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The latest news on SmartAsset from Business Insider

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    Unless you win the lottery or inherit a sizable windfall, becoming wealthy isn’t usually something that happens overnight.

    The sooner you get started on the path to building wealth the better. If you’re in your 30s, there’s really no time like the present.

    If you can make these smart financial moves now, you can reap the rewards for years to come.

    SEE ALSO: 5 investing rules rich people swear by

    Think long-term.

    If you’re not actively investing already, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to build your wealth base. Investing isn’t a get-rich-quick game and it requires not only money but time to result in success.

    At this stage, you’re young enough to accept a higher degree of risk than someone who’s in their 40s or 50s. With retirement still decades away, your portfolio has time to rebound if the market takes a tumble. Investing in stocks might seem like a gamble but since time is on your side you can generate real wealth.

    Make pumping up your earnings a priority.

    Most people don’t hit their peak earning years until they’re in their late thirties (for women) or 40s (for men). It’s important to lay the groundwork now to maximize your earning potential. Keep investing in your skill set and don’t forget to network.

    You might consider investing in additional training or education to make yourself more marketable. Switching fields completely could be another route to beefing up your paycheck. If that’s not an option, you might want to think about starting a side hustle to bring in more money that you can use to invest and save for the future.

    Related Article: Top 4 Ways to Increase Your Income

    Trim the fat.

    Earning more money can be a catch-22 because the more you have coming in, the more tempted you might be to spend it. When you’re in your 30s, that might mean buying new cars or a big house. But it’s important to slow down. Lifestyle inflation can be a serious wealth-killer, so it’s a good idea to resist the urge to give in to this temptation.

    If you’re not free of student loans or credit card debt at this point, it’s best to make putting those debts on the chopping block a top priority. If you own a home, focusing on chipping away at your mortgage is also a good idea. The more you can streamline your budget, the easier it’ll be to accumulate wealth instead of watching your money go to your creditors.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for workers with a Bachelor's degree averaged just 2.8% in 2015.

    That is much lower than the overall rate of 4.3% and it means that for most college grads finding a job should not be difficult. That's not to say that college grads have it easy.

    Student loan debt is soaring (the average student now owes more than $35,000 at the time of graduation).

    Likewise, those low unemployment figures belie the reality of an economy in which college graduates too often have to settle for low-paying or part-time jobs.

    For college students with the ability to relocate after graduation, choosing the right place to live can go a long way toward alleviating some of these problems.

    For instance, in a city with low housing costs and a strong employment market, a college graduate may have an easier time paying down that debt. That, in turn, can allow her to get an earlier start on financial priorities like buying a home or saving for retirement.

    To find the best cities for college graduates, SmartAsset gathered and analyzed data on more than 100 of the largest cities in the country. We looked at three dimensions of life for college graduates in each city: the cost of living, the jobs market and how fun it is to live in the city. We assigned each city a score on those three measures and averaged the three scores to find the top overall cities. (Read our full methodology and sources below.)

    Buying your first home? Compare mortgages and find a low rate here.

    Key findings

    O-H-I-O. The Buckeye State claims two of the top three cities for college grads, with Cincinnati ranking first and Columbus ranking third. These Ohio cities rate well across all three categories of metrics we considered: they are affordable and fun places to live, while still offering strong employment opportunities to new graduates.

    Unemployment down, cost of living up. In more than half of major American cities, college graduates face unemployment rates of less than 3.5%. On the other hand, the cost of living in many of these same cities is increasing. That can make it hard to pay off debt, even for grads with jobs.


    SEE ALSO: How much it costs for a single person to live in 24 major US cities

    10. Wichita, Kansas

    Wichita rates as the fifth most affordable city in our study, scoring a 93.36 on that measure. The median rent paid by Wichita residents is just $548 per month. The city's job market is also fairly strong for college graduates, who face an unemployment rate of just 2.6% in the Wichita area. That's 19th lowest among the cities in SmartAsset's study.

    9. Madison, Wisconsin

    As of December, 2015, the unemployment rate in the Madison area was just 2.9%, fifth lowest of any major U.S. city. There is even greater demand in Madison for workers with a bachelor's degree, who face an unemployment rate of less than 2.5%.

    Madison is also a fun place for young people to live. It has the third-highest population proportion of twenty-somethings of any major U.S. city. It also features the seventh-highest concentration of bars, restaurants and entertainment establishments.

    8. Omaha, Nebraska

    The largest city in Nebraska, Omaha has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. For workers with a bachelor's degree unemployment was just 2.3% in the Omaha area on average during 2014 (the most recent year for which education-specific unemployment data is available). That's the eighth lowest rate of any major U.S. city. Overall unemployment was 3.0% as of December 2015, the sixth-lowest rate in the U.S.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    shopping bags retail sales

    We all know it's important to save money.

    Saving for retirement and socking away cash for emergencies often involves making sacrifices. The money that you would have spent on a trip to Uruguay or on new shoes could instead go into your IRA or your savings account.

    Making responsible financial decisions can be difficult, of course, and if you're having trouble holding onto your coins, here's how to stop spending money recklessly.

    Check out our budget calculator.

    SEE ALSO: A woman who lived on $14,000 a year used a simple, free strategy to resist impulse buys

    1. Find out what you're wasting money on

    If you're trying to start spending less and saving more, it's a good idea to find out where your money is going. Are you spending a large percentage of it on baked goods or electronics? By being aware of what's causing you to waste money unnecessarily, you can be proactive about avoiding those triggers.

    2. Keep tabs on your spending

    Having a budget in place is essential if you want to avoid overspending. But if you realize that's not enough, you might have to take things a step further and either use an app or actually write down how much you're spending on a daily basis.

    While that might seem tedious, it could also be a huge wake-up call for someone who's prone to making impulse purchases. Seeing that you used two-thirds of your paycheck to wine and dine your significant other might be enough to convince you that it's time to rein in your spending.

    3. Get an accountability partner

    Kicking a bad habit can be hard, especially if you're doing it all on your own. Finding a friend or family member who can hold you accountable for your actions can be an effective way to curtail your spending.

    Your accountability partner can serve as a source of encouragement. Plus, if he or she is also committed to saving more, you can challenge each other to see who can save more money within a certain window of time.

    4. Pay with cash

    Not everyone has this issue, but for some people it's easier to waste money when you're swiping a card to make a purchase. Paying for $100 jeans might hurt a lot more if you have to hand over a $100 bill instead of pulling out a credit card. If you're guilty of living beyond your means, it might be better to pay with money you already have rather than accumulate interest and credit card debt that might take years to pay off.

    Try out our credit card calculator.

    5. Don't shop without a list

    Another good tip for anyone with a spending problem: Always make a shopping list and try your best to stick to it. If sales and clearance signs usually drive you to overspend, it probably isn't wise to enter a store or go into certain sections unless you have a legitimate reason for being there.

    To take things up a notch, you can make a list in advance, estimate how much each item will cost and only bring enough cash to cover those purchases. That way, you can't buy more than you planned to.

    6. Plan your meals in advance 

    If you find that you're spending too much on food, meal prepping can help you cut back. By taking the time to think about what you're going to cook for the week (or even for a few days) and setting up a budget, it might be easier to save money. Randomly buying whatever you're craving could be costing you more than you think.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    young rich ascot

    Millennials face an uphill battle when it comes to their finances.

    Crippling student loan debt, skyrocketing rental rates and dismal wages form a perfect storm of sorts that makes it hard for young adults to get ahead.

    There are some millennials, however, who have managed to build up some sizable wealth. According to a recent study, adults ages 18 to 33 represent 11% of high net worth households.

    So what’s their secret? It all comes down to making the right money moves.

    If you want to take a page out of the rich millennials’ playbook, here’s what you need to know.

    SEE ALSO: Why you shouldn't quit your job to become a full-time entrepreneur

    1. They embrace investing

    When it comes to investing, the typical millennial is reluctant to get started. A 2015 study by Capital One found that 93% of millennials are wary of investing. A general distrust of the market and a lack of basic investing knowledge were cited as the top reasons that 20-somethings are less enthusiastic than older investors.

    Among rich millennials, the trend is reversed. Rather than being afraid that they’ll lose money, many wealthy millennials seem to be confident that their assets will perform at the level they’re expecting and that their investments will continue to gain value over time.

    They’re also willing to take more of a gamble when they invest. According to a report on millennial investing trends, the typical millennial holds 52% of their assets in cash. Less than two-thirds of high net worth millennials do the same. Instead, many of them veer toward riskier bets, such as private equity and hedge funds.

    2. They invest based on their values

    Whether or not it’s possible to beat the market on a consistent basis is something investing experts constantly debate. Wealthy millennials, however, tend to tune out the noise and focus on investments that align with their core values.

    In a study from Spectrem Group, 45% of rich millennials said they wanted to use their wealth to help others. One of the ways they’re doing it is through impact investing, a philosophy that centers on investments linked to social causes.

    While impact investments may not outpace the S&P 500 or the NASDAQ, wealthy millennials still see a payoff by knowing that their money is being used to help worthy causes. Over time, that consistent approach can yield better returns than constantly trying to chase the latest market trend.

    3. They don’t overdo it with credit

    Millennials in general tend to be wary of credit cards and that’s particularly true for those who have a higher net worth. According to 2013 research from the Schullman Research Center, 67% of wealthy millennials said they paid cash for their last luxury purchase instead of using plastic.

    That reluctance to rely on credit means rich millennials are less likely to be bogged down by debt. That, in turn, means they have more opportunities to continue building wealth because they’re not spending a big chunk of their income on debt repayment.

    What’s the takeaway here for the rest of us? If you’re in debt, it’s a good idea to make paying it down your top priority. Once it’s paid off, you can use the extra money to expand your investments or bump up your savings. If you don’t have debt, it’s best to be selective about how often you take on credit card debt, loans or lines of credit.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    realtor buying house balcony

    Investing in real estate can be a good way to diversify your portfolio. And it can be particularly appealing to 20-somethings who are comfortable taking risks and who want to earn bigger returns.

    If you’re in your 20s and you’ve toyed with the idea of becoming a landlord or putting money into a real estate investment trust, here are three key reasons to jump on the property bandwagon.

    SEE ALSO: What the median rent in New York City buys you in 25 big US cities

    1. Real estate can be a hedge against the market

    If you pay any attention at all to the stock market, you know that things aren’t always stable. A great day of trading can be followed by a huge tailspin and it’s that volatility that makes 20-somethings so leery of investing. In fact, millennials are so cautious when it comes to investing in stocks that they’re keeping 70% of their portfolio in cash.

    Real estate, on the other hand, offers an added layer of insulation against bumps in the market. The recent housing collapse aside, real estate tends to remain stable even when stocks tumble. If you’re not sold on putting a big chunk of your savings into stocks, investing in property can be a more lucrative alternative to letting your money sit in your bank account.

    2. It doesn’t require a huge upfront investment

    Investing in private real estate deals is typically something that’s reserved for the elite, but that’s not the only way to add property to your portfolio. Twenty-somethings can begin investing in real estate (even if they don’t have a lot of money) by purchasing an investment property or getting into real estate crowdfunding.

    With real estate crowdfunding, it’s possible to get started with as little as $100. The SEC recently finalized Title III of the JOBS Act, making it possible for anyone to invest through crowdfunding platforms, regardless of their net worth. That’s a plus if you’re in your 20s and you haven’t built up a sizable amount of wealth yet.

    You could also buy a property and either fix and flip it or lease it out. Getting a loan in your 20s is easier than you might think and you don’t necessarily need a huge down payment. With an FHA loan, for example, you only need to put down 3.5% of the purchase price. If you can qualify for a USDA or VA loan, you may not have to make a down payment at all.

    Now, there is one small catch to be aware of. These kinds of loans generally require the property you’re buying to be owner-occupied. If you’re thinking of going the low- or no-down payment route, keep in mind that you’ll have to live in the property before you can rent it out.

    3. You can bump up your cash flow

    Perhaps the best reason why 20-somethings should invest in real estate is the immediate impact it can have on their bottom line. If you buy a home and then rent it out, for example, you’ve got a steady supply of income each month beyond your regular salary. If you decide to become a house flipper instead, you’ll have access to more money once the home sells.

    Either way, that’s money you can use to pay down your student loans, save for retirement or put towards the purchase of your next investment property. That extra income can be a welcome addition if you’re just starting your career and you’re not making big bucks at your day job.

    Real estate isn’t risk-free

    Like any other investment, real estate comes with certain risks. For example, your tenant may flake on you halfway through their lease or your flipped property may sell for less than what you anticipated. Doing your research on the market and the property itself beforehand can keep your real estate investment from being a flop.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    st. louis

    In a lot of big cities, buying a home only makes financial sense if you're staying put for a while. In New York City, where the housing market is notoriously competitive, it may not be worth your money to buy a home unless you live there for 18 years.

    That's according to a recent SmartAsset report, which calculated the "breakeven point"— the point at which the total costs of renting become greater than the total costs of buying — for 29 major cities.

    Read the full methodology.

    Everyone's situation is different, and there is no universal answer to the rent versus buy question. In this analysis, the cities with the shortest time to break even are the best places to buy.

    Here, we rounded up the 10 cities with the shortest breakeven points. We also included the average monthly mortgage payment, monthly rent, and home price, from SmartAsset's report:

    SEE ALSO: How long you have to live in 15 major US cities to make buying a home worth your money

    Tampa, Florida

    Average monthly rent: $1,349

    Average monthly mortgage payment: $776

    Average home price: $191,536

    Breakeven year: 4.1

    Charlotte, North Carolina

    Average monthly rent: $1,168

    Average monthly mortgage payment: $757

    Average home price: $186,693

    Breakeven year: 4.1

    Atlanta, Georgia

    Average monthly rent: $1,263

    Average monthly mortgage payment: $823

    Average home price: $202,969

    Breakeven year: 4.1

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    new york

    City life isn't cheap.

    According to the personal-finance site SmartAsset, you have to earn over $150,000 a year to afford rent on a two-bedroom apartment in New York City.

    In its new report, the site looked at the average fair market rent (the average cost of renting an available apartment in 2016) for two-bedroom apartments in the 300 largest US cities, then focused on the main cities within the 15 largest metro areas.

    To calculate the gross income required, SmartAsset set the rent-to-income ratio at 28% — that percentage is based off of government standards, which say that housing is affordable if you don't have to spend over 30% of your income on housing-related expenses.

    Read on to see how much you would have to make (before taxes) to afford rent in 15 major US cities.

    SEE ALSO: Here's how much it costs for a family to live in 20 major US cities

    15. Detroit

    Fair market rent for a two-bedroom: $886 a month

    Income required: $37,971

    14. Phoenix

    Fair market rent for a two-bedroom: $1,162 a month

    Income required: $49,800

    13. Riverside, California

    Fair market rent for a two-bedroom: $1,239 a month

    Income required: $53,100

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    retirement mistakes

    Everyone wants to be able to retire comfortably, but making that dream a reality is easier said than done.

    Even if you’re socking money away here and there, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have enough cash for your golden years. In fact, you could be sabotaging your long-term financial goals without even realizing it.

    Here are five mistakes that can leave you feeling the pinch in retirement.

    Find out now: How much do I need to save for retirement?

    SEE ALSO: A financial planner explains how best to protect investments in retirement

    1. Saving without a plan

    Saving for retirement can be difficult when you don’t have a plan in place. You may think that you only need to stash 10% of your income in your employer’s 401(k). But depending on how much you’ve already saved (and how much money you’ll need in retirement), you might need to save 15% or even 20%.

    A popular quote says that failing to plan is planning to fail. If you don’t take the time to think about your retirement budget and make sure that you’re saving enough to meet your financial goals, you run the risk of shortchanging your nest egg over time.

    2. Leaving free money on the table

    Contributing to a 401(k) is one of the best ways to start saving for retirement but not everyone uses it to full advantage. According to a recent study, 25% of employees don’t save enough in their 401(k) accounts to get the company match. Over a 20-year period, each of these workers misses out on the chance to save $42,855, on average.

    When you’re saving for the future, every penny counts. Unless you can’t afford to contribute the bare minimum, there’s no reason to miss out on the employer match.

    Check out our 401(k) calculator.

    3. Letting your debt linger

    Carrying debt into retirement can put a strain on your budget. Failing to pay off student loans, credit card debt or mortgage debt can limit your ability to enjoy a comfortable retirement.

    If you’re stuck in debt, it’s a good idea to brainstorm ways to get rid of it as soon as possible. You can begin by looking for ways to make the debt you’re carrying less expensive. For instance, you can transfer your credit card debt to a single card with a 0% interest rate or consider refinancing your home.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    People Sitting in Beach Chairs at Beach

    A well-planned summer vacation starts with working out the financial details so you don’t go over budget. One of the things that vacationers often forget to factor into their calculations are the sneaky fees that can pop up along the way, like baggage fees, ATM fees and booking fees. Knowing how to avoid them can help you ensure that your getaway doesn’t break the bank.

    SEE ALSO: 5 things I did to save money on a month-long trip through Asia before I even left the US

    1. Choose a credit card with built-in travel perks

    Benefits like priority boarding, Wi-Fi access and lounge access might cost extra, unless you’ve booked your flight with a rewards credit card that offers those perks. It might be a good idea to look for a rewards card that’s co-branded with the airline that you prefer to fly with.

    That way, you’re more likely to get your hands on the kinds of rewards you’re after. Just keep in mind that the card’s annual fee could cancel out the value of any freebies.

    2. Switch to an online bank to avoid ATM fees

    Pulling cash out of a foreign ATM could cost you $4 or $5 per withdrawal. If you’re trying to keep the final price tag for your trip as low as possible, that’s money you can’t afford to waste. Opening a checking account with an online bank that either waives foreign ATM fees or reimburses you for them means you won’t get penalized if you make a withdrawal when you’re abroad.

    3. Don’t pay for insurance you already have

    Spending money on travel insurance or paying for the rental car company’s accident insurance may give you some peace of mind. But there’s a good chance that you’re already covered. It’s best to read the fine print on your credit card agreement to see if your card issuer offers things like travel accident insurance, baggage insurance or rental car collision coverage. Those benefits are often included at no additional cost and can save you a nice chunk of change.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    raining pouring london

    A rainy day doesn’t have to be a lazy day. If you’re stuck inside your house, there are plenty of ways to make the most of your free time. For example, if it’s been a while since you reviewed your budget, it might be a good idea to look over it. And if you haven’t been saving enough money, you can figure out how to cut back on spending.

    Check out 13 ways to save or make money on a rainy day.

    SEE ALSO: 5 things that could inflate your rent before you even sign a lease

    1. Start freelancing

    Whether you have a knack for designing websites, writing blog posts or taking photos, you can use your talents to earn extra income by freelancing. Don’t forget to tap into your network and ask whether anyone’s looking for freelancers. If that doesn’t get you anywhere, you can spend your day off searching the web for opportunities.

    2. Prep your meals for the week

    If you’ve been spending too much money on groceries lately or eating out too frequently, you can take advantage of your rainy day by prepping your meals for the whole week. You might be surprised to find that an ordinary meal can last for several days. Planning and preparing meals in advance are great ways to save money.

    3. Research investment opportunities

    If your busy schedule has kept you from investing, you can spend the day looking for a financial advisor or doing research to find out what’s happening in the market.

    By investing, you’re essentially putting your money to work. If your investments perform well, you could potentially build serious wealth and increase your net worth. Just keep in mind that you’ll be taking on some degree of risk and that returns aren’t guaranteed.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Bora Bora, snorkeler, tropical beach

    Using a travel rewards card to pay for your next trip could be a smart move if you want to rack up miles, points or cash back on what you’re spending. The key to getting the most mileage possible out of your travel rewards is avoiding flubs that could diminish their value.

    Here are the most common travel credit card mistakes that could leave you feeling shortchanged.

    SEE ALSO: This woman quit her corporate job at 35 and saved $16,000 to travel the world 'indefinitely'

    1. Not joining travel loyalty programs

    Loyalty programs are designed to reward you for being a faithful customer to a particular brand and they can provide you with a great opportunity to save money on travel.

    For example, if you’ve got an airline-branded credit card, you could earn miles to use towards free flights by linking your card to the airline’s dining program or online shopping portal.

    You can also double dip on rewards if you enroll in a hotel loyalty program and book a room with a card that pays out points for hotel purchases and airline miles at the same time. Signing up for these programs doesn’t take much time, so there’s no reason to miss out on the chance to boost your rewards balance.

    2. Using miles for merchandise or gift cards

    Most credit card companies offer some flexibility in terms of how you can use your travel rewards. But it’s important to be careful about how you redeem your rewards. Generally, you stand to get the most bang for your buck when you use miles to pay for flights versus swapping them out for a gift card or merchandise from the card’s online shopping portal. While your miles may be worth a few cents each for air travel purchase, they could end up being worth less than a penny apiece if you use them for something else.

    3. Not doing the math on rewards transfers

    Some travel credit cards allow you to transfer your points or miles into other frequent flyer or hotel loyalty programs. If you’re already a frequent flyer with a specific airline, that might make it easy to use the miles you’ve earned with your card. But it could cost you if your rewards don’t transfer on a 1:1 basis.

    For instance, 50,000 miles on your card may only be worth 40,000 miles with the airline, so it pays to run the numbers before transferring rewards over.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    shattered broken mirror

    If you’re ready to sell your home, it’s important to think carefully about how you’re going to do it.

    Making certain missteps along the way can derail the sale and leave you stuck in a house that no longer fits your lifestyle.

    If you want to find someone who can afford to buy your house and seal the deal as quickly as possible, here are five home selling mistakes it’s wise to try to avoid.

    SEE ALSO: 3 reasons it's better to buy than rent, from a woman who bought her first home at 21

    1. Overvaluing the home

    What you list your home for and what buyers are actually willing to pay for it are two very different things. Just because you’ve spent thousands of dollars on renovations, for example, doesn’t mean you’re going to get the kind of return you’re counting on.

    If you get an offer from a buyer that’s less than your asking price, there’s no need to panic. Getting a second opinion from your real estate agent on how the home should be priced can give you an idea of whether the buyer’s offer is a fair deal.

    2. Refusing to negotiate

    There’s a certain amount of negotiation that goes on in the home buying process. For instance, the buyer may want you to pay a percentage of the closing costs or vacate the property by a certain date. If you’re adamant about not giving an inch for normal requests or contingencies, the buyer may decide to back out.

    While you’re not expected to give in to everything the buyer wants, it’s a good idea to at least be willing to compromise on some things.

    3. Skipping out on repairs

    Buyers are advised to get a home inspection before heading to settlement and sometimes minor issues show up. It’s up to you and the buyer to decide whether you’ll make the repairs or offer a cash credit but either way, repairs can’t be ignored. If you can’t be bothered to replace a few roof shingles or fix a cracked window seal, you might have to say goodbye to the buyer.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    soup kitchen volunteersThe U.S. routinely ranks among the world’s most charitable countries. In the 2015 Charities Aid Foundation World Giving Index, the U.S. came in second (to Myanmar). But which states do the most to uphold America’s reputation for generosity? SmartAsset crunched the numbers to find the most charitable states.


    To find out which states are the most charitable, SmartAsset looked at data for four factors: charitable contributions per 1,000 people, the value of volunteer time per capita, the number of non-profits per 10,000 people and the median charitable contribution.

    We gave each state and the District of Columbia a rank on each of the four factors. Next, we averaged those ranks and gave each state a score based on its average rank. The state with the highest average rank got a score of 100 and the state with the lowest average rank got a score of 0. The ten states with the highest average rank appear on the map below.


    1. District of Columbia

    The most charitable state in the Union isn’t actually a state. Washington, D.C. ranked highest in our study, in part due to the high number of non-profits headquartered there.

    Charitable contributions per 1,000 residents are a high $1,253.17, the highest in our study. (These are charitable contributions used as tax deductions on federal income tax returns).

    The median charitable contribution in D.C. is $3,734. That’s not the highest in our study, but D.C. boasts some big-ticket donors. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, 2015 saw 11 charitable gifts of a million dollars or more from D.C. residents.

    2. Wyoming

    Wyoming came in second in our study. It boasts the fourth-highest charitable contributions per thousand people, at $1,054.24. Wyoming’s median charitable contribution is $4,088 and there are 75.9 non-profits per 10,000.

    The nation’s least populous state is doing its part to uphold America’s reputation for a charitable disposition. It’s also one of the best states for an early retirement, in part because it lacks a state income tax.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    millennials coachella

    If you’re in your 20s, your net worth might be the last thing on your mind. But it’s never too early to start creating long-term wealth. Many twenty-somethings are financially challenged, but it’s possible to maneuver around wealth-blocking obstacles if you know what they are. If you’re trying to boost your net worth, here are five things that could keep you from achieving that goal.

    SEE ALSO: What 20-somethings wish they had known about money before entering the real world after college

    1. Living without a budget

    Budgets get a bad rap because they place restrictions on what people can spend. But that’s not really what a budget’s designed to do. A budget is supposed to help you manage where your money’s going each month.

    If you’re drifting through your 20s without a plan in place for how to spend your extra cash, you could face an uphill battle when it comes to saving. Without savings, your net worth isn’t going to grow.

    2. Paying high interest on student loans

    Student loan debt has become a fact of life for millions of 2o-somethings and for some of them, it’s preventing them from achieving their financial goals. Unfortunately, there’s no way to wave a magic wand and wipe out debt. But you can do something to make it easier to cope with the payments.

    Refinancing your loans and locking in a lower interest rate could make your debt easier to pay off. Once it’s gone, you can put the money you were spending on loan payments into a savings or investment account.

    3. Letting your career lag

    Chances are, by the time you hit your 40s or 50s you’re going to be making a lot more money than you are now. But that doesn’t mean you should just sit around doing nothing until a bigger paycheck starts rolling in. If the job you have isn’t your dream job yet, it’s a good idea to take time to develop your skills or seek out a mentor.

    By putting more effort into your career in your 20s, you’ll be able to see a bigger payoff later on in terms of your net worth.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Los Angeles downtownWe all know that raising a family in this country isn't cheap. According to the USDA, the average cost to raise a child is $233,610. That includes food, shelter, and other necessities. It doesn't include the cost of college or private school.

    Curious about raising a family in Los Angeles? We've got you covered. 

    Childcare costs in Los Angeles

    Unless you (or your partner) are planning on staying home with your kid or have a relative who can provide care, you'll have to pay for childcare, either in the provider's home or at a childcare center.

    According to, in Los Angeles County, infant care in a childcare center costs an average of $14,309 per year. While infant care in a family home center (a private residence) costs an average of $9,186. Daycare for preschoolers in Los Angeles County childcare centers costs an average of $10,303, while the same care in a family home center costs an average of $8,579.

    The average childcare costs in Los Angeles County are higher than the average costs in California as a whole. The California average for infant care in a childcare center is $13,327, while infant care in a home costs an average of $8,462 in the state. Daycare for preschoolers in a childcare center costs an average of $9,106 in California, with home care costing an average of $7,850.

    Schools in Los Angeles

    Navigating the Los Angeles public school system can be tricky. As in many large cities, there is a wide range of quality in Los Angeles' public schools. There are also 287 private schools in Los Angeles County. But you don't have to go private to get a good education for your children. 

    The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation touts LA County's "Blue Ribbon" schools, including California Academy of Mathematics and Science in Carson, McGrath Elementary in Newhall, Gertz-Ressler High School in Los Angeles and Merced Elementary in West Covina.

    If you live in Los Angeles County, your kids don't necessarily go to their neighborhood school. You can also try to enroll them in a different school such as a magnet or charter school. Your first step will be to identify your child's resident school. You can then read about the school and, if you deem it necessary, read about other choices available to your child.

    Crime in Los Angeles

    Some people who are considering starting families (or moving with a family) like to know about the crime rates in the cities they're considering. Violent crime was up for the third straight year in Los Angeles as of 2016.

    According to data from the Los Angeles Police Department, homicides are up as of February 2017 compared to this time in 2016. However, total violent crime is down compared to this time in 2016.

    Bottom line

    When looking for a great city to raise a family there are lots of factors that can go into a decision. Some people want to be near relatives or other support systems. Others base their decision on the job opportunities available to them or the cost of living. Though Los Angeles is an expensive city, it has a lot to offer families.

    SEE ALSO: The 22 best places to live in America if you want to make a lot of money

    DON'T MISS: There are two money moves every parent should make before having kids

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Buying a home is no easy task. You'll need to save up for a down payment, make sure your credit is in order, meet with mortgage lenders, and spend time shopping around.

    But first, you'll want to consider where you're buying. After all, real estate agents don't harp about "location, location, location" for nothing.

    New data from SmartAsset shows the best cities for first-time homebuyers — that is, where homes are affordable and it's easy to get a mortgage — considering seven factors:

    • Mortgage lenders: the number of HUD-approved mortgage lenders in each city
    • Value per square foot: the average home value per square foot
    • Loan funding rate: the number of approved mortgage loans originated in 2015
    • Affordability ratio: the ratio of median household income to median annual housing costs (within the first five years of ownership), including property taxes, closing costs, and homeowners insurance
    • Market volatility: the standard deviation of quarterly annual housing price changes from the first quarter of 2011 to the fourth quarter of 2016
    • Negative quarters since 2011: the number of quarters where home prices fell on a year-over-year basis, starting with the first quarter of 2011 and ending with the last quarter of 2016
    • Homeowner stability index: the number of years homeowners stay in their homes and the number of homeowners with negative equity

    SmartAsset gathered data for US cities with populations over 300,000 for a total of 64 cities and weighted each category equally to determine the final ranking (read the full methodology here).

    While many cities in the Midwest and South — including San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, and others in Texas — proved exceptional for first-time homebuyers, Pittsburgh came out on top.

    Read on to find out the best 15 cities to buy a first home, plus statistics on mortgages, affordability, and home value.

    SEE ALSO: 7 pieces of homebuying advice you can't afford to ignore

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    15. Kansas City, Missouri

    Number of mortgage lenders: 52

    Loan funding rate: 78%

    Average value per square foot: $85.75

    Affordability ratio: 5.06

    14. Corpus Christi, Texas

    Number of mortgage lenders: 27

    Loan funding rate: 66%

    Average value per square foot: $90.33

    Affordability ratio: 5.35

    13. Arlington, Texas

    Number of mortgage lenders: 19

    Loan funding rate: 74%

    Average value per square foot: $94.17

    Affordability ratio: 4.81

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    How much money is enough? Some people answer this question by comparing themselves to others in their age group.

    No one likes to feel like they’re at the back of the pack. To help you get a sense of where you stand, let’s take a closer look at the average salary by age for full-time workers in the U.S. 

    Check out retirement calculator.

    The average salary: 16-19

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks Americans’ earnings by several demographic factors, including age. According to BLS data, the average salary of 16- to-19-year-olds is $420 per week, $21,840 per year. That’s the average across all races, genders and education levels.

    The average salary: 20-24

    As you might expect, earnings increase beginning in one’s 20s. The average salary of 20-to-24-year-olds is $528 per week, $27,456 per year. Many Americans start out their careers in their 20s and don’t earn as much as they will once they reach their 30s.

    The average salary: 25-34

    For Americans age 25-34, the mean salary is $758 per week, $39,416 per year. That’s a big jump from the average salary for 20-24-year-olds. Conventional wisdom holds that one’s 20s and 30s are the times when one gets raises. It’s common for earnings to plateau beginning in one’s 40s.

    Related Article: What Is the Income Gap?

    The average salary: 35-44

    The average salary of 35-to-44-year olds is $950 per week, $49,400 per year. However, that’s a number that conceals considerable variation by gender. For example, male 35-to-44-year-olds earn a mean salary of $1,019 per week while women in the same age bracket earn an average of $859 per week.

    The average salary: 45-54

    The average salary of 45-to-54-year-olds is $962 per week, $50,024 per year. That’s the highest average salary of any of the age groups the BLS tracks. Again, the gender income gap is significant in this age group. Men between the ages of 45 and 54 earn an average of $1,102 per week while women in the same age bracket average $840 per week.

    The average salary: 55-64

    The average salary for Americans age 55-64 is $954 per week, $49,608 per year. Earnings in this age bracket are slightly lower than in the 45-54 age bracket. There are also fewer total workers in this age bracket. According to the BLS, there are 22,658,000 full-time workers in the 45-54 age bracket, and only 18,544,000 full-time workers in the 55-64 age bracket.

    The average salary: 65 and older

    Americans aged 65 and older earn an average of $888 per week, $46,176 per year. This average is for full-time workers, so doesn’t take into account the many people in this age bracket who drop out of the workforce. There are 4,114,000 full-time workers in the 65 and older bracket. Some workers over 65 may be in the workforce because they don’t have sufficient retirement savings.

    Related Article: Average Retirement Savings: Are You Normal

    Check out the chart below to see our break-down of the average salary by age.

    smartasset chart

    Bottom line

    Many Americans are unemployed or under-employed – working part-time when they would prefer to be working full-time – so take these BLS stats on average salary with a grain of salt because they only apply to full-time wage- or salary-earners. Within each age bracket, earnings vary widely by gender, race and education level, too. Some people also get income from sources other than salary and wage earnings – sources like investment income.

    SEE ALSO: Here's how much millennials are earning annually across the US

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Los Angeles

    One-third of Americans overpay for housing, and renters have it the worst.

    In fact, almost half spend over 30% of their incomes on rent, exceeding the standard measure of affordability, according to the 2017 State of the Nation's Housing report, published by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

    In addition to transportation and food, housing is one of the biggest expenses Americans have. Cutting back on these things could mean more savings in the bank and even a ticket to early retirement.

    In its latest report, SmartAsset calculated the income needed to afford rent in 15 major US cities. That is, the salary a household must earn to spend a comfortable 28% of its income on rent for a two-bedroom apartment. Rent prices were pulled from RENTCafé's January 2017 report.

    Below, check out how much you need to earn to pay rent in San Francisco, New York, Boston, and 12 more of America's major metro areas.

    SEE ALSO: Here's how much you need to earn to comfortably afford a home in the 25 most expensive ZIP codes in America

    DON'T MISS: The hourly wage needed to rent a two-bedroom home in every state

    15. Phoenix, Arizona

    Average 2-bedroom rent: $958

    Income needed: $41,057

    14. Detroit, Michigan

    Average 2-bedroom rent: $1,087

    Income needed: $46,586

    13. Houston, Texas

    Average 2-bedroom rent: $1,088

    Income needed: $46,629

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    High rents are forcing more and more people to live with roommates. The Census estimates that 5.8 million Americans currently have a roommate.

    The benefits from living with another person vary from city to city. In some cities, it may not be worth the hassle.

    In other places however, especially where homes are unaffordable, living with a roommate can save you thousands of dollars.

    Below we rank the cities where living with a roommate can save you the most money.

    In order to find the best places to live with a roommate, we compared the cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment with the cost of renting a two-bedroom. The difference between them was how we came up with our rankings. See our data and methodology below to see where we got our data and how we put it together.

    This is SmartAsset's third annual study on how much a roommate saves you. Read the 2016 version here.

    Key findings

    • Big savings — Across our top 10, the average resident could save just under $10,000 per year by switching from living alone to living with a roommate.
    • Costly CaliforniaCalifornia has five of the top 10 cities where it pays to live with a roommate. The Golden State is known for its expensive cities, especially around the Bay Area, so this isn't particularly surprising.
    • Best places to live alone— If you really want to live alone and not feel guilty about the money you aren't saving, look at cities like Tucson, Arizona or Wichita, Kansas. In both those cities you save less than $250 per month by living with a roommate.

    SEE ALSO: 7 essential tips to avoid the 'lifestyle creep' that keeps you from building wealth

    1. San Francisco, California: $1,122 average savings

    San Francisco is the best city in the country to buddy up. According to our data, the average one-bedroom apartment costs $3,420 per month and the average two-bedroom costs $4,597. If you and a friend split the cost of that two-bedroom apartment, you would both end up paying around $2,299 per month. That is $1,122 less per month than paying for the average one-bedroom.

    2. New York, New York: $990 average savings

    New York City properties are notoriously expensive. If you are living in New York and want to rent a one-bedroom apartment, you are looking at paying $2,728 per month. Our data shows that by moving to a two-bedroom and living with someone you could save just under $1,000 per month.

    Finding a roommate in New York shouldn't be too difficult either. There are over 8 million people living in the Big Apple and there are plenty of websites to find roommates.

    3. Boston, Massachusetts: $920 average savings

    Beantown moves up from fourth last year to third this year. We estimate that by living with a roommate you can save about $920 per month. By saving $920 per month you can get a head start on your financial goals, like saving up for a down payment on your home orsetting up a fund for retirement

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    • There are a number of towns and cities across the U.S. where a sun-soaked property comes at an affordable price. 
    • The cheapest location is Gulfport, Mississippi, where a beach house costs in the realm of $116,200 — with the added bonus of year-round sunshine. 
    • The property value was ranked not only by property prices, but also by taxes, number of rooms, and monthly housing costs. 

    As winter drags on you may catch yourself wondering if summer is ever coming back. But it doesn't have to be that way. There are plenty of towns across America where it's possible to spend a few weeks or, if you're retired, a few months soaking in some warm weather. But, as that year-round warm weather is in demand, affording a home in one of the places can be difficult. With this in mind we decided to find the best beach towns which won't break your account. Below we rank the most affordable beach towns for 2018.

    In order to rank the most affordable beach towns we looked at data on 221 cities. We compared them across four affordability metrics. We looked at median home value, median housing cost, median number of rooms per house and median property taxes paid. Check out our data and methodology below to see where we got our data and how we put it together.

    Key findings

    • No dramatic changes — What was affordable last year remains affordable this year, for the most part. Only one city, Freeport, lost its place in our top 10, dropping to 17th. There is also only one newcomer to the top 10. Melbourne, which was 11th last year, took 10th this year and Fort Walton Beach, which was seventh last year, dropped to 11th this year.
    • More affordable — A few cities in our top 10 are more affordable this year than they were last year. Gulfport, Mississippi; Port Arthur, Texas and Ocean Springs, Mississippi all have lower median home values than last year.

    1. Gulfport, Mississippi

    For the third consecutive year Gulfport is the most affordable beach town in America. If you are thinking about buying a house here, you will need to afford a home worth $116,200. That's not bad when you consider having access to great weather year-round!

    If you are thinking about retiring, Gulfport could be a good place to settle. Mississippi ranks as one of the best states for an early retirement.

    2. Pensacola, Florida

    Pensacola continues to fall just short. For the third year in a row, the city in Florida takes the second spot. The median home here is worth $145,700 and costs $850 per month. For each of those metrics Pensacola ranks in the top 20.

    If you want a little more space for your beach home Pensacola might be a better place than Gulfport. Pensacola homes have an average of 6.4 rooms per home, slightly more than Gulfport homes' 6.1 rooms.

    3. Biloxi, Mississippi

    There is no change amongst our top 3. For another year, Biloxi is the third-most affordable beach town in our data set. The median housing cost in Biloxi is actually lower than the two cities above it. The median home in Biloxi costs about $785 per month.

    However, getting your hands on a home here is slightly more difficult than it is in some other cities. The median home here is worth $149,100, the third-highest in the top 10.

    4. Port Arthur, Texas

    If you're looking for an affordable beach home, it's hard to beat our fourth-ranked city, Port Arthur, Texas. The median home is worth $64,300, meaning a mortgage here should be affordable.

    Long term however, Port Arthur comes with costs you will need to be aware of. Specifically the property taxes here are high, especially compared to home values. The median homeowner here pays around $1,000 per year in property taxes.

    5. Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

    Bay St. Louis is the first city in the top 10 to move up or down. The city moved up from ninth last year to fifth this year. The housing costs in Bay St. Louis are a standout metric. The average homeowner pays $729 per month, or $8,749 per year. To afford that and not be considered housing cost-burdened you would need to make $29,160 per year.

    If you are in the market for a big home, you may need to spend a little extra time house hunting in this city. The median home has less than six rooms, a relatively poor score in this study.

    6. Ocean Springs, Mississippi

    Homes in Ocean Springs are pretty affordable. The median home is valued at $151,500, according to Census Bureau data and median monthly housing costs are $920.

    Property taxes, while low nationally, are relatively high for this top 10. The average homeowner pays almost $1,300 per year in property taxes, the highest mark in our top 10.

    7. Freeport, Texas

    For people looking for a bargain, it's tough to beat Freeport. The median home can be had for only $71,000. The average homeowner in the area spends $565 per month on their home. Those are the sort of numbers that make shivering New Yorkers weep!

    Homes here to tend to run on the small side, however, which hurts the city's overall score. The median Freeport home has 5.6 rooms, 163rd-most in our study.

    8. Daytona Beach, Florida

    Daytona Beach is probably better known as a place to hang out during spring break or as a place to catch a NASCAR race. But this is also a great city for thrifty home hunters on the prowl for a place to spend their winter months. The average home is worth about $117,000, a top 10 rate but $5,000 more than last year.

    Low home value typically means your most important housing costs, your mortgage, will be low. Daytona Beach has a median housing cost of $757, fourth-lowest in the top 10. It may be possible to get that number even lower if you have great credit and have access to the lowest mortgage rates.

    9. Fort Pierce, Florida

    Fort Pierce, Florida missed on the eighth spot by only 0.4 points on our index. This could make it tough choice, between buying a beach home in Fort Pierce or buying a beach home in Daytona Beach. The two cities do have some important differences.

    The median home in Fort Pierce is worth a bit less than the median home in Daytona Beach but the homes are also smaller. The average Fort Pierce home is worth $89,000, which ranks third but only 5.4 rooms (it ranks 184th for that metric).

    10. Melbourne, Florida

    Our study ends in Melbourne, Florida a newcomer to this top 10. Homes in this city do well in all of our affordability metrics. Home value in particular stands out. You probably won't make a killing investing in homes around Melbourne, Florida but you will certainly have a place to hang out in the winter. The median home here is worth $125,400. That's $9,000 more than last year. The typical homeowner in the area spends about $850 per month on their house.

    Data and methodology

    In order to find the most affordable beach towns in the country, SmartAsset looked at data for 229 beach towns. Specifically we looked at the following four factors:

    • Home value. This is the median home value in each city. Data comes from the Census Bureau's 2016 5-Year American Community Survey.
    • Number of rooms. This is the average number of rooms per house. Data comes from the Census Bureau's 2016 5-Year American Community Survey.
    • Property taxes. This is the median property taxes paid. Data comes from the Census Bureau's 2016 5-Year American Community Survey.
    • Monthly housing costs. This is the median monthly housing costs. Data comes from the Census Bureau's 2016 5-Year American Community Survey.

    We ranked each city in each metric. Then we found each city's average ranking, giving the number of rooms a half weighting and all other factors a full weighting. Using this average ranking, we created our final score. The city with the best average ranking received a 100. The city with the worst average ranking received a 0.

    SEE ALSO: 5 crucial questions a financial planner asks clients before they even consider retirement

    Join the conversation about this story »

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