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Americans in These States Are Most Stressed About Their Finances

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Personal finance can be stressful, but not every American is dealing with the same hurdles. That’s why MagnifyMoney, a subsidiary of LendingTree, analyzed Google Trends data to see which states expressed the most interest in the following nine areas: credit card debt, student loan debt, credit score, loan refinance, payday loan, debt relief, bankruptcy, debt collection and debt consolidation.

Researchers rated which states were most and least stressed based on how many locals were searching nine personal finance terms on Google. Data was measured between 0 and 100 to represent the popularity of a search. The state with the highest number of searches represents the top of the popularity scale, ranking at 100. Other states were then given a percentage number based on how they compared to the top state.

Key findings

  • New York took the top spot as the most financially stressed state with a final score of 80.7 across the nine Googled terms. Payday loans were the least searched term; in New York, it scored just 16 in relative interest.
  • Louisiana came in second. In contrast to New York, payday loans were a popular search.
  • Nevada takes third. This state scored highest in debt relief and debt collection.
  • Southern states featured prominently in the top 10. Apart from Louisiana in second place, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia also claimed top 10 spots. Aside from Virginia, states in the southeast tend to lag behind the rest of the country in terms of income, although their cost of living also tends to be lower. Mississippi and Alabama also have elevated poverty rates.
  • The bottom spots of the list, which represent the least financially stressed states, were filled by Northeastern states: Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey.
  • Alaska and Hawaii also both scored well; they searched stressful financial topics significantly less often than other states. Neither Googled payday loans very often.
  • Payday loans had the lowest search popularity with an average of 32 across the states. That means the average state searched it on the web 32% as often as the top state, which is Louisiana in this case.
  • Although Wyoming had the highest relative search frequency for debt collection and debt consolidation, it scored a zero for student loan debt and loan refinance. This pushed the state into the middle of the pack.

What financial stressors are weighing on your state?

In the below map, hover over each state to view its ranking (with a score of 1 being the state with the most Google searches related to financial stress) and its average score. This average score accounts for how frequently residents Googled the nine analyzed search terms.

Below that, you’ll see a more in-depth chart that breaks down each state’s scoring across the nine terms. The higher the score, the more frequently the term was searched.

5 most financially stressed states

1. New York

New York state scored highly across almost all keywords searched, especially topics regarding credit card debt (100), loan refinancing (99) and debt relief (99). The only category it placed lowly was payday loans (16). This is something worth celebrating when you consider the notoriously high interest and fees on payday loans.

New Yorkers appear to be struggling across the board, at least in New York City. The Big Apple is the second-worst metro for a balanced lifestyle, according to another MagnifyMoney study. Income and housing prices were two of the main issues that lead to such a low lifestyle score.

2. Louisiana

Louisiana is the second-most financially stressed state, thanks to high search frequency for payday loans (100), credit scores (89), and debt relief (88). Debt and the fear residents may have surrounding it seem to be a primary concern. A desire to pay off debt may be why so many Louisiana residents are investigating payday loan options.

In a separate study on the happiest U.S. states, Louisiana came in as one of the unhappiest states. While their financial troubles may be weighing down residents, other factors like health and lifestyle pulled the state down in rankings.

3. Nevada

Nevada’s luck may be running out. At least for those who are financially stressed about debt relief (100), debt collection (91) and bankruptcy (78). Nevada residents appear to be searching for help to pay off debt and avoid bankruptcy. Their financial stress may be taking a toll on their happiness; like Louisiana, Nevada was among the 10 unhappiest states.

One financial area Nevada residents doesn’t appear to be as concerned with is student loans. The state holds a ranking of 51 out of 100 when it comes to Googling student loans.

4. Virginia

Virginia is one of four southern states that had the misfortune of making into the 10 states most stressed about personal finance. They scored fairly high across all topics analyzed, except for payday loans (ranked at 36). Their No. 1 concern appears to be bankruptcy (90), followed closely by debt relief (89).

That being said, not all of Virginia appears to be struggling due to financial issues. Virginia Beach in particular was found to be one of the top 10 metro areas (out of the 50 largest in the U.S.) that live a balanced lifestyle.

5. Mississippi

Mississippi’s top concerns were related to credit scores (100), bankruptcy (89) and payday loans (90) — all important financial issues that could signal financial struggles.

Mississippi residents may be struggling with credit card debt in particular. MagnifyMoney found that Mississippi households had an average credit card debt of $6,217.60. The state was also the fifth-least happy state in the U.S., which is another potential sign of financial struggles.

5 least financially stressed states

51. Vermont

Vermont, everyone’s favorite spot for a cozy weekend at a bed-and-breakfast, is pretty relaxed when it comes to personal finance. The state landed the coveted least-stressed state on the list.

The state ranked very low for searches on issues like payday loans (6). Needing a payday loan can be a sign of larger financial issues, so scoring low for this term can be a positive indicator of good financial health among Vermont residents.

50. Connecticut

Similar to Vermont, Connecticut has a low interest in payday loans (11). There was a large disparity between the second-lowest state on this list (Connecticut) compared to the second highest; Louisiana had a ranking of 100 when it came to payday loan issues.

Connecticut also fared well when it came to searching for debt relief (40). The area residents seem to struggle with most is credit card debt (70).

49. New Jersey

Things are looking up for the Garden State. New Jersey was the third least-stress state when it came to personal finance. Their top concern, bankruptcy, ranked at 71. But the top three states with the most financial stress, New York, Louisiana, and Nevada all had scores of 77 or higher when it came to this particular issue.

48. Alaska

Aside from payday loans (21), Alaska residents worry about specific financial topics pretty evenly. Their scores across the eight other terms range from 49 to 69, with a total average of 56.

But the one financial topic they really aren’t happy about is credit card debt. Their highest ranking concern checks out, when you consider the average Alaskan household has over $11,400 in debt, according to another MagnifyMoney study.

47. Hawaii

It seems like living the island lifestyle is paying off. Hawaii residents have fairly low concerns about personal finance compared with other states. They ranked fairly low when it came to taking an interest in payday loans (24).

But similar to Alaska, Hawaiians expressed some concerns over credit card debt. Households in Hawaii also have over $10,000 in credit card debt on average. While they’re doing well compared to most other states when it comes to stress, Hawaiians have some progress to make when it comes to financial wellness.

Methodology

In order to rank the most financially stressed states, researchers analyzed Google trends data for nine terms: Credit card debt, student loan debt, credit score, loan refinance, payday loan, debt relief, bankruptcy, debt collection and debt consolidation. Google trends data covers the July 26, 2016 to July 26, 2019 time period.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Jacqueline DeMarco
Jacqueline DeMarco |

Jacqueline DeMarco is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jacqueline here

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Study: Where Are Credit Unions Expanding and Trimming Branch Networks?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Vanishing bank branches have become a reality for most U.S. metro areas. According to a study by DepositAccounts.com, another LendingTree partner, from 2008 to 2018 all but seven of the 100 largest U.S. metro areas lost bank branches. When reviewed on a branches-per-capita basis, every single metro experienced bank branch loss. The trend of banks trimming their branch networks is unsurprising given that 71% of bank customers regularly do their banking online and 43% use banking services on mobile devices.

Credit unions appear to be filling some of the branch coverage gaps left by banks. In this study, our analysts compared the number of credit union branches operating in June 2019 to the number of branches operating five years earlier, and we found that credit unions had expanded in 50 of the 100 largest U.S. metro areas.

Not all major metro areas are seeing growth in credit union branches, however. A total of 45 metro areas saw contracting numbers of credit union branches over the 2014-2019 period, with Ohio and Pennsylvania hit especially hard by losses.

Key findings

  • Credit unions increased their footprints in exactly half of the 100 largest U.S. metro areas we analyzed. There were no changes in another five metros, and the number of branches decreased in 45 metro areas.
  • Accounting for population growth, credit unions increased their footprints on a per capita basis in 32 metro areas.
  • The number of credit union branches in Fort Myers, Fla., jumped an astounding 59% between 2014 and 2019, and grew 39% on a per capita basis.
  • Daytona Beach, Fla., and Charleston, S.C., saw the second and third largest branch growth rates, respectively, at 28% each. That represents growth in branches per capita of 17% and 16%, respectively.
  • Augusta, Ga., saw nearly one in four of their credit union branches shuttered in the last five years, which represented a 27% loss in branches per 100,000 residents.
  • Scranton, Pa., and McAllen, Texas, lost 20% of their branches over the last five years, a 19% and 24% loss in branches per capita, respectively.
  • America’s largest cities are losing credit union branches: The nine largest metros all lost branches.

Where credit unions are opening branches

Residents of sunny Florida may find they have plenty of credit union options available to them. Four metro areas in Florida found spots on the top ten list of where credit unions are expanding their branch networks.

Fort Meyers and Daytona Beach, Fla., held the number one and two spots, respectively. The number of credit union branches in Fort Myers grew a whopping 59% between 2014 and 2019. Daytona Beach saw a high rate of growth during that time period too, a 28% gain. Sand, surf and credit unions. What’s not to love?

Credit unions seem to be a growing trend in the south. Tennessee and South Carolina metro areas also made the top 10, meaning 60% of the top ten metro areas for credit union growth were in the south.

Where credit unions are closing branches

The trend of growing credit unions doesn’t touch every area of the country. In fact, quite the opposite is occurring in locations like Augusta, Ga., which lost around 25% of their credit union branches in the last five years.

Scranton, Pa., and McAllen, Texas, also experienced 20% contractions in the number of credit union branches. Pennsylvania and Ohio have been hit harder than other states by branch loss in recent years — as have some of America’s largest cities, including New York City and Los Angeles. The nine largest metro areas in the United States have lost credit union branches in the past five years.

Why credit unions acquire banks

In the past, most credit unions expanded by acquiring other credit unions. But in recent years, it has become increasingly common for credit unions to buy community banks. Acquiring banks helps credit unions expand, but purchasing small banks may be the key to their success.

Similar to credit unions, small community banks often have more personal relationships with their customers than large banks. These shared values would, in theory, help acquisitions between credit unions and small banks go more smoothly.

Credit unions vs. banks

For some communities that have lost access to bank branches, credit unions have swept in to fill the void. Daytona Beach and Melbourne, Fla., were two metro areas that found a spot in the top ten metro areas that lost bank branches from 2008 to 2018. In 2019, both of those locations fall within the top ten locations where credit unions are building branches.

Bank mergers are notorious for leaving communities underbanked. Large banks generally have higher fees and higher minimum required balances for deposit accounts compared to small banks. When there is a bank consolidation, it often becomes more expensive for low-income households to maintain bank accounts.

There is an existing pattern of deposit account fees and minimum required balances increasing after the acquisition of small banks by large banks. This occurs less when other small banks are the ones acquiring banks.

In 2017, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) found that 6.5% of households in the United States were unbanked, affecting approximately 8.4 million households. An additional 18.7% (24.2 million) of U.S. households were underbanked. The term underbanked refers to households that have a checking or savings account but have also obtained financial products and services outside of the banking system.

Credit unions have also been merging, but they may not be closing branches in the way that merging banks do. This may be because credit unions are purchasing other credit unions that have geographic radii away from the acquirer’s base. The National Credit Union Association approved 192 consolidations in 2018.  Mergers were approved for a variety of reasons such as declining membership.

The benefits of banking with a credit union

For many, banking with a large bank chain might not be the best or preferred option. This is not just for financial reasons, but also for more personal ones. The FDIC’s 2017 National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households found that some of the main reasons people don’t have bank accounts include:

  • Don’t have enough money to keep in an account: 52.7%
  • Don’t trust banks: 30.2%
  • Avoiding banks provides more privacy: 28.2%
  • Account fees are too high: 24.7%
  • Account fees are unpredictable: 20.2%

Other reasons respondents offered in the report include problems in the past with bank accounts, problems working with banks that don’t offer needed products or services and inconvenient bank hours and locations.

Credit unions may be a more desirable banking option for many people, as they often address some of these top complaints. Credit unions generally offer higher interest rates on their deposit accounts and more affordable loan products. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) found that on average, households save $214 per year when banking with a credit union.

Other benefits of banking with a credit union may include a stronger sense of commitment to the community and a willingness to work with those who have poor credit histories. These benefits may be helping credit unions grow as banks continue to struggle.

Methodology

Analysts mapped branch addresses reported by state and federally chartered credit unions in their June 2019 call reports to the National Credit Union Administration to the addresses reported in June 2014 call reports and then compared the changes in the total number of credit union branches in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the United States.

Branches per capita was calculated as the number of credit union branches per 100,000 residents in each period. Population data for the 2019 calculation was the July 2018 (the last available) U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, and July 2013 for the 2014 calculation.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Jacqueline DeMarco
Jacqueline DeMarco |

Jacqueline DeMarco is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jacqueline here

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Banking

1 in 5 Regret Combining Finances With Spouse or Partner

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes a joint bank account?

Many couples choose to merge their finances, so MagnifyMoney commissioned a survey of over 1,000 Americans regarding their feelings about doing so with a spouse or partner. About half of those surveyed are married or living with a partner.

The survey revealed that some feel regret or tension over combining their finances. Before you run along and open a joint bank account, keep reading for more findings. These are helpful discoveries when you consider that MagnifyMoney in 2017 found that 21% cited money as the cause of their divorce.

Key findings

  • 1 in 5 regret combining finances with their spouse or partner, and those who earn more than their partner are more likely to regret it. Breaking that down, 29% of higher earners feel regret, compared with 16% who earn less and 11% who make about the same amount as their partner.
    • Members of Generation X (ages 39 to 54) are more likely to wish they had not combined financial accounts. 27% of that age group reported regretting doing so, versus 22% of millennials (ages 23 to 38) and 12% of baby boomers (ages 55 to 73).
  • Women are almost twice as likely to say they’re not satisfied with the way finances are managed in their relationship. Across both genders, less than two-thirds are completely satisfied with the handling of money in their relationship.
  • Nearly 4 in 10 are concerned their spouse or partner spends too much. The higher earner in the relationship is typically more concerned about their partner’s spending levels than those who either earn less or earn about the same.
  • 58% percent of men said they outearn their spouse or partner, while just 23% of women said the same.
  • Unmarried couples living together are more likely to have argued about money within the past month than married couples, despite being less likely to have shared financial accounts. This could have something to do with the fact that 44% of unmarried individuals living with their partner are concerned that the partner spends too much, compared with 34% of married couples who said the same.
  • Millennials argue about money more often than other generations. About 40% said they had a money-related argument with their spouse or partner within the past month, versus 31% of Gen Xers and 22% of baby boomers.
  • 78% of Americans check with their partner or spouse before making a purchase over $500. 60% would be angry if their partner or spouse spent that amount without telling them first. Women are more likely than men to be angry about this occurrence.

Who is merging their finances?

Joint bank accounts are not reserved solely for married couples. Those living with a partner can join their finances as well.

In fact, 43% of unmarried couples who live together have entirely joint bank accounts or at least have some of their money in a joint bank account with their partner. There is no guarantee married couples will merge their bank accounts either, as 16% keep separate bank accounts.

Even married couples who share bank accounts don’t necessarily combine all their finances. While 65% of married couples merged their financial accounts, 19% reported keeping some of their finances separate.

Couples are more likely to merge their finances on their own timeline. In fact, 69% of married couples opened their joint account after the wedding, while 16% did so after getting engaged. Even without marriage plans on the horizon, 13% chose to merge their finances after moving in together.

But not everyone is ready to jump on the shared finances bandwagon. Of those with separate accounts, 73% said they never plan on joining their finances. Meanwhile, 21% plan to combine their finances after marriage, with just 4% waiting for an engagement and 3% waiting until they have a child to do so.

Why couples merge their finances

As with other areas of life, couples can have varying opinions regarding how they should best manage their finances.

Whether couples are joining their finances, many still plan together financially. In fact, 30% of couples reported sharing responsibility for managing the household finances.

Spending causes problems

You might want to check with your beloved before you make a pricey purchase. Of those surveyed, 60% reported they would be angry if their partner or spouse spent $500 without telling them first. Women were even more likely to express anger if they weren’t informed of such a purchase.

Not being on the same page about what constitutes as overspending could lead to anger and resentment, which are feelings most couples would like to avoid. The amount that members of a couple are content with spending can vary.

Considering the fact that 36% of people feel their spouse or partner spends too much money, it’s wise to get on the same page and determine an appropriate budget.

How couples feel about merging their finances

For many couples, combining finances feels like a no-brainer. It’s just the next step after the honeymoon. But some couples may find that this seemingly obvious financial step doesn’t work for them.

In fact, 20% of couples reported regretting merging their finances with a spouse or partner. Those who earn more than their romantic partner feel more regret after merging finances. Almost 29% of respondents who earn more than their partner regret doing so. The higher-earning partners were also about twice as likely to report arguing with their partner about money at least once a week.

This is a reminder why it’s important to speak with your partner about important financial issues before you merge your lives together. Planning how you’ll work together to pay off debt, create an emergency fund, buy a home and manage your living expenses is an important part of keeping your relationship financially and emotionally healthy.

Methodology

MagnifyMoney by LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,070 Americans, 573 of whom are either married or living with their partner. The survey was fielded July 26-30, with the sample base proportioned to represent the general population.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Jacqueline DeMarco
Jacqueline DeMarco |

Jacqueline DeMarco is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jacqueline here