Many Americans struggle to squirrel away enough funds for life’s unexpected emergencies — the car battery that finally gives out, the medical emergency that lands you or a loved one in the ER, etc — but how good a saver you are might depend on where you live, a new study found.
Using a combination of IRS and U.S. Census Bureau data, personal finance site MagnifyMoney analyzed savings habits in more than 2,000 U.S. cities to find out where the country’s “super savers” reside.
Because there isn’t a way to track savings rates at a city level across the U.S., the study looked at how many Americans reported interest earned from savings accounts on their 2016 tax returns
Each city was given a Super Saver Score from 0 to 100. The score was based on several factors, including: the rate of residents who declared interest on their tax returns; the percentage of total income that came from interest; and the average reported interest earnings per tax return.
Arizona in top 20
When it comes to saving in the Grand Canyon State, those in Sun City West and Green Valley are the best, according to the study.
Sun City West made it into the top 20 with roughly two-thirds of its residents reporting just over $1,300 in interest earnings on tax returns.
Even better, both Sun City West and Green Valley were in the top 3 for cities that are best at saving without, what the study called, "big salaries." This means an average income under $150,000 per return, according to the study.
The 1 percent, on top
On average, 29 percent of Americans who filed taxes in 2016 reported interest earned as part of their income. The average amount was $530.
Scarsdale and Garden City, N.Y., tied for the No. 1 spot as the cities with the biggest savers overall. Not surprisingly, these cities are also home to high-income earners. On average, Scarsdale residents reported earning $450,000 in income per tax return, MagnifyMoney found. That easily puts them in the top 1 percent of earners.
Compared with just 29 percent of the nation, nearly two-thirds of Scarsdale residents reported interest earnings on their tax returns — to the tune of just over $9,258 in interest income. That’s more than 17 times average.
Sharing the top spot with Scarsdale is Garden City, where residents earn about half as much as their Scarsdale neighbors, but prove to be powerful savers as well. They earned an average $247,000 in 2016 and declared $5,520 in interest income on their tax returns.
The city with the most savers was Los Altos, Calif., where the average reported income is $476,000 per year. In Los Altos, 71 percent of residents were savers — more than double the national average of 29 percent. They reported interest earnings of just under $5,300.
Having a sky-high income is one way to ensure stellar savings habits. But the MagnifyMoney report also looked at how residents in more modest-earning cities fared.
Among cities with incomes under $150,000 a year, The Villages, Fla., had the biggest savers. That could be due to the fact that the city has a robust retirement community.
Tips to boost your savings
You don’t necessarily need to earn a high income in order to save, especially if you can start sooner rather than later.
Use these tips to boost your savings goals:
- Set it and forget it. The more you can automate your savings, whether it’s a basic savings account or your retirement fund, the better off you’ll be. Set auto-savings deposits from your paycheck into your savings accounts. You’ll reduce the risk of spending the money before you can save it and create a habit that you don’t have to manage constantly.
- Set realistic goals. Just as crash diets don’t have lasting results, forcing yourself into unrealistic savings goals will only end in disappointment. Start by slowly by saving 5 percent of your pay each month. After a few months, bump up your savings to 6 percent and so forth, until you reach 10 percent.
- Look for high-yield savings accounts. There’s no need to be loyal to your bankers if they aren’t offering a competitive savings rate. Shop around to see what savings rates other banks are offering.
- Use the $5 rule or other savings hacks. A popular savings “hack” is to make a pact with yourself that anytime you have a $5 bill in your wallet, you set it aside in a jar. After a few months, you might find you’ve saved hundreds of dollars.
- Look for ways to boost your income. If you’ve cut back on all the expenses you can think of and still aren’t pleased with your savings success, it might be time to look for ways to boost your income. Try taking on extra hours at work, looking for side jobs that could bring in extra income, or looking for work that could potentially pay more.
MagnifyMoney is a price comparison and financial education website, founded by former bankers who use their knowledge of how the system works to help you save money.