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The Most and Least Affordable U.S. States

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Illustration of the United States of America.

Making a move is a huge financial commitment. And when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck, you should consider the best and worst states to live in for your money. There’s a lot to think about. So to help make the decision easier on you, we put together as many financial factors unique to each state that we could come up with.

Unfortunately, there’s no utopia. Take California, for instance: its median household income is $60,336, which is about $11,000 higher than the national median average, according to public data provider Department of Numbers. [1]

California laws allow workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave in a 12-month period, and the state also offers up to six weeks of partially paid leave to care for a newborn, adopted child, or seriously ill family member.

Sounds great, right? But with that comes some steep living expenses. The L.A. Times [2] reported that California is also home to some of the highest taxes in the country, and the state’s median home price is more than $600,000, according to Business Insider. [3]

When it comes to deciding where your home will be, you’re going to have to pick and choose your battles but we’re here to make things a little easier for you. Without further ado, here are the best and worst states for your money in America.

The costs of living in each state

Making a move for a job can earn you more money. But it can also drain your accounts quicker than you can replace them – especially if you make the leap without considering the costs of living.

Before you pack and head to another state, check out how much you can expect to make, and more importantly, how much it costs to live there. Take a look at our interactive map to see what it costs to live in each state. They’re ranked from least to most expensive…

Data sources: Zillow, [4] The Tax Foundation, [5] The Bureau of Economic Analysis, [6] AAA gas prices, [7] GOBankingRates, [8] and the U.S. Census Bureau. [9]

And where are the most expensive of these states? Click or swipe through this content slider to see…

States with the highest and lowest debt

Any state may offer cheap or expensive housing, but your ability to put a down payment may hinge on how much debt you have.

There are as many ways to rack up debt as there are to make money, but we’ll focus on two of the most common sources: credit card and student loan debt, which vary from state to state.

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5 states with the highest and lowest credit card debt

Forty-four percent of Americans carry credit card balances, according to the Federal Reserve and if you don’t pay them on time, the interest will pile up. [10]

Personal finance site ValuePenguin, which is run by loan marketplace LendingTree, looked at data from the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Census Bureau and ranked the 50 states from highest to lowest in terms of their average credit card debt per person. [11]

Here’s a look into what they found…



5 states with the highest and lowest student loan debt

The cost of college tuition is rising almost eight times as fast as wages, according to Forbes, [12] so it’s no wonder that student loan debt is rising with it. Here are the states with the highest and lowest average student loan debt per person, according to a report from ValuePenguin. [13]



Which state saves best in America?

In a lot of ways, Kansas is pretty middle-of-the-road. It’s literally in the middle of the country, and its median income is a little below average but one thing that stands out is its savers.

The state is proof you don’t need to make a ton of money to start building up your savings. Its median income, per household, is $53,571, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. [14]

That’s a few thousand fewer than the national average, but even with that working against them, Kansas has the lowest percentage of residents with zero dollars saved, says a poll from GOBankingRates. [15]

Kansas isn’t even the best state to keep your money in savings, based on which states’ banks are offering the highest interest rates, says GOBankingRates. [16] The best state to save your money in is Alabama, but 40 percent of their residents don’t have a dollar saved.

The middle of America grades average in financial literacy

There must be some correlation between middle-America states and landing smack dab in the middle of financial surveys.

Maybe the people living in the region just know how to get by within their means and put money away better than others. Nebraska and Iowa both tied for second, with each state having 30 percent of their residents with at least $1,000 in savings.

They even rank in the middle of best states to save your money. Iowa made No. 26 and Nebraska No. 22 in that survey.

Kansas residents may have made No. 1 on the top list of “best savers,” but they couldn’t make it to the halfway point of WalletHub’s most financially savvy list, ranking number 28 in the nation. [17] But to be fair, they did place No. 2 in financial literacy, according to the survey. And WalletHub’s definition of “financially savvy” is a little ambiguous: “what differentiates the comfortable from the truly stable,” whatever that means.

Best and worst states for retirement

You may be worrying about college debt now, but it’s never to early to start saving for retirement.

The average retirement age is 63, and about 10,000 people turn 65 on a daily basis in the U.S., while life expectancy is up to 85, according to personal finance site GOBankingRates. [18] That means you have to squirrel away enough money to last for at least 22 years.

Ever wonder why so many people spend these years in Florida? It’s not just the tropical weather and sandy beaches Uncle Sam keeps his greedy hands off their retirement benefits, too.

Florida is just one of seven states that do not tax retirement income, says a study from Wolter Kluwers Tax & Accounting, a tax software organization. [19]

The other six are…

But where you choose to retire also depends on how much you have saved for your golden years.

Some say you should save 10-12 times your current income, which is usually about $1 million-$1.5 million, according to AARP. [20]

GOBankingRates ran a study to find the states where you can stretch $1 million over retirement for the longest amount of time. [21] Based off each state’s groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, and healthcare costs, they determined where $1 million lasts the shortest and the longest. Check out this interactive map to see where you can stretch that the farthest…

Shortest $1 million spending period

Longest $1 million spending period

Unfortunately, the GOBankingRates’ study doesn’t mention how much these states tax on retirement income, or if these are the kind of states people desire to retire in but it’s worth knowing where you have the best chances to make a full retirement.

Hope Dean contributed to this report.


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