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Updated on Monday, December 9, 2019
Personal finance can be stressful, but not every American is dealing with the same hurdles. That’s why MagnifyMoney, a subsidiary of LendingTree, analyzed Google Trends data to see which states expressed the most interest in the following nine areas: credit card debt, student loan debt, credit score, loan refinance, payday loan, debt relief, bankruptcy, debt collection and debt consolidation.
Researchers rated which states were most and least stressed based on how many locals were searching nine personal finance terms on Google. Data was measured between 0 and 100 to represent the popularity of a search. The state with the highest number of searches represents the top of the popularity scale, ranking at 100. Other states were then given a percentage number based on how they compared to the top state.
- New York took the top spot as the most financially stressed state with a final score of 80.7 across the nine Googled terms. Payday loans were the least searched term; in New York, it scored just 16 in relative interest.
- Louisiana came in second. In contrast to New York, payday loans were a popular search.
- Nevada takes third. This state scored highest in debt relief and debt collection.
- Southern states featured prominently in the top 10. Apart from Louisiana in second place, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia also claimed top 10 spots. Aside from Virginia, states in the southeast tend to lag behind the rest of the country in terms of income, although their cost of living also tends to be lower. Mississippi and Alabama also have elevated poverty rates.
- The bottom spots of the list, which represent the least financially stressed states, were filled by Northeastern states: Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey.
- Alaska and Hawaii also both scored well; they searched stressful financial topics significantly less often than other states. Neither Googled payday loans very often.
- Payday loans had the lowest search popularity with an average of 32 across the states. That means the average state searched it on the web 32% as often as the top state, which is Louisiana in this case.
- Although Wyoming had the highest relative search frequency for debt collection and debt consolidation, it scored a zero for student loan debt and loan refinance. This pushed the state into the middle of the pack.
What financial stressors are weighing on your state?
In the below map, hover over each state to view its ranking (with a score of 1 being the state with the most Google searches related to financial stress) and its average score. This average score accounts for how frequently residents Googled the nine analyzed search terms.
Below that, you’ll see a more in-depth chart that breaks down each state’s scoring across the nine terms. The higher the score, the more frequently the term was searched.
5 most financially stressed states
1. New York
New York state scored highly across almost all keywords searched, especially topics regarding credit card debt (100), loan refinancing (99) and debt relief (99). The only category it placed lowly was payday loans (16). This is something worth celebrating when you consider the notoriously high interest and fees on payday loans.
New Yorkers appear to be struggling across the board, at least in New York City. The Big Apple is the second-worst metro for a balanced lifestyle, according to another MagnifyMoney study. Income and housing prices were two of the main issues that lead to such a low lifestyle score.
Louisiana is the second-most financially stressed state, thanks to high search frequency for payday loans (100), credit scores (89), and debt relief (88). Debt and the fear residents may have surrounding it seem to be a primary concern. A desire to pay off debt may be why so many Louisiana residents are investigating payday loan options.
In a separate study on the happiest U.S. states, Louisiana came in as one of the unhappiest states. While their financial troubles may be weighing down residents, other factors like health and lifestyle pulled the state down in rankings.
Nevada’s luck may be running out. At least for those who are financially stressed about debt relief (100), debt collection (91) and bankruptcy (78). Nevada residents appear to be searching for help to pay off debt and avoid bankruptcy. Their financial stress may be taking a toll on their happiness; like Louisiana, Nevada was among the 10 unhappiest states.
One financial area Nevada residents doesn’t appear to be as concerned with is student loans. The state holds a ranking of 51 out of 100 when it comes to Googling student loans.
Virginia is one of four southern states that had the misfortune of making into the 10 states most stressed about personal finance. They scored fairly high across all topics analyzed, except for payday loans (ranked at 36). Their No. 1 concern appears to be bankruptcy (90), followed closely by debt relief (89).
That being said, not all of Virginia appears to be struggling due to financial issues. Virginia Beach in particular was found to be one of the top 10 metro areas (out of the 50 largest in the U.S.) that live a balanced lifestyle.
Mississippi’s top concerns were related to credit scores (100), bankruptcy (89) and payday loans (90) — all important financial issues that could signal financial struggles.
Mississippi residents may be struggling with credit card debt in particular. MagnifyMoney found that Mississippi households had an average credit card debt of $6,217.60. The state was also the fifth-least happy state in the U.S., which is another potential sign of financial struggles.
5 least financially stressed states
Vermont, everyone’s favorite spot for a cozy weekend at a bed-and-breakfast, is pretty relaxed when it comes to personal finance. The state landed the coveted least-stressed state on the list.
The state ranked very low for searches on issues like payday loans (6). Needing a payday loan can be a sign of larger financial issues, so scoring low for this term can be a positive indicator of good financial health among Vermont residents.
Similar to Vermont, Connecticut has a low interest in payday loans (11). There was a large disparity between the second-lowest state on this list (Connecticut) compared to the second highest; Louisiana had a ranking of 100 when it came to payday loan issues.
Connecticut also fared well when it came to searching for debt relief (40). The area residents seem to struggle with most is credit card debt (70).
49. New Jersey
Things are looking up for the Garden State. New Jersey was the third least-stress state when it came to personal finance. Their top concern, bankruptcy, ranked at 71. But the top three states with the most financial stress, New York, Louisiana, and Nevada all had scores of 77 or higher when it came to this particular issue.
Aside from payday loans (21), Alaska residents worry about specific financial topics pretty evenly. Their scores across the eight other terms range from 49 to 69, with a total average of 56.
But the one financial topic they really aren’t happy about is credit card debt. Their highest ranking concern checks out, when you consider the average Alaskan household has over $11,400 in debt, according to another MagnifyMoney study.
It seems like living the island lifestyle is paying off. Hawaii residents have fairly low concerns about personal finance compared with other states. They ranked fairly low when it came to taking an interest in payday loans (24).
But similar to Alaska, Hawaiians expressed some concerns over credit card debt. Households in Hawaii also have over $10,000 in credit card debt on average. While they’re doing well compared to most other states when it comes to stress, Hawaiians have some progress to make when it comes to financial wellness.
In order to rank the most financially stressed states, researchers analyzed Google trends data for nine terms: Credit card debt, student loan debt, credit score, loan refinance, payday loan, debt relief, bankruptcy, debt collection and debt consolidation. Google trends data covers the July 26, 2016 to July 26, 2019 time period.