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Analysis Identifies Where Financially Responsible Americans Live

Aug. 16, 2016
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At a glance, San Francisco and Pittsburgh seem like completely different kinds of cities. One is home to cable cars, the other has the Duquesne Incline. One is known for fresh seafood, the other for loaded sandwiches. The cities have starkly different costs of living, too. But when it comes to their residents’ money-management skills, both of these cities and their surrounding metro areas have financially fit populations.

These cities aren’t the only places that shine when it comes to money. NerdWallet examined data for the 100 most populous U.S. metro areas to determine where residents are best at managing credit, debt and housing costs. The analysis includes credit scores, debt and account delinquency data from the credit reporting agency Equifax, and data on household income, individual income and homeownership costs from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Top 10 financially responsible metro areas

  1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
  2. Madison, Wisconsin
  3. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California
  4. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah
  5. Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Michigan
  6. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota-Wisconsin
  7. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  8. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Massachusetts
  9. Des Moines-West Des Moines, Iowa
  10. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington

Data used in the analysis

Here’s a closer look at three key measures of residents’ financial fitness and the metro areas that best exemplify these factors.

The metro areas where residents are best at managing credit. VantageScore is a credit score developed by the three major credit reporting bureaus. This score has similarities with the better-known FICO scores — and like FICO, VantageScore 3.0, the current version of the score, has a 300-850 scale. Creditors use these scores to determine creditworthiness.

Of the 100 largest U.S. metro areas, residents in Madison, Wisconsin, have the highest median VantageScore 3.0 at 761. People living in California’s San Jose (755) and San Francisco (752) have the next-highest median credit scores.

NerdWallet also examined the percentage of all credit card and loan balances that are 60 days or more past due in each metro area’s population. Among places in our analysis, the median of overdue balances is 2.16%. The metro areas with the lowest overdue balances are San Jose (0.71%), San Francisco (0.93%) and Madison (0.95%).

The metro areas where residents have the least debt. The analysis weighed each metro area’s debt as a percentage of residents’ income. Of the 100 metro areas, the median of this data is a 2.28% debt-to-income ratio for credit card debt and a 41% debt-to-income ratio for other debt. Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Ogden, Utah, have among the lowest median ratios of credit card debt to median income, with 1.51% and 1.52%, respectively.

The examination of other kinds of consumer debt included mortgages, auto loans and personal loans. San Jose and San Francisco, which have among the highest median annual incomes, have the two lowest debt-to-income ratios, at 12% and 16%. Boston (26%) and Seattle (28%) have among the lowest ratios, too.

The metro areas paying the least in housing expenses. The analysis looked at Census data on median monthly housing costs as a percentage of median household income in each metro area. Among the 100 metro areas, the median housing-to-income figure is 31%. Ogden, Utah (25%), Grand Rapids, Michigan (26%), and Des Moines, Iowa (26%), have the lowest housing expenses in the analysis.

To see the methodology and data on all 100 metro areas, see Metro Areas Where People Are in the Best Financial Shape.

Laura McMullen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @lauraemcmullen. Courtney Miller is a data analyst at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected].