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For Americans seeking a more affordable and less crowded alternative to the bustle of a big city but not interested in very small towns, a mid-sized city might be the best place to put down roots. But not all of them are equally suited to meet the needs of their inhabitants. Thatâs why SmartAsset crunched the numbers on a variety of financial factors to find the mid-sized cities that are the most livable.
To do so, SmartAsset considered data for 227 cities across the following eight metrics: Gini coefficient, four-year home value change, median monthly housing costs, poverty rate, median household income, July 2020 unemployment rate, percentage of residents without health insurance and average commute time. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.
This is SmartAssetâs fourth study on the most livable mid-sized cities. Check out the 2019 edition here.
- Unemployment is on par with the national average. The average unemployment rate for the mid-sized cities in our study was 10.7% in July 2020, just slightly higher than the national unemployment rate of 10.2%. A few cities we analyzed, though, have significantly lower unemployment rates. In Meridian, Idaho, the unemployment rate was just 5.0%, part of the reason it ranks fourth overall. The lowest unemployment rate we found was 3.6% in Provo, Utah.
- Some consistency in the most livable mid-sized cities year over year. Exactly half of the cities in the top 10 of this yearâs study were also in the top 10 last year: Rochester, Minnesota; Overland Park, Kansas; Meridian, Idaho; Centennial, Colorado and Arvada, Colorado. This suggests that while there is some consistency, some of the numbers that varied widely year-to-year, like unemployment and poverty rate, may have had a big impact in the reordering of this list.
1. Rochester, MN
Rochester, Minnesota has an average commute time of just 16.2 minutes â the fifth-lowest in the study â so you donât need to worry about adding on an extra few hours to your work day that youâll have to spend in the car. The city had an unemployment rate of 7.0% in July 2020, the 31st-lowest of the total 227 cities we studied. It also ranked 42nd for its relatively low poverty rate, which comes in at 7.4%.
2. Olathe, KS
Olathe, Kansas ranks 12th-best for the Gini coefficient, a metric that measures income inequality. Olathe has a poverty rate of 6.3%, 24th-best among the 227 cities we analyzed. The cityâs July 2020 unemployment rate is tied for 19th-lowest, at 6.6%. Median household income in Olathe ranks 34th overall and is third-highest in the top 10, at almost $94,300.
3. Overland Park, KS
Overland Park, Kansas ranks within the top 20% of study for four of the eight metrics we considered. The poverty rate in the city is 3.8%, eighth-lowest in the study. Overland Park is tied for 19th in terms of July 2020 unemployment rate, coming in at 6.6%. The city also places 31st for the percentage of residents without health insurance, at 5.2%. Furthermore, the median household income in Overland Park is 39th-highest out of 227, at $91,518.
4. Meridian, ID
Meridian, Idaho saw home values increase by 55.61% from 2015 to 2019, the ninth-highest jump in the study and the highest in the top 10. The July 2020 unemployment rate in the city was a low 5.0%, the second-best rate of all 227 cities that qualified for this study. Meridianâs Gini coefficient is the 14th-best, implying relatively low levels of income inequality.
5. Centennial, CO
Centennial, Colorado is the first of two cities in the Rocky Mountain State to crack the top 10. Centennialâs poverty rate is 3.0%, the second-lowest in the study. Centennial also has the 14th-highest median household income of all 227 cities we analyzed, $111,257. The city ranks 11th in terms of the percentage of residents without health insurance, with just 3.9% of people in Centennial being uninsured.
6. Arvada, CO
The second Colorado city in the top 10 of this study is Arvada, where home values have risen 46.18% over the four-year period from 2015 to 2019 â the 25th-highest jump in the study and third-highest in the top 10. While Arvada doesnât fare as well in terms of commute, coming in 155th out of 227 with an average commute time of 29 minutes, the cityâs unemployment rate in July 2020 was a relatively low 7.2%, ranking 32nd out of 227.
7. Hillsboro, OR
Hillsboro, Oregon has the 17th-best Gini coefficient in this study, indicating relatively low levels of inequality. Hillsboro ranks within the top 50 of the study for median household income ($86,038) and the percentage of residents without health insurance (5.6%). It also ranks within the top 60, or roughly the top quartile of the study, for its relatively high 2015-2019 change in home value and its relatively low poverty rate.
8. Santa Clara, CA
Santa Clara, California has a median household income of $147,507, the third-highest in the study and highest in the top 10. That said, it ranks near the bottom of the study for its relatively high median monthly housing costs, at $2,629. Home values have gone up quickly in Santa Clara, increasing by 47.65% over the past four years, the 18th-highest jump across all 227 the cities we analyzed. The city also ranks 10th out of 227 for its relatively low poverty rate and 14th of 227 for its relatively low percentage of residents without health insurance.
9. Round Rock, TX
Round Rock, Texas has the 15th-lowest July 2020 unemployment rate in the study, at 6.2%. It also has the 23rd-best Gini coefficient and the 20th-lowest poverty rate, at 6.0%. Round Rock does rank in the bottom half of the study for its fairly high percentage of residents who are without health insurance, at 10.4%, but it ranks within the top 50 of the total 227 cities for median household income ($86,145) and 2015-2019 change in home value (40.76%).
10. Sparks, NV
The final city in the top 10 is Sparks, Nevada, where home value increased by 44.85% from 2015 to 2019, the 30th-highest increase for this metric in the study. Sparks ranks 50th-best for its July 2020 unemployment rate overall, 8.1%. While Sparks ranks within the bottom half of the study for median monthly housing costs, which amount to $1,354, the city has a Gini coefficient of approximately 0.39, indicating relatively low income inequality.
Data and Methodology
To find the most livable mid-sized cities, SmartAsset first compiled a list of all the cities with at least 100,000 residents, excluding the 100 most populous cities. Note: Some cities that have appeared in past studies may not be in this yearâs version because of shifting population totals. We compared all of the cities across the following eight metrics:
- Gini coefficient. This is a statistical measurement of income inequality. A Gini coefficient of zero indicates total equality of wealth distribution, while a coefficient of one indicates total inequality of wealth distribution across groups. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureauâs 2019 1-Year American Community Survey.
- Median home value change. This is the percentage change in median home values from 2015 through 2019. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureauâs 2015 and 2019 1-year American Community Surveys.
- Median monthly housing costs. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureauâs 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
- Percentage of residents below the poverty line. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureauâs 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
- Median household income. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureauâs 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
- Unemployment rate. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is for July 2020.
- Percentage of residents without health insurance. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureauâs 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
- Average commute time. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureauâs 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
First, we ranked each city in every metric. We then found each cityâs average ranking, giving each metric an equal weighting. We used this average ranking to determine a final score. The city with the best average ranking received a score of 100, and the city with the worst average ranking received a score of 0.
Tips for Managing Your Money
- Seek professional financial advice. Regardless of where you live, if you want to make your money work harder for you, consider finding a financial advisor. Finding a financial advisor doesnât have to be hard. SmartAssetâs free tool connects you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If youâre ready to be matched with local advisors, get started now.
- Look into the future of your mortgage payments. If youâre considering moving to one of these mid-sized cities, use SmartAssetâs mortgage calculator to see what youâll be paying each month before your deal is even finalized.
- Take every advantage that helps you save more towards retirement. Some people move to smaller cities to relax after theyâve retired. To make sure youâre able to afford that, start thinking about retirement early, and use a 401(k) or other workplace retirement plan if that is available to you.
Questions about our study? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/jhorrocks
The post Most Livable Mid-Sized Cities â 2020 Edition appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.
It’s that time again, where I take a look at a pair of popular mortgage programs to determine which may better suit certain situations. Today’s match-up: “15-year fixed mortgage vs. 30-year fixed mortgage.” As always, there is no one-size-fits-all solution because everyone is different and may have varying real estate and financial goals. For example, [&hellip
The post 15-Year Fixed vs. 30-Year Fixed: The Pros and Cons first appeared on The Truth About Mortgage.
A lot of homeowners are looking to refinance their mortgages at the moment. Thatâs abundantly clear based on the record volume of refis expected this year, per the MBA. And while mortgage rates are in record low territory, thus making the decision to refinance an easy one for most, it still pays to shop around. [&hellip
The post If a Mortgage Lender Reaches Out to You, Reach Out to Other Lenders first appeared on The Truth About Mortgage.
Similar to the increased waiting times to get a COVID-19 test these days, itâs taking an extended amount of time to get a mortgage to the finish line. The reason is simply unprecedented demand, just like those COVID-19 tests. The more people that need one, the longer the wait, period. This is the downside to [&hellip
The post Itâs Taking a Really Long Time to Get a Mortgage Right Now first appeared on The Truth About Mortgage.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has proposed a new loss mitigation method to help homeowners with VA loans in COVID-19 related forbearance get back on track. The new program, known as the COVID-19 Veterans Assistance Partial Claim Payment program, or COVID-VAPCP for kind of shorter, somewhat mirrors existing programs offered by the FHA and [&hellip
The post Partial Claim May Be Option for VA Borrowers Exiting COVID-19 Forbearance first appeared on The Truth About Mortgage.
In March I offered some financial advice to Michelle, a Mint user who was struggling with debt, a lack of retirement savings and a bit of family financial drama amongst her siblings.
Michelle was anticipating a cash bonus from her company and wasnât sure if she should save the money or use it to relieve her debt.
I recommended a two-prong approach where she uses the cash to play savings catch-up in her retirement account and knock down some of her debt, which, at the time, included a $3,000 credit card balance and $52,000 in student loans.
Six months later, Iâve checked in with the 38-year-old real estate developer, to see if any of my advice was helpful and if sheâs experienced any shifts in her financial life.
We spoke via email:
Farnoosh: Have your finances have improved over the last 6 months since we last spoke? If so, what has been the biggest improvement?
Michelle: Yes. I’veÂ aggressively been contributing to my 401(k) â about 50% of my pay – and had hoped to reach the annual maximum of $18,000 by June, but looks like it will be more like October. I also received a $40,000 distribution from a project that I closed.
F: What aspects of your financial life still challenge you?
M: Investing for sure. I never know if I’m hoarding too much cash. I am truly traumatized from the financial downturn.Â I just joined an online investment platform, but it wasÂ also overwhelming. Currently I have $45,000 in a regular savings account that earns 1.5%.
Another challenge is not knowing whether to just bite the bullet and pay off my student loans or to continue to pay them monthly. Â I hate that I’m still paying loans 16 years after I graduated and it’s a source of frustration [andÂ embarrassment] for me. Â I owe $36,000. Often times I have an inner monologue about the pros and cons of just paying them off but then my trauma from 2008 kicks inâ¦and IÂ decide to keep my $45,000 nest egg safely where I can check the balance daily.
F: I recommended allocating $45,000 towards retirement. Was that helpful? What are some ways you’ve managed to save?
M: Yes, I recall you saying you recommended having a total of $100,000 towards retirement for a person my age. Currently, I have $51,000 in my 401(k), $35,000 in a traditional IRA and $17,000 in my Ellevest brokerageÂ account, so I’ve broken the $100,000 goal.
I did add a car note to my balance sheet. My old car suffered a total loss (major electrical failure due to a sunroof leak!) and the insurance gave me a check for $9,000.Â I used it all towards the new vehicle (aÂ certified used 2014 Acura) and I’m financing $18,000.
F: Your dad’s home was a source of financial stress, it seemed. Were you able to talk with your siblings and arrive at a better place with that?
M: My dad actually has passed since we last spoke. He passed in February and so his will went to probate. My siblings and I have decided not to make any decisions about the house for at least one year. Yes, this is kicking the can further down the street however, they recognize that I maintain the house and pay the real estate taxes and so they are not pressuring me to move or to sell.
The new deed has been recorded and the property is under all our names and so everyone seems ok with knowing that I can’t do anything regarding a sale or refinance unilaterally.
So, for now, I live rent free other than payingÂ utilities, miscellaneous maintenance on the houseÂ and real estate taxes quarterly. This, too, is helping me saveÂ aggressively.
Also, the new car note has replaced the hospice nurse contribution so I’m not feeling that my budget is overburdened with the new car.
I think ultimately I will buy out at least two of my siblings and stay in the house. Verbally they have expressed being okay with this.
Have a question for Farnoosh? You can submit your questions via Twitter @Farnoosh, Facebook or email at email@example.com (please note âMint Blogâ in the subject line).
Farnoosh Torabi is Americaâs leading personal finance authority hooked on helping Americans live their richest, happiest lives. From her early days reporting for Money Magazine to now hosting a primetime series on CNBC and writing monthly for O, The Oprah Magazine, sheâs become our favorite go-to money expert and friend.
The post Mint Money Audit 6-Month Check-In: How Did Michelle Allocate Her Windfall? appeared first on MintLife Blog.
Well, itâs a new year and it certainly didnât begin quietly. Might as well address the elephant in the room when it comes to your mortgage. This isnât the first time Iâve discussed the possibility of war and its impact on mortgage rates, with the last discussion centered on the Syrian conflict back in 2013. [&hellip
The post Mortgage Rates vs. a Potential War with Iran first appeared on The Truth About Mortgage.
If and when you take out a mortgage, youâll be faced with an important choice. To pay or not pay mortgage points. In short, those who pay points should hypothetically secure a lower interest rate than those who do not pay points, all else being equal. Thatâs because mortgage points, at least the ones that [&hellip
The post An Alternative to Paying Mortgage Points first appeared on The Truth About Mortgage.
Mortgage Q&A: âWhy are refinance rates higher?â If youâve been comparing mortgage rates lately in an effort to save some money on your home loan, you may have noticed that refinance rates are higher than purchase loan rates. This seems to be the case for a lot of big banks out there, including Chase, Citi, [&hellip
The post Why Are Refinance Rates Higher? first appeared on The Truth About Mortgage.