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Measuring Up

By Terry Savage on August 21, 2019

You’d think that, in a world where so much information is readily accessible, people wouldn’t need much help gaining perspective on all their financial activities. Yet I’ve noticed a surge in financial press releases offering surveys designed to serve as a benchmark for ranking your own situation.

Here are just a few headlines and key points that may interest you. (Direct links can be found by reading this column online at TerrySavage.com.

More than half of college graduates are moving in with their parents instead of renting

This survey by Apartment Guide, based on research by RealPage Inc., should serve as a warning to parents of college students not to remodel their child’s room into a den — something I remember my father doing the week after I graduated from college! It’s more than likely that your Gen Z kids are coming home — and they are not embarrassed about it. On average, they plan to live with their parents for 8.5 months, according to the survey. It will be interesting to see if the next survey documents whether they move out that quickly!

Living at home is one way to accumulate enough cash to eventually afford the first and last month’s rent and security deposit on an apartment. The same survey shows that those who do rent pay a median of 29 percent of their income in rent — meaning about half of them pay an even greater percentage.

Millennials are having a tough time affording home ownership

That’s the conclusion of a new study done by LendEdu showing that only 58 percent of millennials are currently homeowners, and that 83 percent of those homeowners have a mortgage. But since the average down payment was only 16 percent, more than half of millennials are currently paying extra fees for private mortgage insurance (PMI), making housing costs even more expensive.

Not surprisingly, this generation is worried about affording their housing, with 61 percent worried about missing mortgage payments because of weak job security and other debt. Welcome to the reality of home ownership. Not surprisingly, a notable percentage of millennials have delayed having children or changing jobs over concern for mortgage costs.

People are leaving high tax states — and taking their money with them

Raising state taxes can be counterproductive; that’s no surprise. But some of the numbers are enlightening in this new study by Lending Tree. Florida has become a money magnet, far outpacing other states in attracting new residents. IRS data shows that in 2016 people who moved to Florida brought in a combined adjusted gross income of about $30.2 billion, while those leaving took roughly $12.5 billion with them.

Most incoming residents were seniors, and of course Florida doesn’t have an income tax. But it does benefit from sales taxes and real estate taxes new residents generate as Florida’s economy surges. Among the two worst states in this category: New York lost $20.3 billion of income as residents left, while new residents added just $11.5 billion. And, in a similar ratio, Illinois lost $11.4 billion in income, while new residents added just $6.6 billion.

And here’s one more financial survey that should provide a helpful benchmark: You’re not alone if you’re spending a lot of money on your pet!

Nearly half of pet owners spend the same or more on pet healthcare as on their own

I have no idea why LendEDU.com thought this statistic was important enough to survey. Perhaps it was because the results show that 24 percent of respondents have gone into credit card or personal loan debt as a result of veterinarian costs for their pet. (Career tip: Become a vet!) Nearly 40 percent have had to pay at least one large expense of $1,000 for pet vet care. (Wallet tip: Buy pet insurance!)

There’s an old saying: Misery loves company! So perhaps you feel better knowing that other people are stuck moving home, can’t afford rent or a mortgage, and would like to escape their local taxes. Or these surveys could be motivating. We all want to be “above average,” so now you have your targets. And that’s The Savage Truth.

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