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Places Where You Can Earn Six Figures and Still Be Broke in 2019

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A household bringing in $100,000 each year should be on firm financial footing. But depending on where you live, that amount might be barely enough to scrape by — or might not even be enough to cover the basics. Taxes, housing, transportation and other typical expenses can easily eat up six figures a year in certain cities, leaving families strapped for cash, according to a recent analysis by MagnifyMoney.

For this study, we looked at data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Location Affordability Index (updated in March 2019), which also uses data from the 2012-2016 American Community Survey, to see which cities would leave a dual-professional households earning $100,000 with little to no disposable income. We considered the average cost of housing (e.g. insurance and taxes), transportation (e.g. car payments, parking, tolls, bus fare, etc.), childcare, food, retirement contributions, utilities and other line items in a typical family’s budget.

After tallying up all of the expenses, we were able to calculate the disposable income of families living a typical six-figure lifestyle in various metro areas around the United States. Then, we ranked the top cities where families earning $100,000 a year would have the least (and most) amount of money leftover at the end of the month. Here’s what we learned.

Key takeaways

  • In San Jose, Calif., considered the capital of Silicon Valley, a joint income of $100,000 with a preschool-aged child means a couple may have to run up their credit cards $1,046 a month just to cover what the typical two-earner household spends on the basics (not including compounded interest on that credit card debt).
  • In seven of the 100 metro areas we reviewed, the average professional couple spends more than $100,000 on the basics.
  • In McAllen, Texas, a couple earning $100,000 can expect to have around $1,795 left over every month after paying the typical bills for a local dual professional household.
  • Seven of the 10 places where couples can expect the most disposable income are in Texas, Florida and Tennessee, where there’s no state income tax.
  • More than half of married couples have six-figure incomes in 19 of the 100 metros we reviewed.

Worst places in the U.S. to make six figures

Although rising incomes are outpacing housing cost increases, according to one of our previous studies, families in certain metros are continuing to struggle to make ends meet — even after pulling six figures. In seven of the 10 worst cities in the U.S. to make six figures, a household income of $100,000 isn’t enough to cover basic expenses.

For example, in Oxnard, Calif., a coastal city in Southern California, families need to scrounge up another $195 to break even each month. Meanwhile, those in the northern California city of San Jose have a whopping total of $1,046 in unmet expenses each month.

Things get slightly better as families head east. Those in the Big Apple have about $65 in disposable income each month (not even enough for the average Broadway show ticket). But families making $100,000 a year in Minneapolis have an extra $149 to play with after expenses, so at least not all Minnesota families are doomed after making six figures.

Breaking down the expenses by line item can give you a sense of what’s costing families the most in these metros.

The majority of household budgets is devoted to housing, transportation and childcare. Housing was the single largest expense in the top 10 places where you can earn six figures and still be broke, with families in San Jose, Calif., paying the most ($2,760 each month) and families in Worcester, Mass., paying the least ($1,779). Transportation ate up the second largest portion of the budget, ranging from $1,082 to $1,532 depending on the city, with childcare costing slightly less.

Best places in our rankings to make six figures

Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the amount of disposable monthly income for families making $100,000 a year. In McAllen, a city along the state’s southern border, households have $1,795 left in their bank accounts after covering basic expenses; meanwhile, families in the western city of El Paso have just slightly less ($1,679) to spend at the end of the month.

Cities in Florida took third and fourth place, followed by Tennessee metros in fifth, sixth and eighth place. No city in our list of the top 10 places where you can earn six figures and still be flush left families with a surplus of less than $1,400.

A relatively low cost of housing helps families keep more money in their pockets in the best places to make six figures; none of the average households in the top 10 metros spent more than $1,299 to keep a roof over their heads. Families in McAllen, Texas, barely pay more than four figures for housing, which costs $1,004 a month on average.

Seven of the top cities are in places with no state income tax, giving families another roughly $200 to $400 to play with each month, compared with those in the worst cities for families earning $100,000. Childcare was also significantly less in these cities, ranging from $514 to $694 a month, roughly half (or less) of what families making $100,000 pay in the most expensive city, San Jose, Calif.

Our full rankings

Check out the full rankings of the 100 places where you can earn six figures and still be broke (or flush).

For the most part, the percentage of the population that makes over $100,000 in these cities inversely correlates with the average amount of disposable income those families have. None of the average families making $100,000 in these 100 cities saw housing or transportation fall below four figures, making those categories the most significant line items in everyone’s budgets.

Overall, families on the East Coast and West Coast tended to have less disposable income than households in other parts of the country.

Understanding the metrics

There are a few changes to the methodology in our 2019 study. We focused on the largest 100 metros this time around as opposed to some 381 metros last year. We also took a more detailed approach to calculating variables that impact a family’s disposable income.

We based our case study on a family earning a gross income of $8,333 per month. Then we subtracted their monthly expenses, debt obligations and savings to come up with an estimate of how much cash they’d have left over at the end of the month.

These are the assumptions we made for this study:

Savings. We assumed the family contributed $500 monthly to their 401(k). In previous years, we assumed the family set aside 5% of their savings in a regular savings account. This year, we changed the savings to 401(k) contributions because it’s something of a bastion of corporate middle-class personal finance, and it offers a tax benefit.

Tax assumptions. Our study assumes the couple will file jointly for 2019. They took the standard federal deduction and received a federal $2,000 credit for their one child. They also took the standard deductions and credits offered by their state, and took advantage of the pretax Dependent Care FSA child savings plan to deduct the $5,000 maximum from their taxable income by their employer. The couple had insurance premiums paid from their pretax income by their employer and their 401(k) contributions paid from their pretax income by their employer.

Debt. We assume the family had a monthly student loan payment of $393 — the median student loan payment according to the Federal Reserve — in order to be consistent with the other metrics (which also look at the mean). Housing and auto debt are bundled in with the housing and transportation cost budget line items in monthly expenses.

Monthly expenses. We based monthly expenses — housing, transportation, food, utilities, household operations, child care and entertainment — for each location on data taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Care.com, Kaiser Family Foundation and the Federal Reserve. We calculated an average for these expenses taking into account the lifestyle costs of a six-figure earner. We also removed entertainment and combined household expenses with housekeeping supplies and apparel. The cost of apparel is the average amount for a woman, man and child under the age of 2 in each metro.

Compared with last year, we beefed up the monthly necessity expenses — although by no means hit them all — by adding costs like household operations costs and utilities to get a more realistic sense of how much people would have left over after paying their basic bills.

Unfortunately, we haven’t located updated childcare costs compared to last year, so that remains the same in our numbers, but is likely to have increased. We’ve also added the average (mean) income for married couples in each metro, as well as the percentage of married couples in each metro with incomes over $100K.

Further, while the median cost of each expense would have painted a more accurate picture of what half the population experiences, this data only included the average, or mean, of the metrics, so the results may overstate what typical people earn and pay, especially for housing and transportation. With that being said, we recognize we may be lowballing some expenses a typical family faces. For example, our data on health insurance includes monthly premiums, but not copays for visits to the doctor and the cost of prescription drugs.

Methodology

The hypothetical family we created is a typical one that earns a combined income of $100,000 (the average income for a married-couple family in 2017 was $110,786 (the median was $85,031), and 41% of such couples earned at least $100,000 that same year).

We were conservative about the couple’s financial and debt obligations by making the following assumptions:

  • Both have corporate-style employers who offer typical benefits.
  • They have one child currently in day care.
  • Between them, they contribute 6% of their income to their 401(k)’s to maximize typical matching, which is considerably less than the median rate of 10% from an employee in a matching plan (page 7).
  • Only one of them has student loans and is making the average payment of $393 a month. (Student Loan Hero and MagnifyMoney are both owned by LendingTree.)
  • The entire household is on one person’s group insurance plan.
  • The family has average spending habits and expenses for where they live.

To calculate federal and state taxes, we assumed the following:

  • The couple will file jointly for 2019;
  • Took the standard federal deduction;
  • Received a federal $2,000 credit for their one child
  • Took the standard deductions and credits offered by their state;
  • Took advantage of the pre-tax DCFSA child savings plan to deduct the $5,000 maximum from their taxable income by their employer;
  • Had insurance premiums paid from their pre-tax income by their employer;
  • Had their 401(k) contributions paid from their pre-tax income by their employer.

The following variables were used to create their hypothetical expenses (each is the average cost for the geography indicated in parentheses):

  • Federal tax contribution (national, but adjusted for state average health care premiums)
  • State tax contribution (state)
  • FICA contribution (national)
  • 401(k) contribution (national; see notes on assumptions)
  • Insurance premiums for family coverage (state)
  • Housing costs for dual professional families (MSA)
  • Transportation costs for dual professional families (MSA)
  • Food costs (regional)
  • Utilities cost (regional)
  • Household operations, housekeeping supply, and apparel costs (regional)
  • Child care costs (MSAs where available (half of the MSAs), and state averages where not)
  • Student loan payments (national)

Sources include the Bureau of Labor Statistics; the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the Tax Foundation; Care.com; the Kaiser Family Foundation; the U.S. Federal Reserve; and the U.S. Census Bureau.

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.

Joni Sweet
Joni Sweet |

Joni Sweet is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Joni here

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Don’t Apply for New Credit Before Your Mortgage Closes

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.

Disclosure : By clicking “See Offers” you’ll be directed to our parent company, LendingTree. Based on your creditworthiness you may be matched with up to five different lenders.

Purchase agreement for house

When you are in the process of buying a home, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself. You start shopping for all the furnishings you’ll need, lured by all the “same-as-cash” credit offers you’ll see at home-improvement stores, furniture retailers, and bed and bath shops.

The 10% discount you get by signing up might be a great savings for that purchase, but it could also cost you your mortgage, if you haven’t closed yet.

Lenders perform a variety of checks on your accounts up until the day of your closing. Any changes to your income, credit or money in the bank could not only delay your closing — it could turn a loan approval into a denial.

We’ll discuss why you shouldn’t apply for new credit before your loan closes, and suggest what to do if you already did.

Why opening new credit before closing is bad

Mortgage approval is contingent on your financial information from the day you submit the application until the day the house is recorded into your name. Many first-time homebuyers don’t realize the verification process is ongoing, even after you get the initial OK. Lenders will even double-check your employment and credit — the two biggest factors affecting the decision to lend you money — right before closing, and in some cases even the day of closing.

Below are some of the reasons why applying for new credit before closing could create problems for you before closing.

Your debt-to-income ratio could rise too high

Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is a measure of the total debt you owe divided by your before-tax income. Depending on the lending program you apply for, the DTI ratio maximum is anywhere from 41% to around 50%.

Your loan officer won’t usually go over what your DTI ratio is — if you’ve gotten a loan approval, you can safely assume you meet the guidelines. However, you may be right on the borderline of the maximum for your mortgage; if a new credit account balance pops up, the resulting monthly payment could you push you over the limit.

You could get a new monthly payment on your report

Many retail home goods stores offer “No payment due for 12 to 24 months” credit lines, giving buyers the impression that there will be no payment counted against them since it is the same as a cash purchase if you pay off the balance within the specified time period. However, these accounts don’t mean “no payment” to a mortgage lender.

If the creditor doesn’t report a monthly payment, the underwriter will have to calculate an estimated minimum, which may be as high as 5% of the balance of the account — so that $2,500 furniture account could add a $125 per month payment to your total debt, even if you aren’t required to make a payment to the creditor for 12 to 24 months on a “same as cash” incentive offer.

Your credit score could drop

It can take a while to find a home, and credit reports are generally only good for 90 days. If you don’t find a home and close within that time frame, your lender will have to pull a completely new credit report.

If you’ve racked up some credit cards or even inquired about new credit several times, your score could easily drop. The lower your score, the higher your rate will be, and even if you’ve locked in your interest rate, if your score drops because you charged up new credit, you’ll be stuck with whatever the rate and costs are for the most current credit score.

You might have to document your assets again

Don’t be surprised if a lender suddenly asks for some updated bank statements if you recently applied for new credit. Some borrowers are given bad advice to charge up their credit cards to use for a down payment, but credit cards have never been an acceptable source of a down payment.

The only type of borrowed money you can use would be against a fixed asset like a car or boat, and even then you’ll have to provide a lot of documentation to show how much the asset was worth, confirm you owned it at the time of the loan, and show the transfer of all the money from the lender.

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How lenders track your credit during the loan process

When you get approved for a home loan, mortgage companies are committing to lending you hundreds of thousands of dollars payable over a very long time, in most cases 30 years. Because of that, they need to make especially sure that at the time they make the loan, they can demonstrate that you have the ability to repay it.

If for some reason they make a loan you can’t afford, they face consequences from regulatory agencies, and ultimately lose money incurring the legal costs of a foreclosure. That’s why they have policies that pay special attention to how you manage your credit during the loan process.

Initial credit pull

When you apply for a home loan, one of the first things you lender will do is run an initial credit report to take a look at how you manage your credit. Sometimes the information on the credit bureaus can lag a few months, so if you recently applied for credit, make sure the balances and payments are reflected on the loan application you receive from your loan officer.

If not, provide your most current statement so the loan officer can accurately pre-qualify you for a mortgage.

Pre-closing soft pull

Once your loan approval is provided, there will be conditions that need to be met before your closing papers can be scheduled. Your loan officer will let you know if you need to provide anything, such as updated pay stubs or bank statements, before closing, and you’ll need to finalize things like your homeowner’s insurance company.

However, there are things that will be happening behind the scenes that you need to know about. One of the most important is the “pre-closing soft pull.”

A “soft-pull” is simply an update to track any activity on your credit since the initial approval. If your balance rises for something small, like charging your appraisal fee to a credit card, you won’t have anything to worry about.

What to do if you’ve already applied for new credit before closing

If you’ve already applied for new debt before your closing, don’t panic — just get the terms of the loan as soon as you can to your loan officer. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll know if you have to take any drastic measures to fix any qualifying issues that may come up.

If there is a problem, you can take the following immediate steps.

Contact your loan officer immediately

Lenders are in the business of making loans, and the more proactive you are about communicating about any changes to your credit, income or money you have for a down payment, the sooner they can come up with a solution to keep your purchase from falling apart.

Get the terms of your new payment in writing

If the account is brand new, you’ll need to get something in writing as soon as possible that verifies what your new monthly payment will be. If you opened a deferred payment account, at least get something showing the balance so the underwriter can calculate the minimum payment that will be counted against you.

The lender will need to get it added to your credit report as soon as possible, and that process can take several days, since they have to coordinate with a third-party credit reporting agency.

Be prepared to pay it back and close it out

If you don’t qualify because of the new debt, the best plan is to pay if off and close it out, or return the items and get as much of a refund as you can. If you don’t have the assets to do that, you may have to make a painful phone call to a relative to get them to gift you money to pay it back, or you may be living on that brand new couch in their living room when your home purchase loan is declined.

You may have to switch loan programs or pay a higher rate

As mentioned above, not all DTI ratio requirements are the same. If you’re approved for a conventional loan, you’ll have a hard stop at a 50% DTI ratio, and even a fraction of a percentage over that will result in a loan denial.

You may have to switch to a more lenient loan program like the one the FHA offers, but that will mean a new approval, and potentially a new appraisal that meets the more stringent property guidelines required by the FHA. That is also the case if your score drops after updating an outdated credit report — conventional loans won’t be approvable below a 620 credit scores, while FHA will give you flexibility down to 580.

Either way, be prepared to jump through some extra hoops to undo the damage that applying for credit before closing can do to your loan approval.

Final thoughts: Avoid opening new credit until keys are in your hands

The best rule of thumb is to limit your credit use until you’ve got confirmation that the title company has recorded you as the owner of your new home, and you have the keys in your hand. If you have an emergency like a car that breaks down, or incur a major medical expense that you don’t have the cash to cover, talk to your loan officer about strategies to avoid any last minute crisis with your home loan closing.

This article contains links to LendingTree, our parent company.

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.

Denny Ceizyk
Denny Ceizyk |

Denny Ceizyk is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Denny here

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How Credit Report Disputes Can Sabotage Your Chance for a Mortgage

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.

Disclosure : By clicking “See Offers” you’ll be directed to our parent company, LendingTree. Based on your creditworthiness you may be matched with up to five different lenders.

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Mortgage underwriting can feel like it’s taking a lifetime when it’s standing between you and your dream home. But your lender wants to make sure that you’ll be able to repay the loan, so they’ll take the time to go over your credit history with a proverbial magnifying glass.

Before you get to underwriting, you’ll want to make sure you’re a creditworthy borrower. This means maintaining a good payment history, paying down debt and disputing any errors on your credit report.

However, credit report disputes can impact your ability to get a mortgage if they’re still pending when you’re applying for a loan. This guide will explain how and why.

Why your credit reports and scores matter

One of the first things lenders look at is your credit report, which provides information about your credit history. It details whether you’ve made on-time payments on credit cards, loans and other accounts.

The information included in this report is summed up by a credit score that generally ranges between 300 and 850. The higher your score, the more creditworthy you are perceived to be.

Although credit scores aren’t the only factor that determines whether you’ll qualify for a mortgage, your credit score heavily influences the mortgage interest rate you receive. The highest scores qualify borrowers for the best mortgage rates.

Before you begin the homebuying process, it’s smart to review your credit report and have a copy handy. You can request a free credit report once a year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, at AnnualCreditReport.com.

It’s critical to arm yourself with this information in advance. That gives you the opportunity to dispute any inaccuracies you’ve discovered and clean up your report.

What is a credit report dispute?

Credit report inaccuracies are relatively common. Inaccurate information can happen for a variety of reasons — a credit card payment being applied to the wrong account or duplicate accounts in your report giving the impression that you carry more debt than you actually do, for example.

Not only can errors harm your credit score, but they can prevent you from qualifying for a new credit account, such as an auto or home loan. That’s why it’s important to regularly keep track of the information found in your credit reports.

When you review your credit report and find an error, you have the opportunity to formally dispute it under the Fair Credit Reporting Act This is the first step to take to get the error corrected or removed.

Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to file a credit dispute with all three credit reporting agencies online.

How to file a credit report dispute

If you’ve found an error on your credit report, take the following steps to dispute it:

  1. Provide your contact information.
  2. Identify the items in your credit report that are inaccurate.
  3. Explain why you’re disputing the info and include documentation to support your dispute.
  4. Request a correction or deletion.

You’ll also want to reach out to the creditor that is reporting inaccurate information to the credit bureaus. Let them know you’re disputing the information and provide them the same documentation you’re giving to the bureaus.

In many cases, the credit bureaus investigate disputes within 30 days, according to myFICO.com.

However, many disputes can go unresolved for long periods of time, which can be troublesome for consumers applying for a mortgage. Many loan applicants don’t realize an open credit report dispute can raise a red flag to lenders and may even prevent mortgage approval.

When to file a credit report dispute

You’ll want to file a dispute as soon as you spot an error on any of your credit reports, but if you’re thinking about buying a home in the near future, it’s best to exercise caution when filing disputes, especially right before you apply for a mortgage.

Although the dispute investigation can wrap up in 30 days, it could last as long as 90 days, so it’s best to avoid filing new disputes a few months prior to starting the homebuying process.

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How mortgage lenders view credit disputes

When a dispute is filed, credit reporting agencies are required to label the item as “in dispute.” The dispute itself doesn’t impact your FICO Score. However, your score may temporarily deflate or inflate while the disputed items are being investigated.

Mortgage lenders know credit reports with disputed items don’t paint the most accurate picture of a consumer’s creditworthiness and many require this status be removed before approving a mortgage application. This leaves some consumers with a difficult decision to make — accept costly credit report errors or delay applying for a loan until disputes have been resolved.

Here’s how lenders who provide conventional and FHA loans consider credit report disputes when determining whether a consumer qualifies for a mortgage.

Conventional loans

Both government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have automated underwriting systems that alert lenders to existing credit report disputes. These entities don’t issue loans, but buy mortgages from lenders that follow their rules.

Fannie Mae’s system initially reviews all accounts on a borrower’s credit report, even those that are being disputed. If the borrower would be approved for the loan even with the account in question, the loan moves forward. But if the disputed account would push the borrower into the “rejection” category, the system will direct the lender to investigate whether the dispute is valid.

Lenders using Freddie Mac’s system are required to confirm the accuracy of disputed accounts. The borrower would need to have the accounts corrected before the loan can move forward.

FHA loans

FHA-approved lenders require borrowers with disputed delinquent accounts on their credit report to provide an explanation and supporting documentation about their dispute. If the account has an outstanding balance of more than $1,000, the loan must be manually underwritten, which means the loan officer has to review the loan application and supporting documents outside of the automated system.

The loan officer goes over the paperwork included in the borrower’s file very closely to determine their risk of mortgage default and whether they qualify for the loan program that they’re applying.

Disputed medical accounts are excluded from consideration, but disputed accounts that are paid on time must be factored into the borrower’s debt-to-income ratio.

How to remove a lingering credit report dispute

Gaining access to a new credit report with updated information is not an option for the borrower if the creditor won’t correct the information. And when a consumer files a complaint with the credit reporting agencies, the agencies will often defer to the creditor.

Just as you’ve reached out to your creditor and the credit reporting bureaus to file your dispute, you’ll want to take the same action to remove it. Contact the creditor directly and request that they update the account information to show that it’s no longer being disputed.

You may also want to reach out to Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to request dispute removal, but keep in mind they may also reach out to the creditor who is reporting the disputed account. See the FICO website for more information about contacting each bureau’s dispute department.

The bottom line

Dealing with an unresolved credit report dispute can turn into a consumer nightmare. Even if you’ve followed best practices, you may still be unhappy with the results.

Fortunately, you can still submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They will forward your complaint directly to the company in dispute and work to get a response from them. Another option is to seek guidance from a consumer advocate or an attorney. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling may be a helpful place to start.

Credit reports and scores have such a strong influence on lifelong financial health, so the most effective defense is to be proactive about making sure yours are in the best shape possible. Regularly monitoring your credit profile and working to fix inaccuracies before applying for a mortgage is a good game plan to prevent major problems as you embark on the homebuying process.

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.

Crissinda Ponder
Crissinda Ponder |

Crissinda Ponder is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Crissinda here

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