Leaving the contiguous U.S. could leave you healthier, wealthier and wiser, according to a Gallup-Healthways survey released today.
The top two states where Americans have the best financial well-being are Hawaii and, just behind it, Alaska.
The new survey ranks all 50 states on their financial well-being as part of the massive Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Financial well-being is one of five components along with health, social well-being, quality of community and a sense of purpose. (Click here to see the states ranked for overall well-being, with a surprise state beating out Hawaii for the top position.)
Financial well-being is a little different than just having money. It’s more of a measure of how people feel about their money. The survey says that financial well-being is “not solely an indicator of income, but captures individuals’ abilities to manage their economic life to reduce stress and increase security.”
Gallup asked residents to rate their lives through personal financial issues: Do you have enough money to buy food? For healthcare? To do everything you want to do? It also asked residents if they had worried about money in the last seven days and if they were satisfied with their standard of living compared with that of the people they spend most of their time with.
That helps explain some of the less intuitive rankings here.
California, with its Hollywood celebrities and Silicon Valley billionaires, falls solidly in the middle at No. 25.
New York, which counts among its residents some of the wealthiest on the planet, only ranks 37 on this chart—and is beaten out by humble Ohio. (Maybe “30 Rock” and its love affair with “the Cleve” was right.)
Being a high earner, in fact, “doesn’t always ensure higher financial well-being,” the survey notes. Of those earning more than $120,000 per year, 43 percent are still struggling to be financially well, or suffering in that category.
Actually, less than 40 percent of the country was what the survey calls “thriving.”
Interesting to note: The states fall on the ranking in pretty distinct geographic clumps. States ranking Nos. 3 to 11 all share borders and roughly comprise the eastern Rockies and the northwestern chunk of the Midwest.
Darker blue indicates a higher ranker on the financial well-being index, while a lighter green indicates a lower ranking.
Then after that, the next chunk almost entirely belongs to the East Coast, picking up states in the far Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic. The only interruption is Washington at No. 18.
The middle of the list is mixed, but the bottom is not; it’s dominated entirely by the South, with Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi rounding out the bottom three.
Here’s the entire U.S. ranked by residents’ financial well-being, including some category rankings based on the questions in the survey.
Hawaii ranks No. 2 in overall well-being, and strictly based on the state’s physical environment, it’s hard to complain. Beyond that, Hawaiians apparently don’t worry much about money. Of all the states, they rate the highest on having enough money to do “everything you want to do.”
Alaska beats out Hawaii on the overall well-being index, but residents apparently feel ever-so-slightly less financially secure than Hawaiians. They apparently haven’t worried about money in the past seven days and don’t worry about keeping up with the Joneses at all, though.
3. North Dakota
Despite high rankings among the financial wellness categories, North Dakotans do worry about having enough money for healthcare, ranking No. 18 on that one. Part of the reason: The oil boom in the state means uninsured men working physically demanding and dangerous jobs. Despite residents’ good vibes about their finances, they don’t rank very high in the overall well-being index, coming in at No. 23.
While Wyomingites (or Wyomans, according to Justice Antonin Scalia) rank highly on most categories, suggesting they have enough to not worry much about the practicalities of life, they fall quite short on having enough money to do whatever they want, ranking No. 38.
5. South Dakota
Like the two states before it, South Dakota also ranks highly for overall financial well-being, but falls short on one category. This one is worrying about money in the past week—most South Dakotans have.
Like the even-keeled state itself, Minnesota ranks highly in all the category questions, falling only as low as No. 8. All this despite being home to the recently named ugliest county in the country.
Largely an agricultural state, Nebraska has the fourth-busiest farmers of all the states in the country. They are also, apparently, none too worried about their money, though healthcare is a little more concerning.
In scenic Montana, residents rest pretty easy about their money. Their lowest ranking was No. 19, in doing everything they want to do.
Iowa had a very high aggregate score when it comes to financial well-being, though the state did rank slightly lower on money to buy food.
Wisconsinites generally ranked highly, but their lowest ranking, at No. 16, came when residents took a look at their lifestyles versus their neighbors. Milwaukee was recently named one of the most segregated in the nation, so this may be a tale of haves and have-nots.
Colorado’s residents feel that they have it all, at least as much as their friends, yet they still worry about money. The state ranks No. 25 in the category of worrying about money in the past week.
Maryland ranks relatively well and is the first of a string of East Coast states about to appear on this list. The only place where the city ranks below the median is in that compared-to-others category, where it falls at No. 27.
Wayne and Garth couldn’t come up with much to say about Delaware, but we can at least say they feel pretty financially secure. The state earned its high ranking from a spot at No. 12 in the category of not worrying about money in the past week.
A high ranking in the healthcare category bolstered Vermont. Interestingly enough, the study was conducted in 2014, while the state was still experimenting with Green Mountain Care, a universal healthcare system that it abandoned at the end of the year. Perhaps the rankings will shift in 2015.
Virginia floundered a bit in the necessities, ranking No. 20 in “having enough money to buy food” and 27 in healthcare.
The state ranks No. 2 in healthcare and No. 7 in “having enough money to do everything you want” but is DOA when it comes to worries. It ranks No. 45, its lowest category ranking, when it comes to worrying about the money needed to do all those things.
Anchored by Pittsburgh on the west and Philly on the east, the state has a relatively well-rounded score in most categories. It ranks fairly low among states on overall well-being, at No. 35.
Microsoft, Amazon and a burgeoning tech industry are bringing more money into the state, and overall, residents are feeling good about their money.
Maine residents feel pretty good about meeting their basic necessities, but their category rankings start to drop as we go from the must-haves to the nice-to-haves. They says they’ve worried about money in the past week (ranking No. 38) and don’t feel their as well-off as their neighbors.
The Northeast continues its high rankings in healthcare, with Connecticut coming in at No. 3 as far residents feeling they have enough money to pay for their own healthcare. But residents definitely worry about money (No. 43) and keeping up with neighbors and friends (No. 37).
The Sunflower State, like others in the Midwest, has a fairly even ranking among the different categories, ranking neither very high nor low.
Despite the state’s public budget and pension problems, Illinois follows Kansas’ streak and ranks pretty closely to its overall ranking.
23. New Mexico
Despite its low ranking in the financial well-being index, the state ranks in the top 10 in the overall well-being index.
24. New Hampshire
Despite residents reporting pretty evenly that they can afford their lifestyles, they worry about money more than other states do. New Hampshire ranks No. 40 on residents reporting they worried about money in the past week.
Despite (or perhaps because of) some of the most expensive real estate in the country, Californians are not feeling financially well, but they’re not terribly worried, either. Maybe put it this way: They might (barely) be able to afford the $450,000, 290-square-foot studio in San Francisco, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it. (Would you be?)
Despite Texas’ explosive economic growth spurring an explosive population boom, the state is not feeling it. However, they do report a high sense of overall well-being, ranking No. 10 there.
27. Rhode Island
Unlike Texas, Rhode Island ranks higher than it does on the overall well-being index. It ranks dead last in the category asking residents if they feel satisfied with their standard of living compared to neighbors and friends.
Land of putting a bird on it, Oregon has experienced some spillover growth from Washington and California, which may be putting the pinch on residents’ finances. Residents there rank at No. 36 in the comparing-to-neighbors category. That might help explain those “No Californians” stickers on real estate for-sale signs in Portland.
29. New Jersey
One of the few East Coast states that doesn’t fall in the Top 20, New Jerseyans actually ranked lowest as far worrying about their money, which really dragged down their overall score.
Indiana may be feeling pretty poorly as No. 48 in overall well-being, but financially speaking they are doing…slightly better. Although residents don’t apparently worry too much about money, they don’t feel like they’re keeping up with their neighbors.
A lot of people probably lose a lot of money in Nevada, and apparently Nevada’s residents get it; they’re not feeling very secure financially.
Although Missouri ranks a respectable No. 16 in the worried-about-money category, the state is dragged down in every other category, feeling food-insecure, health-insecure and insecure compared to friends and neighbors.
Despite overall well-being among the highest in the country, ranking No. 8, Utah residents’ feeling doesn’t extend to their money.
Oklahomans are only feeling “OK” about their finances.
The snowbird state, Arizona ranks pretty low when it comes to residents reporting they feel they have enough money to eat and afford healthcare, but they generally feel everyone else feels the same.
Things may be bleak in Ohio overall (it ranks No. 47 in total well-being) but at least they can say they feel financially better than places like New York and Florida.
37. New York
New Yorkers feel neither particularly happy nor particularly good about their money. That could be because earning anything less than six figures in Manhattan makes you feel middle class.
You can’t talk about Michigan and money without talking about bankrupt Detroit, but we’ll try to skip it. Residents rank No. 36 when it comes to affording food, but No. 26 when worrying about it.
Idaho ranked pretty poorly overall, but came in at No. 14 at the compared-to-the-people-you-spend-time-with question.
Florida ranked pretty low in all the categories, but particularly in feeling like residents there have enough money to do what they want to do. Maybe it’s all the fixed incomes of the state’s retired residents.
41. North Carolina
Despite ranking No. 19 in overall well-being, North Carolina’s residents aren’t feel quite as well when it comes to their money.
North Carolina brings with it the long march down to the South, which dominates the rest of the bottom of this list.
Arkansas residents reportedly don’t feel financially secure in any category, from food to their lifestyles.
43. West Virginia
West Virginia’s residents aren’t feeling financially well enough to afford food (No. 49) or healthcare (No. 47). They don’t worry about their money though, ranking No. 14 there. West Virginians also notably rank lowest in the nation for well-being.
44. South Carolina
The state’s residents don’t feel good about any category of their finances.
The state is perhaps best known at this point for its powerhouse college football team, but residents wouldn’t consider their finances very powerful. The state has a second-to-last ranking in residents feeling they have enough money to do what they want in life.
Neighbors to West Virginia geographically, Kentucky is also neighbor to West Virginia on the overall Well-Being Index, ranking No 49. Appalachia has long experienced poverty, and in 2010, the Census revealed that Owsley County has the lowest median income of the nation, where more than 40 percent of residents live below the poverty line.
Often ranking low on these kinds of lists, Louisiana also ranks low here with a struggling economy and poverty rate (more than 25 percent of students live in poverty). The state is so poor, it can’t afford to hold presidential primaries.
Atlanta’s reputation as an up-and-coming global city couldn’t save the state here. Georgia’s residents don’t fare much better than Louisiana’s: One in five people live below the poverty line.
While Tennessee’s residents rank No. 29 in worrying about their money, that’s the highest ranking they have categorically. Despite strong economic growth last year, the state’s residents aren’t reportedly feeling it yet.
Not to add to Mississippi’s troubles, but it ranks the lowest on a lot of state lists. It’s one of the most dangerous places to live, hardest places to earn money and it has the highest rate of obesity, so it’s not a total surprise that residents are also worried about their money.
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