Washington County residents 5th best at budgeting in the state; Utah has 2nd best economy in U.S.

ST. GEORGE — In a recent study, Washington County was ranked as having the fifth best budgeters in the state, despite having an above average expenses-to-income percentage.

The study was performed by SmartAsset, a personal finance company specializing in connecting people with financial advisers.

The study looked at which counties have the best budgeters in each of the 50 states, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, ESRI, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts.

They looked at three factors: what percentage of people’s income was spent on expenses, what their average net wealth was in comparison to their income, and how many bankruptcies there were per 1,000 people.

To determine the average percentage of people’s personal income that was spent on expenses such as bills and groceries, researchers took the average personal consumption expenditures for each county and divided it by the average income per capita of the people residing there.

Washington County’s average expenses to income percentage was 91.7%. Ben Chappell, a financial adviser with Utah-based Foresight Wealth Management, said that percentage is very high. Generally, it is recommended that around 50% of a person’s income go toward living expenses.

“That is high. … That doesn’t leave a lot of money for playing, and almost none for saving,” he said.

A list of Utah’s top 10 ranked counties for the best budgeters | image from SmartAsset, St. George News

Chappell said that one reason why the average expenses to income percentage is so high for Washington County could have to do with the high number of retirees in the area who, while not receiving any income from work, are still spending money on expenses.

To determine people’s average net worth compared to their personal income, the study divided the average net wealth of people in the county by the average per capita income. The average net worth as compared to personal income in Washington County was 134.7%.

Washington County had 2.72 bankruptcies per 1,000 people, which was calculated by dividing the total number of bankruptcies declared in a year’s time by the number of people living in the county, then multiplying that by 1,000.

After calculating the results, the study indexed and equally weighted the three factors in order to determine a score for each county out of 100. Washington County’s overall score was 49.66. The county with the best budgeters, Summit County, received a score of 78.84.

Again, the high number of retirees is a driving force as to why Washington County has one of the highest scores among the 29 counties in the state, according to Chappell.

“A huge percentage of Washington County are folks that are retired have retirement assets, and are more mature, more used to living on a budget. They’re not making beginners’ mistakes with their budgeting,” he said.

Not only are Washington County residents generally good at budgeting, but the state of Utah ranked fifth in fiscal stability and second in economy in the U.S., according to the U.S. News and World Report Best States rankings.

Utah ranked second for having a 2.4% job growth rate compared to the national average of 1.2%, having a 0.7% net migration, which is the difference between how many people are moving to and from the state, and for ranking first in employment, fifth in business development and sixth for growth.

Utah was fifth overall for fiscal stability, ranking ninth for short-term stability and 13th for long term. The ranking was determined by looking at liquidity, or money on hand. Utah’s liquidity was 3.7, compared to the national average of 2.5. Utah’s budget balancing was 1.08 compared to the national average of 1.1.

Stock image, St. George News

“There’s two sides to every budget. Money you make and money you spend. Utah is bringing in a lot of companies from out of state that are paying a lot of taxes and bringing in a lot of citizens from other states so our tax revenue is high. The state is making money,” Chappell said.

Many individuals who don’t budget choose not to because they feel like they’re already spending all of their money, Chappell said. One mistake people make is paying their bills and other expenses, and planning to put any leftover money into savings.

“It’ll never work. You have to put the money in the savings account first. Then pay your bills, and then spend what’s leftover. Because if money is left unallocated, it’ll allocate itself. So just being intentional, doing the budget on purpose, putting money in a savings account on purpose, it’s essential.”

The amount of money that should be set aside per month depends depends on an individual’s circumstances. Generally, it is recommended to have at least a few months worth of living expenses in a savings account and 15% of a person’s income should go toward retirement.

“I’d say, even if your budget is tight, save something,” Chappell said. “If you start with $5 a month, and then just as you get a raise or as things get a little bit more comfortable, you can add more. But as long as you’re just intentionally saving something, it goes a long way.”

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Twitter: @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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