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America’s Most ‘Hygge’Cities

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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In Denmark, the term “hygge” refers to a quality of coziness or sense of comfort. Around the rest of the world, hygge has become a lifestyle trend in the way people approach relaxation and everyday indulgences.

Hygge, pronounced “hoo-guh,” can be a focus on the atmosphere you create at home with candles or a plush throw blanket, the yoga pants you lounge around in when you’re decompressing after a long workweek or even the most comforting dishes or homemade sweet treats you indulge in with friends and family. However you translate it, hygge is certainly not staring at your phone all day or binge-watching Netflix alone all afternoon.

That’s why MagnifyMoney decided to take a look at major cities in the U.S. to find out which ones offer the best chance to build a truly “hygge lifestyle.”

We scraped Instagram for 17 different hygge-themed hashtags (like #cozy, #content and #hygge itself) across a total of 1.7 million posts. Then we surveyed Danish residents to find out how closely they think each of the above terms related to their idea of hygge lifestyle on a scale of 1 to 7. The averages of these ratings were used to weigh each term’s influence.

Our analysis revealed the top 15 cities across the U.S. embracing the hygge lifestyle. With results scattered all across the country, this list proves that cozy, comfortable living isn’t dependent on a particular climate or scenery and can be achieved virtually anywhere.

Key Findings

  1. Santa Monica, Calif., (a generally warm state) was the most hygge city in America.
  2. Overall, states that stood as the most hygge were generally found in colder northern regions lead by Vermont, Washington, D.C. and Montana.
  3. Based on more than 28,000 hashtags, hygge was more commonly linked to home decor and interior design than anything else.
  4. Cities like Miami, Orlando and Atlanta ranked among the most prevalent for feelings and words associated with hygge, indicating traveling to warm climates could be a popular way to channel hygge in colder months.

Leading the way with the highest value of weighted tags we searched for was Santa Monica, Calif. This oceanside city proves you don’t need freezing temperatures to channel the hygge mood and ranked at the top of our list for hashtags like #comfortable, #content and #cozy. With several hygge-friendly beach boutique hotels and plenty of choices for dining out or eating in, you can savor the hygge atmosphere whether you live in Santa Monica or are just passing through.

Head north for a truly hygge lifestyle

While sunny beach paradises across the country — like Santa Monica and Miami Beach, Fla., (related hashtags included #happy, #love and #relaxed) — made the cut for our most hygge cities in America, many of the coziest environments were actually found in states known for more frigid climates.

Perhaps because comfy sweaters, crackling fireplaces and low-lit candles can be such an easy way to evoke the Danish concept, hygge can be a powerful tool in warding off the winter blues in cities like Missoula, Mont. and Minneapolis.

The state of Montana ranked second overall in Google search queries related to “hygge” and Missoula ranked fourth overall. With more than a few picture-perfect ways to spend the winter, from scenic nature trails to adventurous ski slopes, you can stay peaceful and relaxed while still embracing the cold weather in the Treasure State.

In Washington, with a similar fondness for both indoor and outdoor activities in the cooler winter months, we found Seattle ranked among the top 10 cities for #hygge, #autumn and #sweaterweather. According to the Danish, food (and especially eating with friends) is an integral part of hygge culture, and Seattle has locals and visitors alike covered on that front, whether you’re looking for a warm drink or a comforting bite.

A nationwide trend

Every state has a little bit of hygge in it, even if the cities there didn’t necessarily rank among our most definitive places to soak in the relaxed energy and contentment associated with the concept.

At least one city in every state earned the highest marks for the number of hashtags used in that area, including #hygge, #snug, #comfortable and #content (among others). While some of these cities (including Austin, Texas, New Orleans and Seattle) may be well-known locales, others may be embracing hygge under the radar. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is known for its scenic lakefront mountain views and comfortable balance between warm summer months and colder winter temperatures.

In Flagstaff, Ariz., there is a similarly elevated climate and mountainous landscape abound. With the second highest altitude among metropolitan areas, the typical desert heat is lost on people enjoying the hygge vibe in this small mountain city.

Ranking each state

While some warmer cities may have stood out among our most popular destinations for that comforting, intimate energy, the states specializing in hygge were largely clustered in regions that typically endure a more frigid winter season.

The cold winter months may look inviting on a postcard or a TV holiday special, but finding that glowing sentiment can take a bit of work when the temperatures start to fall. The physical sensation of putting on a comfy sweater or cuddling up with someone under a warm blanket does more than keep the harsh cool air away;it can help create a more balanced mental state and sense of well-being. The Danish know a thing or two about the cold, and even just sitting by the open fire with a warm drink or enjoying home-baked goods with pleasant company can do the trick.

As we learned, the states that have the best hygge energy may also have the most practice with these winter weather techniques. Vermont, Washington, D.C., Montana, New York and Maine ranked as the top five regions for their hygge status on social media.

Conclusion

Denmark isn’t just known for bracing the bitter cold in the winter months — it has also been called one of the happiest countries on the planet. Hygge may not be the answer to all of life’s problems, but if Denmark is any indication, it probably couldn’t hurt. Americans in both cool and warm climates are finding ways to bring that picture-perfect, cozy vibe out of magazines and into real life. While search trends for hygge were higher in northern regions, we found no limit to the types of cities and states that might be trying to take a slightly more comfortable and mild approach.

Methodology

We scraped Instagram for 17 different hashtags. We surveyed Danish residents on how closely each of the above terms relates to hygge on a scale of 1 to 7. The averages of these ratings were used to weight each term’s influence. Terms directly related (like “hygge”) were excluded and automatically given a 7. The weights, number of posts and dates collected for each are outlined below.

Data was cleaned and geocoded using shape files of the U.S. We pulled the populations of incorporated areas, with populations over 50,000 from the U.S. Census to calculate per capita numbers for each term and city. Each per capita ranking per term was then again normalized to a scale of 0 to 1.

The weights were applied to the normalized per capita for the related term and added together to get an overall ranking of hygge-related posts on Instagram.

We pulled the search interest for hygge from Google Trends over a 12-month span on Nov. 30, 2017. We then normalized the search trends on a scale of 0 to 1. The normalized trends were added to the Instagram posts score to get a meta ranking to represent hygge across the U.S. We used the search trends across the entire state for each city as city trends were limited to only 13 of the most populated areas. For more information on the methodology behind Google Trends, see here.

Cities in Vermont are notably missing from these rankings because the most populated city, Burlington, only has a population of just over 42,000, which excludes it from the census population set.

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.

Kali McFadden
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Kali McFadden is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kali at kali.mcfadden@magnifymoney.com

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Debt-To-Income and Your Mortgage: Will You Qualify?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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The most important factor in getting a mortgage probably isn’t your credit score. Your application more likely hinges on your debt-to-income ratios — crucial measures that tell lenders how well you are managing payments with your monthly earnings.

Before you take ownership of your dream home, you’ll need to prove you’re aren’t presently overwhelmed with your credit card and loan payments, and that you can comfortably repay a mortgage on top of everything else on your plate.

Keep reading to get a handle on debt-to-income ratios and why they matter so much when you’re buying a home.

Understanding debt-to-income ratios

Mortgage lenders definitely care about your credit score, but they’re even more concerned with your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Your DTI ratio is the percentage of your gross monthly income that is dedicated to monthly debt payments, including auto loans, credit cards, housing, personal loans, student loans and any other loans or lines of credit you’re responsible for repaying.

DTI ratios help tell lenders how much money you’ll have left over each month after you satisfy your debt obligations. It also gives them a measurement of how likely you’ll fall behind on your payments and helps them determine how much money they’ll be comfortable lending to you.

How to calculate your DTI

There are two types of DTI ratios: front-end and back-end. The front-end ratio focuses solely on your housing debt, whether it’s rent or mortgage payments. Let’s say you’re trying to get approved for a home loan that has a $1,000 monthly mortgage payment and you earn a gross monthly income of $5,000. You would divide the mortgage payment by your income amount to get a front-end DTI ratio of 20%.

The back-end ratio is more widely used. It includes all of your monthly debt obligations, including your housing payment. To continue the above example, let’s add another $1,000 to account for your auto loan, student loans and credit cards, bringing your total monthly debt payments to $2,000. That makes your back-end DTI ratio to 40%.

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What DTI do you need to get a mortgage?

Generally speaking, to increase your chances of mortgage approval, try to keep your front-end debt-to-income ratio at or below 30% and your back-end DTI ratio at or below 43%. However, it’s possible to qualify with a slightly higher back-end DTI.

The average front- and back-end ratios for all loans closed during December 2018 was 26% and 39%, respectively, according to mortgage software firm Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insight Report.

Mortgage TypeDebt-to-Income Ratio
Conventional loan43%;up to 50% with compensating factors.
FHA loan43%;up to 50% with compensating factors.
VA loanNo DTI max, but there’s a residual income test.
USDA loan41%;up to 44% with compensating factors.

Conventional lenders usually want to see a back-end DTI ratio of 43% or less, though some lenders may approve DTI ratios of up to 50% if the borrower has a higher credit score or a larger down payment. Similar guidelines apply to FHA loans. Check out our explainer on minimum mortgage requirements for a deeper dive on the DTI requirements for additional mortgage types.

How to improve your DTI

There are a few ways to improve your debt-to-income ratio before you apply for a mortgage.

Pay down your existing debt

Take the time to chip away at your auto loan, credit card, student loan and other debt by dedicating any extra money that comes your way to that debt. Use bonuses, gifts, inheritances and tax refunds to pay down your debt balances and eventually lower the amount of your income going to debt payments every month.

Increase your income

If money is a little tight for you right now and you don’t have additional dollars to put toward paying down your debt load, consider increasing your income by picking up a side hustle, such as driving for Lyft or accepting freelance projects. Review these 10 ways to make extra money and pay off debt for more guidance.

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Mortgage options for borrowers with a high DTI

It’s possible to still qualify for a mortgage if your debt-to-income ratio slightly exceeds the general requirements mentioned above. Below, we highlight a few mortgage products available to high-DTI-ratio borrowers.

Fannie Mae HomeReady® Mortgage

This low down payment loan product from government-sponsored enterprise Fannie Mae allows a maximum back-end DTI ratio of 45% for manually underwritten loans. Depending on your credit score and down payment amount, you may also need to show you have a few months of cash reserves saved up.

Freddie Mac Home Possible® Mortgage

Similar to Fannie Mae’s HomeReady® product, GSE Freddie Mac offers the Home Possible® mortgage that allows a maximum 45% DTI ratio for loans that are manually underwritten.

FHA Mortgage

Home loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration allow borrowers to have DTI ratios up to 50% if they supply a down payment of at least 10%.

Other important mortgage eligibility requirements

While debt-to-income ratios can make or break a prospective borrower’s chances at buying a home, there are several other mortgage requirements that matter to the loan application process. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most important must-haves:

 

  • Credit score: Prepare to have a credit score of at least 620 for a conventional loan and 580 for an FHA loan. It’s possible to qualify for an FHA mortgage with a score as low as 500, but you’ll have to make a larger down payment.
  • Down payment: Save for at least a 3% down payment, or higher if your credit score means you’ll need to put more money down. However, keep in mind that you’ll need to account for mortgage insurance for down payments that are less than 20%.
  • Employment and income: You’ll need to have proof of a steady job and income in order to qualify for a mortgage. Gather your pay stubs and tax returns to demonstrate your capacity to take on a mortgage.

 

The bottom line

Mortgage lenders are tasked with establishing your ability to repay a mortgage, and that includes reviewing your existing debt load and how your hypothetical mortgage would fit into your current financial picture.

If you’re anxious about your debt-to-income ratio percentages, take action to increase the money you bring in monthly and decrease your credit card and loan balances to more manageable amounts.

This article contains links to LendingTree, our parent company.

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Crissinda Ponder
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10 Cities Where Women Outearn Their Partners

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Disclosure : By clicking “See Offers” you’ll be directed to our parent company, LendingTree. You may or may not be matched with the specific lender you clicked on, but up to five different lenders based on your creditworthiness.

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Despite the growing prevalence of women in the workforce, the median earnings of women over the age of 25 was $32,679 in 2017, with men’s median earnings for that same age group at $46,152, per U.S. Census Bureau data, who estimated that women only earn nearly 71% of their male counterparts.

The reasons for this discrepancy are stridently debated, with theories ranging from personal preferences to mismatched family responsibilities, cultural pressure, institutional compensation or advancement bias. Whatever combination of factors are keeping women’s pay low, the fact remains that female workers make less than their male counterparts — both at work and at home.

Our new analysis takes a closer look at pay differences between men and women to see how it affects couples. To find out whether some places are more likely to have a balance between male and female breadwinners, we analyzed microdata from the American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census for the 50 largest metros in the country.

In an ideal world, men and women would be equally likely to be the breadwinner of a couple. But our analysis found that in the 50 largest metros, women were the main breadwinner in less than 31% of couples’ households.

Key takeaways

  • Women are far less likely to be the breadwinners in a couple, our study found. Even in the cities with the highest rates of female breadwinners, women outearned their partners in just one out of three coupled households.
  • Hartford, Conn., takes the No. 1 spot. In 31.1% of this city’s coupled households, a woman was the partner who earned more. Minneapolis and Columbus, Ohio, follow in second and third place, with female breadwinner rates of 31.2% and 30.7%, respectively.
  • Only 22.6% of couples in Salt Lake City have female breadwinners, earning it the last place spot (50th) on our list. Following at 49th and 48th place are Houston and Riverside, Calif., with female breadwinner rates of 23.5% and 23.9%, respectively.

Top 10 cities where more women outearn their partners

In the 10 major U.S. cities with the highest rates of couples with female breadwinners, roughly three in 10 couples have a woman earning more than her partner.

This is a contrast to other surveys that have found higher rates of female breadwinners, such as 49% of women who said they were the primary breadwinner in an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll. The difference in these findings could be attributed to single women or single mothers who are the household’s sole income earners. Women may be more likely to be breadwinners in these surveys that include those who report they’re not competing with a partner for that title.

When they are paired up, however, our analysis shows that women are less likely to be the higher earner. Here’s a closer look at the 10 major U.S. cities that had the highest rates of female breadwinners.

1. Hartford, Conn.

Women who are partnered up are the most likely to be the breadwinner if they live in Hartford. Here, 31.3% of coupled women outearn their partner. This could be thanks to the higher parity of pay in this city, where the gap between men and women’s earnings shrinks to just 17.8%.

2. Minneapolis

Next is Minneapolis, which has almost the same rate of female breadwinners, with 31.2% of coupled women earning more than their partners.

Minneapolis also took the No. 2 spot in our ranking of the best cities for working women. Its high ranking is due to a number of factors, but it’s a true standout for low unemployment among women and decent workplace protections for pregnant women and mothers.

3. Columbus, Ohio

In Columbus, 30.7% of partnered women are the breadwinners. Overall, women here make about $0.19 less per dollar than their male counterparts, well in line with the average among all 50 cities included in this analysis.

4. Providence, R.I.

Providence, R.I. has a female breadwinning rate of 30.5%. This is no surprise, given that it was the eighth-best city for working women in our 2018 study.

While the gender pay gap is above average here, at 19.9%, Providence has above-average rates of women in management positions along with better policies for maternity and parental leave.

5. Baltimore

Among women in Baltimore who are part of a couple, 30.2% outearn their partners. Here, women earn just 18.8% less than men, giving them a better chance of landing pay that beats their significant other’s salary.

6. Sacramento, Calif.

The third-best city for working women, Sacramento, also has one of the highest rates of female breadwinners: 30.0%.

It offers a lower pay gap between genders, with women earning just 14.6% less than men. Sacramento also gets a boost from California’s robust policies and benefits for pregnancy, maternity and family leave.

7. Boston

Boston is the next city with the highest rate of coupled households for which women are the breadwinners, at 29.6%. The gender pay gap here is 18.9%, which is just below average.

8. San Francisco

Next is another top city for working women, San Francisco. Here, the gap in median pay by gender is 18.7% and women outearn their partners 29.5% percent of the time. As another Californian city, women workers in San Francisco are also likely to benefit from strong parental and family work policies.

9. Memphis, Tenn.

In Memphis, women are the breadwinners in 29.4% of couples’ households — that’s despite its ranking as the second-worst city for women. It has just a few redeeming factors, however, such as the above-average number of female managers and the below-average childcare costs in Memphis.

10. Richmond, Va.

Couples in Richmond are among those most likely to be led by a female breadwinner, with 29.2% of women out-earning their partners. Women here earn $0.19 less for every $1 male workers earn, only slightly above the average. Still, working women in Richmond are more likely to receive employer-provided health care and more affordable child care costs, which can offset this pay gap.

10 cities where women aren’t breadwinners


Along with the 10 cities that had the highest rates of women out-earning their partners, we also found the 10 major U.S. cities where women were the least likely to be breadwinners. In these cities, around a quarter (or fewer) of women with partners bring home higher pay than their significant other.

Most of these cities were also among the worst places for women to work, including Detroit and Oklahoma City. Still, low rates of female breadwinners isn’t always a sign of a city that disadvantages women, as three of these cities were among the 15 best places for working women: Austin, Texas; Phoenix; and Virginia Beach, Va.

How the gender pay gap affects shared finances

Overall, this study is another sign of how women are often behind when it comes to pay. The gender pay gap is a big contributor to the low rate of female breadwinners, but it affects more than just women.

When a woman is paid less, this impacts her partner too. The entire household comes up short, setting back financial goals such as paying down debt, building security and savings, and managing money day-to-day.

Some women will also feel the pain of the wage gap more than others, too. Same-sex couples comprised of two female earners, for example, will be doubly hit by the setbacks of the gender pay gap. Women who are the sole breadwinners might also find that they’re having to support their family on less pay than many men in the same position. And for women who earn less than their partner, a separation or divorce can be particularly problematic for their finances.

Many of these factors are outside of U.S. women’s immediate control — but that makes it all the more important to focus on improving their finances where they can.

Here are some ways women can work to close, offset, or compensate for the gender pay gap.

Work on increasing your income. The top cities are proof that the gender pay gap doesn’t have to be universal, and many women are finding ways to close or even overcome it. Take a look at your current pay and do some research through sites such as PayScale or Glassdoor to figure out if it’s fair. If it’s not, it might be time to ask to be paid what you’re worth, either with your current employer or a new one.

You can also look out for career training and opportunities that could act as stepping stones to higher-paying positions. You can even create your own opportunities to boost your income and grow your skills with a side hustle.

Share costs fairly. There are a lot of ways for couples to manage their money together, so look into different methods and decide together on one that’s equitable. If your partner earns twice as much as you, for example, does it really make sense to split expenses 50-50? Discuss how you can work with differences in pay to ensure that both assets and expenses are equally and fairly shared.

Make savings a priority. Women in a couple must save for their own future, regardless of what they earn. It can be wise to have your own checking or savings accounts that are held in your name alone, where you can build financial security independent of your partner. It’s also wise to set up your own retirement accounts and contribute to those regularly, as well.

Manage debt wisely. Debt can be a huge source of stress for couples. On top of that, debt accrued in marriage can be considered jointly shared, making you equally responsible for its repayment even if your spouse took it out. So it’s smart to practice good budgeting habits, live within your means and avoid getting into debt. Even if you’re not married, your or your partner’s debt will still affect shared money goals and lower the debtor’s ability to contribute as equally. Work on paying debt off faster, and look into ways to lower costs such as credit card consolidation.

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While women with a partner are still less likely to be the breadwinners than partnered men, it doesn’t have to hold back their finances. Choose a significant other who values and equal partnership and practices sound financial management. Aim for higher-paying positions at work to try to close the gender gap. Then improve your own money skills and knowledge so you can make the most of your income.

Methodology

Analysts used the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey 2017 microdata hosted on IPUMS to determine the percentage of coupled households with a female partner, where a female partner had the higher income. The analysis was limited to the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S.

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.

Elyssa Kirkham
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Elyssa Kirkham is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Elyssa here

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