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The 10 Most (And Least) Expensive States In America

The 10 Most (And Least) Expensive States In America

2017 cost-of-living index figures by C2ER (Council for Community and Economic Research) are fresh out of the oven. Well, despite continued widespread recovery tactics, where you live in America has a great deal of impact on what economic challenges you face. No country is immune from economic slumps but higher than average state autonomy in America means economic growth varies by state. While one might expect to see California and New York on the list of most expensive states in America, shifting economic landscapes make several unexpected states more expensive as well. Complicated economic factors, as well as public officials struggling to meet the challenges of the future, make these ten states the most expensive and most affordable in America.

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    Most Expensive States

    1. Hawaii

    Take palm-fringed, sandy beaches, sizzling cultural melt, and add incredibly beautiful flora and fauna – and that’s the ‘magical’ allure of Hawaii. All these goodies, however, come with a steep price. Looking to buy a home in Hawaii? That’ll set you back a whopping $1 million on average. And that isn’t all – it’ll cost you nearly$3000 to rent a two-bedroom apartment and the monthly energy bill is estimated at $455.51, a figure that’s about 3 times what you’d shed in some leafy suburbs of California. But you live in Hawaii, the Aloha State!

    2. New York

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    Chiming at the second place is the Empire State. That in and of itself isn’t surprising at all in a state where the average home goes for $1.6 million (yes, you read that right). Looking to rent? Forget about it; a cozy two-bedroom apartment averages $4200 in monthly rent. Of course, New York is vast and uneven recovery/growth is partly to blame. Despite the improvement in unemployment rates since the end recession, New York continues to battle with aging infrastructure and starkly different growth rates. But there are areas like Rochester (average home price is $287000) where life is surprisingly easier than Manhattan. Nonetheless, you will still shed more than $160 for monthly energy bill there.

    3. California

    Not surprisingly, California is also one of the most expensive states in America. High housing costs in this state have long made it one of the pricier states, but population growth is another concern. At around $1 million, the average price of a home in metro San Francisco is the 3rd highest nationwide. California is also the number one state for poverty, reportedly carrying $1.6 billion in debt. While the state holds only 12% of the American population, nearly 33% of all welfare recipients are Californian.

    4. Massachusetts

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    It’s official – it’s now more expensive to live in Massachusetts than Alaska! The cost of groceries is through the roof, with 24-ounce T-bone steak going for more than $62! While the average price of a home is $634,233, expect to pay 3 or even 5 more times in most Newton, Framingham, and Cambridge neighborhoods. At $2668, the average rent for a sweet two-bedroom apartment in Boston is the 4th highest in the US. And the energy bill of $287.63 is close to $100 more than would be in Anchorage.

    5. Alaska

    A newcomer to this list, Alaska – the moose state – offers unsurpassed natural beauty and close-knit culture you’ll never find elsewhere. With only 760 farms, it’s no surprise that most produce and food items are hauled from different states. And that trickles down to tons of other costs. A loaf of bread which goes for a mere $1.79 in Iowa will set you back $4.68 in Anchorage. But again, this is Alaska – the land of amazing wildlife. Paying utility bills ($201.39 for energy) and healthcare isn’t a walk in the park either.

    Least Expensive States

    1. Mississippi

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    One of the less densely populated states, Mississippi is one of the least expensive states to live in. With low per capita income, the state’s housing costs remain correspondingly low as well (the average home price of $199,028), making the cost of living affordable. Mississippi previously relied mainly on cotton production to drive the economy. In the last two decades or so, however, Mississippi has diversified agricultural and livestock industries, ensuring economic growth. Now focusing on producing rice, soybeans, chicken, and catfish, Mississippi continues to pursue diversification to enrich its economy, a strategy which has been successful so far.

    2. Indiana

    Next up, is Indiana, a state famous for the Indianapolis 500 and low-cost homes (averaged at $270,204). At the Crossroads of America, you can expect rock-bottom prices for groceries and other basic food items. A head of lettuce goes for a paltry $1.04 while a pound of coffee and ground beef will set you back just $4.43 and $3.74 respectively. A boom in the local economy has pushed prices up a teensy bit, but you can still pick up a check at dinner.

    3. Michigan

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    The Great Lakes State, much like Mississippi and Arkansas, offer low-cost housing (averaged at $274,355) for consumers, yet it’s consistently ranked in the top ten for best states to do business. After all, this is the home of the American auto industry. The average gas price in Detroit was about $2.04 when it hit more than $3 in most parts of the country. The auto industry has bounced back, healthcare is thriving and high-tech jobs are supplanting manufacturing, helping this state become more competitive to prospective employers, keeping the economy working for Michigan citizens.

    4. Arkansas

    Like Mississippi, Arkansas is a more rural state, offering consumers low housing costs. Arkansas also boasts incredibly low costs for doing business, attracting six Fortune 500 companies to the state. Rent for a two-bedroom apartment is just $700 a month and the monthly energy bill is $145.79, roughly half of what you’d pay in Massachusetts. In short, Arkansas’ low cost of living is balanced by a lower household income than average but still remains a top state for the economic climate.

    5. Oklahoma

    Rounding up our list is the Sooner State, the home of undulating wheat fields. And the cost of groceries, including a loaf of wheat bread for less than $3, is appropriately cheap. Well, that isn’t all – a grand 2,400 square-foot home will only chip off around $300K from your bank account. With a sub-$150 monthly energy bill and low-cost health care, Oklahoma is certainly one of the best places you’d be lucky to call home.

    Featured photo credit: US Department of Interior via om.wikipedia.org

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    Alicia Prince

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    Published on May 7, 2019

    How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

    How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

    When it comes to stocks, I bet you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

    Everyone who’s not a financial expert has been there. I’ve been there. But, time is passing and you need to be crystal clear with how you’re investing for your retirement.

    Otherwise, it’s back to work until you can afford not to. So, how can you invest for retirement when you’re not a financial expert?

    You take the time to learn the fundamentals well. If you do, you can grow your wealth and retire happy. The best part is that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart investment decisions.

    Here’s how to invest for retirement the smart and stress-free way:

    1. Know Clearly Why You Invest

    Odds are you already know why should invest for retirement.

    But, maybe you know the wrong reasons. It’s time you get clear on why you’d like to retire. Here are some questions to help you get started:

    • Will you spend more time with your family?
    • What does retirement mean to you?
    • Are you looking to launch that business you’ve been holding off for years?

    Everyone wants to retire but not for the same reasons. Once you’re clear for why retirement is important for you, you’ll focus on making it happen.

    Investing in the stock market allows you to take advantage of compound interest.[1] All this means is that your money earns money on top of its interest. A reason why investment in the stock market is one of the best ways to plan for retirement.

    2. Figure out When to Invest

    “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”– Chinese Proverb

    It’s true if you’d had started investing when you were 10 years old, you’d have a lot more money than you do today.

    The reality is that most people don’t start investing until it’s too late. So, if you’re currently waiting for the perfect time to start an investment, it would be today. Open your calendar and block out 2 to 3 hours to choose how you’ll invest for retirement.

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    A quick way to get a snapshot of where you stand is to use Personal Capital. Input all your personal information and spend some time setting your retirement goals. Once completed, you’ll know where you stand with your retirement.

    Having a savings account for retirement isn’t planning for retirement. Why? Your money loses value when you factor in US inflation.[2]

    3. Evaluate Your Risk Tolerance to Create the Perfect Portfolio

    Investing your money well depends on your emotions.

    Why?

    Because when the market drops most people panic and withdraw their money. On average, the US stock market yields an annual 6% to 7% ROI (return on your investment.) But, this won’t happen if you’re worried about short-term loses.

    Before you invest your next dollar, know your risk tolerance.[3] Your risk tolerance determines the number of risky and safe investments you’d have.

    Regardless of your investing style, you need to view investing for retirement as a long term game. Know that some years you’ll lose money but recoup this in the long-term.

    Avoid watching market-related new. Also, create a double authentication to log in your investment account. This way you’re less likely to withdraw your money.

    4. Open a Reliable Retirement Account

    Depending on your circumstance, you may need to open a new brokerage account. This is the account is where you’ll invest your money.

    If you’re currently working for a company, odds are that they offer a 410K investing account. If so, here’s where you’ll invest most of your money. The only problem with this is that you’re limited to the stock options that are available.

    You do have the option to open a separate IRA (individual retirement account.) Here are some of the best brokers:

    1. Vanguard
    2. TD Ameritrade
    3. Charles Schwab

    5. Challenge Yourself to Invest Consistently

    Committing to invest for retirement is hard, but continuing to do so is harder.

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    Once you’ve started investment for your retirement, you run at risk from stopping. Often you’ll want to contribute less, so you’d have more money in your pocket.

    That’s why it’s important that you create a budget that allows you to invest each month. If you’re working for a company, you can set a percentage for the amount you’d like to contribute each month. Most people by default contribute 1% but aim to contribute 10% to 15%.

    Be the judge for how much you can afford to contribute after covering important expenses. To stay motivated, use Personal Capital to view your net worth.

    A benefit to contributing money to your retirement account is not taxed. For example, if you earn $100 and invest 10%, you’d contribute $10, then get taxed on the remaining $90. As of 2019, the most you’re able to contribute towards your 401K is 19K but this can change.

    6. Consider Where to Invest Your Money

    The most common way to invest your money is in stocks, but it’s not the only way. Here are other ways to invest:

    Robo Advisors

    Robo-advisors[4] are fancy algorithms that’ll choose the best investments for you. Sites like Wealthfront make it easy for first-time investors to invest their money. You’d input information about yourself and set your risk tolerance.

    Then, set your monthly contribution amount and your robo-advisor would do the rest. Robo-advisors charge a fee to manage your money, but less than regular advisors.

    Bonds

    Think of bonds as “IOUs” to whomever you buy them from.

    Essentially, you’re lending money and charging interest. Like stocks, not all bonds are equal. Some will be riskier than others depending on their rating.

    Here are the different types of bond categories:[5]

    1. Treasury bonds
    2. Government bonds
    3. Corporate bonds
    4. Foreign bonds
    5. Mortgage-backed bonds
    6. Municipal bonds

    Mutual Funds

    Picture a group of people dumping all their money in a jar that’s managed by a professional. This is how mutual funds work. The fund manager manages the money looking to earn capital gains (interest.)

    One of the best types of mutual funds is index funds. Since these funds don’t try to beat the market and instead follow it, they need less research. Because of this they often charge the lowest fees and yield the best long-term results.

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    Real Estate

    Yes, buying a home is an investment when done correctly.

    Imagine buying a home and using it as a rental property. After repairing it, you receive a monthly surplus check of $100 to $200.

    This may not sound like a lot, but repeat this process enough times and you’d earn a large amount of passive income. That’s why real estate is one of the best investments to not only retire but become wealthy.

    But, it requires a lot of money to start and you should expect losing money along the way as you learn the process.

    Savings Accounts

    Your money can still grow in a savings account. Nowadays most online banks offer a 2% annual return. Although the average inflation is higher your money will be available when you need it.

    7. Master Disincline to Dodge Short Success

    Investing for retirement is a long-term strategy. That’s why you need to master delayed gratification. All this means is delaying short-term pleasure for something bigger in the future. Research shows that those who have delayed gratification are more successful.[6]

    So how can you master delayed gratification?

    By building your discipline.

    Think back to what retirement means to you. A clear purpose will help you avoid withdrawing your money during a market downturn. It’ll help you contribute more towards retirement when you’d want to waste it instead.

    Your journey towards retirement will be long, so reward yourself along the way. Choose a reward that’s relevant and meaningful, so that you reinforce positive behavior. For example, after contributing more towards retirement, treat yourself to dinner.

    8. Aggressively Invest on This One Investment

    I’ve mentioned several types of investments but haven’t covered the most important one.

    It sounds cliche but here’s why you’re your best investment towards retirement. The more you know, the more money you’ll be able to make. The more good habits you adopt, the more secure your retirement will be.

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    More importantly, investing in yourself is an investment that no one can take away. There’s no market downturn nor tragic circumstance that’ll wipe your knowledge and experience.

    But, how can you invest yourself?

    Reading books, blogs, and anything that’ll help you learn new topics daily. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your commute to/from work.

    Save money to buy courses and hire coaches. I used to believe hiring coaches was a waste of money when I could learn the subject alone.

    But, coaches see your blind spots and hold you accountable. Hiring the right coach will help you achieve your goals faster than you would’ve alone.

    Retire Happy with Excess Money

    The key to a secure financial future doesn’t only belong to financial experts.

    It’s possible for you and I. What if you were able to retire earlier than most people and weren’t a financial planner? What if you were able to focus on what you enjoy doing the most while your money was working hard for you?

    I know this sounds impossible now, but the truth is you’re capable of taking charge of your retirement. I’m not a financial expert but I’ve learned how to invest my money by reading books and learning from others.

    Investing your money is scary. So start small and invest a small amount of your money with a robo-advisor. Feel your money drop and rise for a month or two. Then, invest more and keep this up until you’re aggressively saving for retirement.

    One day, you’ll wake up with a net worth you’re proud of – confident about your retirement. You now know a few strategies you can use to invest in your retirement. Will you take action to retire happy?

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    Featured photo credit: Matthew Bennett via unsplash.com

    Reference

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