into the equation for this year and considered the most recently available figures from the BLS, measured at the county level.

Tips for Managing Your Finances No Matter Where You Live

  • Professional advice can help you make the right moves. Interested in moving to one of these cities? A financial advisor can help you create a financial plan to reach your goals. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with advisors that might be able to help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Forecast your mortgage costs. Buying a home is a serious proposition, and you need to make sure you are prepared. Use SmartAsset’s free mortgage calculator to see what your monthly payments could end up being.
  • Get a snapshot of your retirement timeline. For some people, work demands mean being in a big city for most of their career. In retirement, though, you may want to live a slower-paced life in a small city. Make sure you’re using a 401(k) or any other workplace retirement plan you have access to so that your retirement dreams can come true.

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com. 

Photo Credit: © iStock/DenisTangneyJr

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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Source: smartasset.com