Monthly Archives: March 2017

Most Expensive Cities in the U.S.

People relocating for business, new jobs or simply planning a vacation can benefit from knowing details about the most expensive cities in the United States. Understanding how much it costs to live in a city, and why, can make or break a decision to move. Not surprisingly, California cities dominate the list of America’s priciest cities.

New York City, New York

New York City leads the pack as the most expensive city in the United States; the city, with a population exceeding 8.3 million, also tops lists of the world’s most expensive cities. The cost of living in New York is a whopping 120% higher than the national average. The average cost of homes in New York is about $501,000, compared to the national average price, which hovers around $181,000; home prices range across the five boroughs, with home prices in Manhattan exceeding $1 million. Everything costs more in New York City, from groceries to public transportation. At approximately 4.1%, as of May 2017, the city’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average of 4.3%, further encouraging people the world over to pin their hopes and dreams on making it in New York.

San Francisco, California

People make the decision to leave San Francisco every day, as the city’s staggeringly high cost of living and out-of-reach housing prices have been known to break many a bank. Homes cost an average of $820,000 inside the city, whose major industries include tourism, IT and financial services. It takes more than $119,000 to live well in San Francisco, but unemployment remains low at about 2.6%, as of May 2017, due to highly favorable conditions offered to entrepreneurs and the one-third of all U.S. venture capital that these up-and-coming businesses attract.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu residents pay a lot of money for just about everything. Groceries alone cost 55% more than anywhere else in the United States; utilities cost 71% more than the national average. At $58,397, the average household income does not far exceed the average income of other expensive cities in the country. However, people in Honolulu can expect to pay 87% more than the average American pays for one dozen eggs. Honolulu enjoys an exceptionally low unemployment rate of 2.8%, as of May 2017, which means that, if nothing else, people with jobs on this Pacific island paradise can afford to eat omelets.

Boston, Massachusetts

Groceries and health care cost a lot of money in Boston, exceeding the average national cost by more than 20%. The city enjoys a robust higher education environment, a booming tech scene that rivals Silicon Valley and historic sites dating back to the 13 original colonies, which makes it one of the nation’s leading tourist destinations. All of these add up to an unemployment rate of 3.6%, but city residents fork out big money to live in Boston; the average home value hovers around $374,000, the median household income averages about $53,163, and it takes approximately $84,000 to live well.

Washington, D.C.

Being the seat of the world’s most powerful nation accounts for Washington, D.C.’s high cost of living. Government and private-sector jobs abound in the city, thanks to numerous federal agencies, think tanks, lobbying firms and a robust tourism sector. Average home values in the District stand at approximately $443,000, and the average household income is about $64,267. Similar to Boston, it takes about $83,000 to live well in Washington, D.C.

Tips to Improve Your Financial Health

Your financial well-being is equally important to the traditional “new body, new you” goals that are rampant after the holiday season. Whether you’ve overindulged in food or spent a bit more than intended for gift giving, it’s natural—and healthy—to seek suggestions on how to scale back on the excess. Perhaps you’re headed for retirement and desire to focus on increased savings for the post-work years. Or home buying is slated as your prime objective.

By now the onslaught of New Year’s resolution posts has died down, and all prominent voices in the financial industry have levied their “financial fitness for the new year” advice. Rather than sifting through an endless stream of data on the matter, I’ve curated the top tips for improving your financial health in 2017. The following is applicable for all generations: Boomer, Generation X, Millennial and everyone in between.

Pay Off Credit Cards or Consumer Debt

It’s true that debt can be leveraged to help when you’re in a financial bind—car troubles, sudden health related emergencies and so forth. However, the interest rates are an additional expenditure that slows the process of stashing cash in other, more lucrative places.

Rather than paying the interest rates, that money can be transformed into a financial work partner by placing the amount in savings or, if you’re inclined, an investment portfolio. Certainly, maintaining a healthy credit rating is part of the money management system. Yet, if you’re the type who can’t pass up a sale and whip out your credit card to pay for more stuff, then credit card consolidation is a resolution for you to seriously consider. Pay yourself, not the credit card companies.

Maintaining a Budget Is Crucial

All items on this list lead back to budgeting. It’s easy to become enraptured in the constant stream of subscription entertainment or online instant gratification purchasing. Five-dollar cups of coffee or weekly dinners at your favorite restaurant can be included—though removing them for a month, or three, isn’t exactly deprivation. At the very least, monitor your spending for a week to determine where your money is going. Then begin to scale back on small things within each budgeting category.

Save, Save, Save

Though saving and budgeting are intertwined, this category warrants its own emphasis. While you set up your budget and scale back on the nonessentials in each budget category, make sure that you include a target amount to save per month. Your target savings amount is what you’d need for three to six months of expenses in the event your income stream is disrupted. Yes, it’s that simple. The challenging part will be curbing former spending habits. However, with diligence and focus, you can retrain your brain to stay on course with your intention. Remember intention flows to where our attention goes.

Investment Engagement

As with everything on this list, choosing an investment instrument is a highly personal endeavor. There are plenty to choose from. Every investment opportunity is balanced against a certain amount of calculated risk and given the variety of financial products available, there’s a sector for every risk level. A significant initial financial outlay is not always required to put your money to work for you. Indeed, instead of spending money on your credit card debt or restaurant dining, that money can be what Kevin O’Leary refers to as a soldier you send into battle every day to bring you back your fortune. Even if all you do right now is transfer $50 per month into a savings account, which is a small initial investment step (and you’re investing in yourself, ultimately), then you’re cultivating a habit that can provide far greater security long-term security than that daily $5 latte.


Average Cost Of An American Christmas

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and the holiday shopping season is now upon us. With just a few weeks until Christmas day, many shoppers are feverishly trying to find the perfect meaningful gifts for everyone on their list. Between the shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday to the last minute sales just before Christmas, the American commercialization of Christmas plays a very big part in how much the average American pays for all of his or her holiday expenses. Between gifts, holiday parties and decorations, Christmas in America seems to be getting more and more extravagant. Here is a look at the average cost of an American Christmas and a glance at why the cost of the holidays is steadily rising.

Americans Spending More on Gifts in 2016

According to a study performed by the American Research Group, Inc., Americans will be spending more money on gifts in 2016 than they did last year. In 2015, the average American spent $882 on holiday gifts. In 2016, it is expected that the average American will be spending $929 on gifts for friends and loved ones – surpassing $900 for the first time since 2006. It should come as no surprise that the average cost of gifts is so high. With advertisements for big sales everywhere, there is a greater chance for impulse buys and overspending.

Dramatic Upswing in Spending Since the 2008 Recession

In 2001, the average planned spending was $1,052 – the highest ever. After the recession in 2008, planned holiday shopping dropped to $417 in 2009 – less than half of what people plan to spend this year.

An increasing number people – now 55% – are planning on doing at least some of their holiday shopping online, and 61% are planning to wait for sales in order to save money.

The Bottom Line

Americans have been spending more on holiday gifts every year since 2008 with the exception of 2012, and although the holiday spending is still not back on the pre-recession trend, it seems to head in that direction – possibly thanks to lower unemployment, stronger growth and higher confidence in the economy.


Common Budgeting Challenges to Overcome

The word “budget” has been known to make people cringe, cry and bury their heads in the sand, but budgeting challenges don’t have to keep you from getting the job done. Budgets are just a set of guidelines to help you manage your money. (Budgeting Basics will help you get started.) Once you set up your system, budgeting isn’t even that much work. If yours isn’t working for you, then scrap it and start again. But don’t be stopped before you start by challenges that you can easily overcome.

Budgeting Challenges

1. The All-or-Nothing Mentality

Many people are turned off by budgeting because most advice about creating one requires tracking every penny spent for three months. That is a lot of saving receipts and tracking, especially if you aren’t using an automatic system. The point of a budget is to get a picture of your expenses and plan for your financial goals – in other words, it is a tool for you and you alone – and if tracking every penny is a roadblock to get you started, cut yourself some slack. Perfect is definitely the enemy of good.

Having a general idea of your income and major expenses is a good first step toward creating a budget. Common spending categories include:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Phone/Internet
  • Transportation
  • Insurance
  • Groceries
  • Car Payments
  • Childcare
  • Loans or Debts
  • Clothing
  • Entertainment
  • Dining Out
  • Travel
  • Charity
  • Savings

If you tally up roughly what you spend for each of these categories (or what you would like to spend) – and it is less than your income – then it is fine to track your large expense categories and leave out the occasional lunch or impulse purchase. If you find that you’re overspending, you need to reassess and set a stricter budget.

2. Labor-Intensive Tracking

As mentioned above, common budgeting advice requires you to track all of your receipts and spending for multiple months. You can do this on paper or on a spreadsheet, but there are easier ways. A variety of apps and computer programs exist that will track your spending, categorize it, help you create a budget and note progress toward your financial goals.