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Best Places to Raise a Family With a Balanced Lifestyle

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.

best places to raise a family
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Raising a family has always been a challenge. But for many parents, getting their kids into a prestigious college is a long-term goal that may require them to start thinking early about how to give their children a head start. That not only means access to traditional educational opportunities but also paying for extracurricular activities parents consider important enough to go into debt over.

You can’t have it all, of course, and some of the communities with the best resources are also the most costly for families. Below we look to combine these factors to rank the best places to raise a family with a balanced lifestyle. Using data from 2016-2017, we compare 16 different metrics between the 100 biggest metro areas in the United States to pinpoint the best cities for families who want a balanced lifestyle.

Key findings

  • Utah metro areas come out looking good for families. Provo and Ogden secured the top two spots thanks to being family-friendly metro areas. Both of these metros stand out for their low average work hours, low unemployment rates and high density of families and children. In both metros, roughly 80% of households are occupied by families with over a third of the population being under 20 years old.
  • Boston comes in third and is the best of the pricey metro areas. This area has a high concentration of family-friendly establishments like museums, summer camps and grocery stores. This area also ranks in the top 30 for English proficiency, math proficiency and graduation rate, making it one of the best metro areas for education opportunities.
  • Southwestern metro areas did not fare well. Tucson, Ariz. and Albuquerque, N.M. took last and second-to-last spots respectively, while Las Vegas and Tulsa, Okla. also fell into the bottom six.
  • Florida scored poorly on the study with five metro areas in the bottom 20.


By looking at the map, it’s clear that the highest concentration of liveable cities is on the east coast, although California does put up some strong numbers for the west with six cities across the state making it into the top half of the rankings. Don’t focus exclusively on the mainland, though — Hawaii fares considerably well against the rest of the country with Honolulu ranked 20th overall.

You might notice some of the most northern states, such as Montana or North Dakota, aren’t ranked at all. That’s because their population density isn’t high enough for cities in the states to make it into the top 100.

Top 10 places to raise a family with a balanced lifestyle

Trying to determine where the best city to raise your family is? The following cities made it into the top 10 of our rankings.

1. Provo, Utah

The average work hours in Provo came out at 35 per week, with an unemployment rate of 4.3%. Families tend to be drawn to Provo, which has a family rate of 81.9%. It’s also strong when it comes to education, boasting a graduation rate of 91.6%. These results are not too surprising; Provo ranked highly in our rankings of America’s biggest boomtowns, alongside Austin, Texas.

2. Ogden, Utah

Utah makes a strong showing in the top 10 with Ogden claiming second place. Similar to Provo, people in Ogden typically work under 40 hours a week, reporting a 37.3 hour average. The numbers are similar across the board between Provo and Ogden except for the crime rate. While Provo ranks in sixth place in terms of low crime rate, Ogden ranks in 29th place.

3. Boston, Mass.

Even though Boston might sound like an expensive city, it does a lot to make life better for families. In fact, Boston ranks sixth when it comes to family-friendly businesses. It’s relatively low crime, ranking seventh — one spot behind Provo. It has an 89.7% graduation rate for students.

4. Grand Rapids, Mich.

Grand Rapids ranks 17th when it comes to home affordability and has an unemployment rate of 5.3%, ranking 17th compared to all the other cities in the data. Its family poverty rate of 7.9%, which is lower than Provo’s, who has a family poverty rate of 8.5%.

5. San Jose, Calif.

Despite an earlier study showing San Jose is one of the worst places to be making six figures, it’s still an affordable place for families with a family poverty rate of 5.7% — the lowest of all cities in the top five. It has an unemployment rate of 5.8%. The graduation rate is the lowest of all the top five cities, coming in at 84.2%.

6. Bridgeport, Conn.

Bridgeport is another city known to be difficult for workers to make a six figure income, but that doesn’t seem to stop families from thriving in the area. It has a family rate of 70%. Students in the area seem to thrive too, Bridgeport boasts a graduation rate of 91.8%.

7. Austin, Texas

Workers in Austin were among the top in the country for most hours worked, with an average of 39.7 hours per week. However, Austin also has the highest graduation rate out of all the cities in the top ten, coming in at 92.7%.

8. Minneapolis, Minn.

With a family poverty rate of 5.9%, Minneapolis ranks second best in this area out of all the cities in the top 10. It also come in 46th place in home affordability, make them one of the more financially tenable cities on the list for growing families.

9. Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines has the most affordable homes out of all cities to make the top ten, coming in 11th place in this area. Its unemployment rate is at 4.3% while their graduation rate is comparable to Bridgeport, Conn. at 91.9%.

10. Worcester, Mass.

Similar to Boston, Worcester ranks well when it comes to family friendly businesses and activities — with 2.3%. Its crime rate also establishes it as a safer place for families, coming in 10th place.

See our complete rankings

The complete rankings show the tradeoffs between each location. Keep in mind when reviewing the data that certain criteria may be more valuable to you personally than others when deciding where to live. That’s why it’s important to look at the data as a whole and compare discrepancies between your ideal cities. To see what you’d rather live with and or what you can’t live without.

Making the most of your family’s income

No matter where you live, sound, financial stewardship is the key to providing a balanced life for your family. While some cities make this easier than others in the end it does come down to how you manage your finances. Here are some tips to start incorporating into your financial plan now regardless of your location.

1. Use an app to manage your budget

The days of keeping cash in envelopes or using a spreadsheet to budget are long behind us. Nowadays there are many budgeting apps you can use to manage your family’s money.

For example, if you are still in love with the envelope method, consider an app like Goodbudget. It allows you to replicate the concept from your smartphone. For a more in-depth approach, try a platform such as Mint that allows you to track your income and expenses and will send you alerts throughout the month to help you reach your savings goals.

2. Consolidate your debt

If you are facing debt as a family, consider taking out a personal loan to consolidate your debt. Debt consolidation can help you pay less interest over time, if you qualify for a lower interest rate on the new loan. Plus, it simplifies your finances because instead of having to make various payments you’ll only have to focus on one payment, once a month.

Compare personal loans online to make sure you’re getting your best rate before you sign.

3. Consider your investment options

If you have savings each month, even if it is a small amount, you might want to start considering how to invest your surplus. After creating an emergency fund with cash you can access quickly if a worst case scenario does arise begin to decide how you’ll invest the extra. This could take the form of a daily interest savings account or something more aggressive.

Methodology

In order to find the best places to raise a family with a balanced lifestyle, we compared data for the top 100 metro areas by population. Specifically, we looked at the following 16 metrics:

  1. Average hours worked per week (2017 ACS)
  2. Unemployment rate (2017 ACS)
  3. Median housing costs as a percent of household income (2017 ACS)
  4. Family poverty rate (2017 ACS)
  5. Family friendly business rate (2016 County Business Patterns Survey)
  6. Education opportunity rate (2016 Business Patterns Survey)
  7. Math proficiency rate (Data comes from the US Department of Education and is for 2016-2017 School Year)
  8. English proficiency rate ((Data comes from the US Department of Education and is for 2016-2017 School Year)
  9. Graduation rate (Data comes from the US Department of Education and is for 2016-2017 School Year)
  10. 5-year change in median home values (2017 ACS)
  11. Family household rate (2017 ACS)
  12. Percent of population under 20 years old (2017 ACS)
  13. Home affordability ratio (2017 ACS)
  14. Crime rate per 100,000 residents (Data comes from the FBI and is for 2017)
  15. Per pupil funding as a percent of local income (2017 ACS)

Each metric was scored relative to highest and lowest values across all metros. For each metric, these scores were averaged for a highest possible category score of 100 and a lowest of 0. Family friendly business rate, education opportunity rate, math proficiency rate and english proficiency rate were all given half weight while every other metric was given full weight. The highest possible final score was 100 and the lowest was 0.

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.

Jolene Latimer
Jolene Latimer |

Jolene Latimer is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jolene here

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Personal Loans

Mariner Finance Personal Loan Review

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.

APR

Up to 35.99%

Credit Req.

No minimum credit score

Terms

12 to 60

months

Origination Fee

Not specified

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Mariner Finance personal loan details
 

Fees and penalties

  • Terms: 12 to 60 months
  • APR range: Up to 35.99%
  • Loan amounts: $1,000-$25,000. Loans less than $1,500 or greater than $7,000 must be funded through a branch. Loans between $1,500-$7,000 can be funded online.
  • Time to funding: For loans completed online, funding can be expected within two business days after the verification process. If applying at a branch, you will receive your check after completing the loan documentation step.
  • Hard pull/soft pull: Soft Pull to apply. There will be a hard pull if you decide to fund your loan through Mariner Finance.
  • Origination fee: Not specified
  • Prepayment fee: None
  • Late payment fee: Not specified
  • Other fees: Varies

In addition to accepting cosigners, Mariner Finance accepts applicants who have filed for bankruptcy, subject to certain underwriting requirements. Mariner reports to the three credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

Mariner Finance has created an educational online personal finance course, MoneySKILL, alongside the American Financial Services Association (AFSA). While you don’t need to hold a loan with Mariner Finance to take part, the free educational resource features a curriculum that covers everything from budgeting to borrowing to identity theft.

Eligibility requirements

  • Minimum credit score: Not specified
  • Minimum credit history: Not specified
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Not specified

To take out a personal loan with Mariner Finance you need to live in one of the 22 states it operates in: Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Depending on the loan amount you’re requesting, you may need to visit a physical branch to complete the loan. Mariner Finance requires loan applicants to verify their identity, residence and income before funding loans. If you’re self-employed, you can still take out a personal loan, but you’ll need to provide bank statements and your most recent tax return to prove income.

Applying for a personal loan from Mariner Finance

The application process is relatively simple and painless. To begin, visit either Mariner Finance or one of its subsidiaries’ websites. On the top right of the page, you can click the “Check My Offers” button, where you’ll be taken to a page that specifies how large a loan you’d like to take out. Once you’ve specified the loan amount, click “Continue.” If you have any offer code, which Mariner Finance sends out to pre-qualified customers, you’ll click the “I have an offer code” link.

On the next page, you’ll need to provide Mariner Finance with your personal information. You’ll be asked to provide:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • Citizenship status (U.S. citizen, permanent resident, foreign resident)
  • Social Security number
  • Personal pretaxed annual income
  • Household income (pretax)
  • Employment status
  • Employer phone number
  • How long you’ve worked for your employer
  • Whether you rent, own your home and/or have a mortgage
  • Monthly rent or mortgage payment
  • The loan purpose

Once you fill out the info, create login credentials and sign the disclosures and privacy box, your application will be submitted. You should hear from Mariner Finance within the same business day about the status of your application. When you hear back, if you decide to move forward with the offer, you’ll have to submit certain documents to verify the information you provided in your application. These include:

  • A valid driver’s license or passport
  • Your Social Security card
  • Proof of residence
  • Proof of income
  • A recent tax return or bank statement if you’re self-employed

You may need to go into a physical branch to submit these documents.

Once information is verified, Mariner Finance will conduct a hard pull on your credit before the funding the loan. If approved, your funds will be deposited either into the bank account provided during the application process if applied for online, or via check if your loan was closed at a physical branch. Loans that are completed online typically take two business days before funds are deposited into your account. For loans closed at a physical branch, you’ll receive funds after Mariner Finance has completed the loan document process.

Pros and cons of a Mariner Finance personal loan

Pros:

Cons:

  • No prepayment penalty: Mariner does not charge any prepayment fees for paying off your loan early. It also has a 15-day guarantee that allows you to cancel and return your loan without any charges.
  • Cosigners allowed: Mariner Finance accepts cosigners on the personal loans it funds, which can help you secure a loan or a better rate if your cosigner has better credit than you do. Your cosigner does not have to be family either.
  • Limited accessibility: Mariner Finance operates within 22 states. You can’t get a loan from Mariner Finance if you don’t live in one of those states.
  • May have to visit a branch: Depending on the amount of the personal loan, you may be required to go into a branch to complete the loan application and verification processes.

Who’s the best fit for a Mariner Finance personal loan?

A personal loan from Mariner Finance may be a good fit for you if your credit score is below average and you live in one of the 22 states where Mariner Finance issues loans. And if you value in-person customer service when dealing with financial matters, you may like that Mariner Finance has more than 450 branches. If you live outside of the states listed, you can still shop around to find the lowest rates.

Mariner Finance consumer reviews

Mariner Finance has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. It has 4.8 out of 5 stars on LendingTree (Disclaimer: MagnifyMoney is owned by LendingTree), with 97% of customers recommending it in their review. The company scored 5 out of 5 stars in responsiveness and customer service while scoring 4 out of 5 stars in both interest rates as well as fees and closing costs.

“I was really impressed with how easy the entire process was. The staff was exceptionally friendly on the phone and in person,” wrote Teresa of Raleigh, N.C.. Most additional customer reviews talk about how helpful the staff are and how respectful the company is of you no matter what your financial situation is. Reviewers say the staff are patient and willing to answer all questions as they work to find a financial solution for you.

Mariner Finance FAQ

Mariner Finance offers a wide variety of loans including personal loans, mortgages and auto loans. Under these broad categories are many variations such as reverse mortgages and home refinancing or auto refinancing.

Mariner Finance aims to give you a response within the same business day when you apply for a loan.

Since you will be required to show proof of income you will most likely not be able to secure the loan without having a job.

You can spend your personal loan funds on legal expenses of your choosing.This could be for vacations, debt consolidation or home improvement.

Since Mariner Finance reports to the three major credit agencies, Experian. Equifax and Transunion, if you stop making payments on your loan this could impact your credit. If you can’t pay your bill, get in touch with Mariner Finance as soon as possible to discuss options that might work for you.

If you don’t qualify for a loan from Mariner Financial, start by asking your loan officer why you were rejected. Then, you can work to improve your eligibility and try again in the future.

Since Mariner Financial reports to the three main credit reporting agencies, positive payments will reflect well on your credit score and you could see your numbers improve over several months.

Alternative personal loan options

Marcus by Goldman Sachs®

Marcus by Goldman Sachs®
APR

6.99%
To
28.99%

Credit Req.

Not specified

Terms

36 to 72

months

Origination Fee

No origination fee

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

Marcus by Goldman Sachs® offers personal loans for up to $40,000 for debt consolidation and credit consolidation. ... Read More


Your loan terms are not guaranteed and are subject to our verification of your identity and credit information. To obtain a loan, you must submit additional documentation including an application that may affect your credit score. Rates will vary based on many factors, such as your creditworthiness (for example, credit score and credit history) and the length of your loan (for example, rates for 36 month loans are generally lower than rates for 72 month loans).Your maximum loan amount may vary depending on your loan purpose, income and creditworthiness. Your verifiable income must support your ability to repay your loan. Marcus by Goldman Sachs is a brand of Goldman Sachs Bank USA and all loans are issued by Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Salt Lake City Branch. Applications are subject to additional terms and conditions. For New York residents, rates range from 6.99% to 24.99% APR.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs® advertises absolutely no fees on personal loans. It funds personal loans up to $40,000, with terms ranging from 36 to 72 months and APRs ranging from 6.99%–28.99%. Personal loans are available to anyone older than 18 who has a U.S. bank account and a Social Security number or taxpayer identification number, with a few exceptions: the minimum age is 19 in Alabama and Nebraska, 21 in Mississippi and Puerto Rico.

SoFi

SoFi
APR

5.99%
To
17.88%

Credit Req.

680

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 84

months

Origination Fee

No origination fee

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

SoFi offers some of the best rates and terms on the market. ... Read More


Fixed rates from 5.99% APR to 17.88% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 6.49% APR to 14.70% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of November 4, 2019 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 6.49% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 1.81% plus 3.08% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

All rates, terms, and figures are subject to change by the lender without notice. For the most up-to-date information, visit the lender's website directly. To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull.

See Consumer Licenses.

SoFi Personal Loans are not available to residents of MS. Minimum loan requirements might be higher than $5,000 in specific states due to legal requirements. Fixed and variable-rate caps may be lower in some states due to legal requirements and may impact your eligibility to qualify for a SoFi loan.

If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you may apply for Unemployment Protection. SoFi will suspend your monthly SoFi loan payments and provide job placement assistance during your forbearance period. Interest will continue to accrue and will be added to your principal balance at the end of each forbearance period, to the extent permitted by applicable law. Benefits are offered in three month increments, and capped at 12 months, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. To be eligible for this assistance you must provide proof that you have applied for and are eligible for unemployment compensation, and you must actively work with our Career Advisory Group to look for new employment. If the loan is co-signed the unemployment protection applies where both the borrower and cosigner lose their job and meet conditions.

Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi's underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

SoFi offers personal loans ranging from $5,000–$100,000 and terms between 24 to 84 months. Its personal loans have no fees and come with unemployment protection, which can help defer payments in case you lose your job while paying off your loan. Anyone who lives within the U.S. and in a state where SoFi is authorized to lend is eligible for a personal loan from Sofi.

LightStream

APR

4.99%
To
16.79%*

with AutoPay

Credit Req.

Not specified

Terms

24 to 144*

months

Origination Fee

No origination fee

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

LightStream is the online lending division of SunTrust Bank.... Read More


*Your APR may differ based on loan purpose, amount, term, and your credit profile. Rate is quoted with AutoPay discount, which is only available when you select AutoPay prior to loan funding. Rates without AutoPay may be higher. Subject to credit approval. Conditions and limitations apply. Advertised rates and terms are subject to change without notice. Payment example: Monthly payments for a $10,000 loan at 4.99% APR with a term of 3 years would result in 36 monthly payments of $299.66.

The SunTrust Bank-owned lender LightStream offers personal loans ranging from $5,000–$100,000, with loan terms anywhere from 24 to 144 months (2-12 years). Its personal loans come with no fees or prepayment penalties; however there is a hard pull on your credit.

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.

Jolene Latimer
Jolene Latimer |

Jolene Latimer is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jolene here

Jackson Wise
Jackson Wise |

Jackson Wise is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jackson here

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