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Places Where Americans Live the Most Balanced Lifestyles

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.

As Americans, we’re often focused on status markers, like the amount of money we make, but research indicates that time we spend with people we care about, good health and income equality are some of biggest factors that lead to happiness. It’s not just how much we earn, it’s what we have to do to earn it, what we get in exchange for it and whether we have the time and health to enjoy our friends and family.

In other words, a balanced life.

To figure out where people are most likely to find that kind of balance, we compared seven measures in the 50 biggest metropolitan areas of the U.S.

We looked at the following (full methodology below):

    • Average commute times
    • How much of their incomes residents spend on housing
    • How many hours people work compared to how much they earn
    • Local income inequality
    • How many people are in very good or excellent health
    • Whether they get enough sleep at night
    • How local prices for typical consumer goods and services (excluding housing) compare with the national average

Below are the places that ranked highest — and lowest.

Places with the most balanced lifestyles

For clarity, we used the name of the major city in a metro area (i.e., Grand Rapids, instead of Grand Rapids-Wyoming-Muskegon, Mich.)

1. Grand Rapids, Mich.

Residents of Grand Rapids work a little harder for their money than those at other top cities on our list, but that money seems to work a lot harder for them, too. Generally, housing only costs 18% of income, commutes are under 22 minutes, prices on consumer goods are about 5% lower than the national average, and income inequality is relatively low. Maybe that’s why 56% of the population are reported to be in very good health (the ninth highest), even though 14 other cities have fewer sleep-deprived citizens. Of course, we might expect denizens to be made of hearty stock, given all the opportunities for outdoor activity for those who can make it through the notoriously harsh winters.

Score: 83 (out of 100)

2. Salt Lake City

Another city with a vibrant outdoor culture, Salt Lake City takes the number two spot with a score of 81. The key seems to be the widespread prosperity: Salt Lake City has the second-lowest income equality of any metro we reviewed, which is especially impressive considering the median income was $69,490 in 2016, considerably more than the national median of $55,322. And it only takes an average of 22 minutes to commute to those high-paying jobs (about the same as Grand Rapids), where workers spend about an hour less a week than average Americans. Prices for goods and services are about on par with the national average, but Salt Lakers spend 20% of their income on housing — about 1% less than people in the other cities we reviewed. Almost 57% of the population are reported to be in very good health, and more than two-thirds report getting at least seven hours of sleep a night.
Score: 81

3. Minneapolis

The Twin Cities are home to more people in very good or excellent health than anywhere else on our list. Maybe it’s because they get so much rest; only four other places report lower rates of sleep-deprived citizens. Income inequality is a touch higher than in Grand Rapids and Salt Lake (but still the fifth lowest on our list) and the average commute is about three minutes longer, but residents get more money for their time. Housing costs about 20% of the median income, and goods are priced about 4% lower than the national average.
Score: 80

4. Raleigh, N.C.

The Research Triangle Area places fourth on our list, thanks to a very healthy (third on our list) and well-rested (sixth for fewest sleep-deprived citizens) population. Commute times are fair at about 26 minutes on average, as is the percentage of median income that goes to cover the median housing costs (20 percent). In terms of income inequality, Raleigh also runs middle of the pack among cities we reviewed, ranking 23rd, but that’s a big jump from the first three cities on list, which ranked third, second and fifth. Moreover, Raleigh ranks 18th for both the amount they earn for how long they work and the cost of consumer goods compared to the national average.
Score: 71

5. Kansas City, Mo.

A healthy showing on average commute times (under 23 minutes), income inequality (8th lowest on our list) and share of income that goes towards housing (19%) sends KCMO to the fifth spot on our list. Kansas City ranks in the top half of our list for citizens who aren’t sleep deprived (22nd), percentage of the population in very good or excellent health (19th) and income earned compared to hours worked (24th). The place where they rank lower than more than half the cities on our list is in local prices compared to national averages (27th), but they should still expect to pay about 3.7 percent less than most other Americans for goods and services.
Score: 68

Places with the least balanced lifestyles

50. New York

It probably doesn’t surprise anyone that New Yorkers endure the longest average commute times (over 35 minutes), and pay the highest prices for goods and services of America’s 50 largest metro areas. It also sits at the 49th slot for income inequality. While New York has one of the highest median housing costs (San Francisco is the most expensive), it’s somewhat offset by higher median household income. But not too far offset; residents of only three other cities spend a larger portion of their income on housing. Lending credence to the famous epithet of “the city that never sleeps,” 41% of New Yorkers report being sleep deprived (Detroit is the most sleep-deprived, with just over half of residents reporting fewer than seven hours of sleep a night). With 31% of the population reported in good or excellent health, New York ranks 35th out of 50 in that area. One bright spot is placing 8th for the amount of money New Yorkers earn for the number of hours they work. Sadly, that didn’t help New York’s score much.

Score: 20

49. Miami

Not to be outdone, Miami also ranks dead last in two areas we measured: The cost of housing relative to income and income inequality. Miami fares poorly in other areas, too, like the number of hours worked relative to the amount of money earned (43th), average commute time (41st), and prices for goods and services relative to the national average (39th). It runs in the middle of the pack in other two categories, coming in 26th for both the percentage of people in very good or excellent health and the number of people getting at least seven hours of sleep a night.

Score: 22

48. Philadelphia

Philly doesn’t rank last in any area, but it falls in the bottom ten for all but two categories: Average commute time (40th), income equality (41st), very good health (45th), enough sleep (47th) and consumer prices (47th). It does slightly better in the percentage of income that goes toward housing (35th), but has a stronger showing in the number of hours citizens work relative to how much they earn (15th).
Score: 23

47. Los Angeles

Citizens of LA earn a lot for the hours they work, but that doesn’t help too much given the high price of housing — only two other cities spend more of their incomes on housing (San Diego and Miami). The cost of goods and services are the highest outside of New York City and San Francisco. Add to that high income inequality (ranked 45th), that famously horrific commute (45th) and poor health (42nd) to get a low score.
Score: 24

46. Tampa, Fla.

Another Florida city in the bottom five, Tampa’s biggest flaw is the ratio of hours worked to income earned (ranked 45th). Tampa doesn’t rank that low elsewhere, but it doesn’t rank high in anything, either; its top showing is a rank of 31 in the percentage of people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night. Average commutes clock in over 27 minutes (35th), and only half the population are reported to be in good or excellent health (32nd). The city ranks even lower for the prices of goods and services (40th) and the percentage of income that goes toward housing (41st).
Score: 26

Methodology:

The top 50 Combined Statistical Areas (CSAs) are ranked on a 100-point scale on the following seven measures:

  1. Average commute time, as reported in the 2016 American Community Survey (“ACS”)
  2. Percentage of income spent on housing, calculated as (the median monthly housing cost) / (median household income / 12 months), as reported in the 2016 ACS
  3. The number of hours worked relative to income earned, calculated as (the mean average number of hours worked) / (divided by the mean monthly household income / 12 months), as reported in the 2016 ACS
  4. Gini coefficient to represent income inequality, as reported in the 2016 ACS
  5. Price index, calculated as (Price Index for Goods + Price Index for Other) / (2), as reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the “Real Personal Income for States and Metropolitan Areas, 2015” release
  6. Share of the population in very good health, calculated as (percentage of the population in very good health) + (percentage of the population in excellent health), as reported in the 500 Cities Project (2016) from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”)
  7. Share of the population who gets fewer than seven hours of sleep a night, as reported by the CDC. Data was not available for the following metro areas, so the unweighted average for available areas in the same state was used: Greenville, S.C. and Harrisburg, Pa.

The sum of all ranks was then divided by seven, for a maximum possible score of 100 and a lowest possible score of zero.

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
Kali McFadden |

Kali McFadden is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kali at [email protected]

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10 Great Free Checking Accounts

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.

free checking accounts
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The humble checking account may not offer rewards, cash back or many of the other perks offered by ritzy credit cards, but it remains the cornerstone of your financial life. Nobody likes paying monthly maintenance fees, so why not pick a free checking account that does away with them altogether?

Below, we’ve selected nine of the best free checking accounts by scouring our database for products meeting the following criteria:

  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • A low initial deposit amount (between $0-$50) needed to open the account
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Minimal third-party ATM fees
  • Available nationwide

Account Name

Minimum needed to open

APY

Consumers Credit Union (IL) Free Rewards Checking$05.09% (applies to balances up to $10,000)
TAB Bank Free Kasasa Cash Checking$04.00% (applies to balances up to $50,000)
Orion FCU Premium Checking$25 deposit in Primary Share Account4.00% (applies to balances up to $30,000)
One American Bank Kasasa Cash Account$503.50%(applies to balances up to $10,000)
Evansville Teachers FCU Vertical Checking$30 ($25 if you're already a member of this credit union)3.00% (applies to balances up to $20,000)
Simple Account$02.02%
SoFi Money$01.80%
Empower Checking$01.65%
Discover Cashback Credit$0None, but customers receive 1% cash back each month on certain spending with a limit of $3,000
Ally Bank Interest Checking$00.60%

10 bests free checking accounts of October 2019

Consumers Credit Union (IL) Free Rewards Checking

The Consumers Credit Union provides an online-only Free Rewards Checking account to anyone in the nation who becomes a member. You can qualify for membership with a one-time $5 payment to Consumers Cooperative Association. Perks of the account, which charges no monthly maintenance fees and requires no minimum balance, include unlimited third-party ATM fee refunds.

However you do have to meet some requirements in order to get all of the benefits of the account (including the high APY). The APY for this account is divided into three tiers, with the lowest earning 3.09%, the middle 4.09% and the highest tier 5.09%. The requirements for each of these tiers are:

To earn 3.09%

  • Receive eStatements
  • Make at least 12 debit card purchases a month
  • Post direct deposits or ACH payments of at least $500 each month

To earn 4.09%

  • Meet all the requirements of the previous tier
  • Have a Consumers Credit Union Visa credit card and spend at least $500 a month on it

To earn 5.09%

  • Meet all the requirements of the previous tier
  • Spend at least $1,000 a month on your Consumers Credit Union Visa credit card

Keep in mind these high APYs only apply to balances up to $10,000. The portion of any balance between $10,000.01 and $25,000 earn 0.20% APY, and balances greater than $25,000 earn an APY of 0.10%.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Consumers Credit Union (IL)’s secure website

NCUA Insured

TAB Bank Free Kasasa Cash Checking

Headquartered in Ogden, Utah, TAB Bank offers a great rate on its Free Kasasa Cash Checking account. Developed by the Kasasa Corporation, a Texas-based financial services and marketing organization, Kasasa accounts help smaller banks compete against larger rivals by providing higher rates.

TAB’s account charges no fees for using third-party ATMs, and reimburses up to $15 in third-party ATM fees per month. There are no fees and no minimum balance requirement for this account, but to earn 4.00% APY reward rate, every month you must:

  • Deposit at least one ACH payment or direct deposit, or make one bill pay transaction
  • Make at least 15 signature-based debit card purchases

If you don’t qualify in any given month, your balance earns 0.05% APY, and third-party ATM fees are not refunded. You can earn the reward rate APY on balances up to $50,000, which is well above the other maximum balances on this roundup. Balances greater than $50,000 earn an APY of 0.25%.

LEARN MORE Secured

on TAB Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Orion Federal Credit Union Premium Checking

Orion Federal Credit Union has served the community in Memphis, Tenn. since 1957 — and now it offers its outstanding Premium Checking product online to anyone who becomes a member. This involves opening a Primary Share Account savings account with a $25 deposit, and donating $10 to one of five local charities.

This account charges no fees for using third-party ATMs, and reimburses fees charged to you by owners of third-party ATMs, making it free to access your cash from anywhere. To earn the 4.00% APY interest rate, and also get ATM fee reimbursements and waive the $5 monthly fee for the account, you must:

  • Deposit at least $500 a month in the account, either by direct deposit or other mobile electronic deposit
  • Perform at least eight signature-based debit card transactions

Orion lets you earn their high APY on balances up to $30,000. Balances greater than $30,000 earn an APY of 0.05%.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Orion Federal Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

One American Bank Kasasa Cash Account

This small community bank, based in Sioux Falls, SD, offers a nationally available Kasasa Cash checking account that earns a decent 3.50% APY on balances up to $10,000. You need a minimum of $50 to open the account, but after that all you need to do to earn the very competitive APY of 3.50% is:

  • Make at least 12 debit card purchase transactions a month of at least $5.00 each
  • Receive electronic bank statements, account notices and disclosures
  • Log in to online banking at least one time a month

If you meet these qualifications, One American Bank also refunds up $25 in third-party ATM funds per month.

LEARN MORE Secured

on One American Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union Vertical Checking

Don’t let the name of this credit union fool you—anyone can become a member if they open a $5 savings account, which then allows you to open a Vertical Checking account with a minimum balance of $25.

This free checking account doesn’t charge a monthly service fee or require you to maintain a minimum balance, and in return gives you an APY of as high as 3.00% on balances up to $20,000, provided you fulfill the below requirements:

  • Make at least 15 debit purchases each month
  • Make at least one direct deposit into the account each month
  • Login to your mobile or online banking at least once each month
  • Opt in to receive eStatements
  • In addition to the high APY, meeting these requirements entitles you to $15 a month for reimbursing third-party ATM fees.

In addition to the high APY, meeting these requirements entitles you to $15 a month for reimbursing third-party ATM fees.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Simple Account

Another online-only account, Simple is owned and backed by regional bank BBVA Compass and offers customers a checking account that’s intertwined with the app’s Protected Goals savings account, and additional budgeting tools. Simple doesn’t charge any fees, meaning users enjoy:

  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • No minimum balance needed
  • No account closing fee
  • No stop payment fees
  • No debit card replacement fee
  • No ATM fee if using Simple’s network, but users can be charged a fee by other banks if using a non-network ATM

One fee you do have to pay is a foreign transaction fee when using your Simple card internationally, which can be up to 1% of the transaction.

As a cash management product, the Simple Account automatically comes with a savings account feature. While the checking balance in a Simple Account earns a token 0.01% APY, Simple’s Protected Goals savings balances earn an APY of 2.02%.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Simple’s secure website

SoFi Money

SoFi may be better known for its personal loan products, but its SoFi Money cash management account offers a great free checking experience. This account earns a decent 1.80% APY with fees and no minimum balance requirements. SoFi charges no ATM fees of its own, and it will reimburse you for any third-party ATM fees you are charged anywhere in the world. If you need physical checks, you can request them from SoFI.

SoFi partners with multiple banks to hold your money in FDIC-insured accounts. This means that SoFi Money accounts are FDIC insured on balances up to $1.5 million in total, well above the standard $250,000 FDIC insurance level available with conventional accounts.

LEARN MORE Secured

on SoFi’s secure website

Empower Checking Account

This online-only checking account is backed by Evolve Bank and Trust, an FDIC-protected bank that ensures the money you place in your Empower account stays safe. Empower requires no minimum deposit or balance, doesn’t charge a monthly maintenance fee, and each month will waive the third-party fees you incur from a single use of an out-of-network ATM.

In addition to the 1.65% APY, Empower gives you cashback rewards of 1% on up to $1,000 of debit purchases each month. However, this account can only be managed through its app so users will have to be comfortable with banking via mobile device.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Empower’s secure website

Member FDIC

Discover Cashback Debit

You might be more likely to think of credit cards when it comes to this brand, but Discover also functions as an FDIC-insured, online only bank that offers a suite of personal banking products including one of the best free checking accounts currently on the market. The Discover Cashback Debit account features a smorgasboard of perks and goodies for customers, including:

  • No monthly maintenance fees, minimum balance to open or minimum daily balance
  • A nationwide network of more than 60,000 ATMs customers can use fee-free
  • Free replacement debit cards
  • Free online bill pay

Living up to its name, the Cashback Debit account grants 1% cash back each month on qualifying spending up to $3,000. What kind of spending counts? Just about everything, with the exception of ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders, loan payments or account funding, and peer-to-peer transactions. In addition, some purchases made over a third-party app or service (such as Venmo) may not qualify.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Ally Bank Interest Checking Account

The Ally Bank Interest Checking Account may not offer a high APY (unless you can maintain at least a $15,000 balance), but the free online banking, bill pay, and checks — both standard and cashier — along with no monthly maintenance fee, required minimum balance or minimum deposit to open make it a great option for customers looking for a free checking account.

While no minimum balance is required to earn 0.10% APY, customers can earn 0.60% if they maintain a daily balance of at least $15,000. Customers can use any of the 55,000 ATMs in the Allpoint® network for free, and Ally will reimburse up to $10 of non-network ATM fees each billing cycle. Other fees to watch out for include:

  • $15 stop payment fee
  • $25 per-day maximum overdraft fee
  • $20 outgoing domestic wire fee

LEARN MORE Secured

on Ally Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

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.

James Ellis
James Ellis |

James Ellis is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email James here

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Cheap Home Remedies That Can Help You Battle Flu Season

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.

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Pumpkin spice lattes, cozy scarves and a long-awaited chance to dust off your favorite pair of boots. No doubt about it, there’s a whole lot to love about fall.

But it’s got its drawbacks, too. Specifically, fall heralds the start of flu season — a nebulous time of year which exact dates vary, but generally begins to pick up in October and its effects can last as late as May.

Although the word is still out on how bad this year’s bout of influenza will be, if recent history has anything to say, we could be in for it. The New York Times reported the 2017-2018 flu season was the worst in nearly a decade, killing almost 80,000 people and hospitalizing thousands more across all age groups.

Of course, even if the flu doesn’t kill you, it can definitely make you feel like crud — and even affect your earnings. You’ll likely miss at least a few days at work, and there’s no telling how your medical bills could pile up if you experience flu-related complications. Pneumonia, for example, cost patients over $400 on average for outpatient treatment per a 2018 study by BMC Health Services Research, and over $10,000 for those who required hospitalization.

When almost a third of American households have less than $1,000 in savings, those prices mean an avoidable illness could become a financial catastrophe.

Prevention, then, seems the best medicine. But how can you go about it as cheaply as possible?

Dirt-cheap ways to ward off illness

Unfortunately, once you have the flu, there’s not much you can do about it except wait. Although prescription antiviral drugs can help shorten your illness, they’re most helpful if you start taking them as soon as possible.

So instead, give yourself an ounce of prevention in the following affordable ways.

Get a flu shot.

It may seem like a pain to get a flu shot each and every year, but it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent illness, said Dr. Adrian Cotton, medical chief at Loma Linda University Health in California.

And even though the flu shot isn’t 100% effective, any efficacy is better than nothing.

“It’s worth doing,” Cotton said, especially since the risk factor is so close to zero.

And these days, the flu vaccine is pretty easy to access, so it’s hard to find an excuse. The vaccine is covered under most insurance plans, and many grocery stores and pharmacies offer them, sometimes even incentivizing the deal with in-store discounts.

Wash your hands — and everything else.

Flu is a communicable disease, which means it spreads from person to person. And while you sometimes can’t avoid exposure (if, for instance, your kids come home sick from school), you can go a long way toward limiting your chances by paying close attention to your hygiene.

Along with frequently washing your hands, be sure to avoid touching your face, Cotton advised, especially if you’ve interacted with sick individuals. And make it a point to clean frequently-touched surfaces in your household like doorknobs with a disinfectant solution, including bleach or peroxide.

Live a healthy lifestyle.

While there’s no particular combination of supplements that will make you invulnerable to the flu, maintaining general good health can go a long way in bulking up your immune system. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is a good start, and superfoods don’t have to break the bank either.

How to ease symptoms if you’re already sick

Already sick? It’s tempting to run to the drug store and pick up every over-the-counter “cure” you can find.

But when it comes to easing your symptoms, it turns out the most affordable options are also the best ones.

Stay hydrated — and don’t worry, water’s fine.

Maintaining your fluid levels becomes critically important when you’re sick, and especially when you’re running a fever. But fortunately, you don’t need anything special to get the job done, Cotton said; water will keep you hydrated just fine.

The exception to the rule: if you’re feeling so unwell you don’t feel like eating or drinking, a product like Pedialyte or Gatorade could help you replace electrolytes. Otherwise, you’d be able to replenish them through your normal meals. (And hey, not all traditions are useless: classic chicken soup contains vitamin-packed veggies and protein, and that warm liquid will soothe a sore throat.)

Rest.

Lying in bed costs absolutely nothing, and it’s an imperative step toward helping your body fight off the flu. And while a pain reliever like ibuprofen can help take the edge off your symptoms, sleep can also do wonders to help you get better more quickly.

Ditch the miracle cures … unless they work for you.

“There’s never been any trials that show that any over-the-counter, herbal remedy actually works for influenza,” said Cotton, though you can certainly find anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

Thus, shelling out for fancy supplements is probably a waste of money, unless you’re convinced we’re totally wrong in this regard.

That’s because the placebo effect could make you feel better even if there’s no physical, causal effect between the “cure” and your abated symptoms.

So if you’re absolutely certain you feel better when you take echinacea or soak in Epsom salts, go ahead, as long as they’re not dangerous or prohibitively expensive.

The bottom line

At the end of the day, flu season is a bit of a crapshoot. You can take as many precautions as you want, but sometimes, you just get unlucky.

If that reality makes you curmudgeonly, that might actually be a mark in your favor — because aside from the steps listed above, one of the best things you can do to avoid exposure is to stay away from people.

Hey, it could be worse; at least sitting at home and binging your favorite fall TV shows is pretty darn close to free.

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.

Jamie Cattanach
Jamie Cattanach |

Jamie Cattanach is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jamie here