5 Ways to Live Richly in the 10 Poorest U.S. States
How “successful” is your state compared with others?
It’s a tough question to answer, but GoBankingRates ranked all 50 states and Washington, D.C., from most to least successful, considering average income, poverty rates, class distribution, and number of millionaires and billionaires.
A few things surprised us: Oregon was ranked all the way down at number 37, New York is just 13 and California boasts more billionaires than the Empire State. But overall, you might not be shocked to learn where your state falls.
Like our look at the earnings of the top 1% in every state, the map of success reveals obvious regional disparities within the U.S.
Put simply: This is one more map to prove Southern states make less money than others.
The bottom 10, from least to most successful, are mostly in the Southeast or Southwest:
- New Mexico
- West Virginia
- South Carolina
The top 10, from most successful, are dominated by the Northeast:
- New Jersey
- New Hampshire
- Washington, D.C.
- North Dakota
How to Be More Successful
This list certainly makes for good bragging rights… if your state comes out ahead. But what can you do if it doesn’t?
As GoBankingRates points out, moving to a successful state won’t necessarily make you more successful. You’re not going to become richer just by leaving Mississippi for Connecticut.
It suggests, “Living in a state that offers families a richer life and boasts a fair share of people who are thriving financially might help you achieve the financial success you've always wanted.”
It’s a good point. You can certainly benefit from surrounding yourself with more successful people. But even that’s a stretch.
Honestly, changing your location isn’t a secret magic trick to achieving financial success. To be successful, you more likely need to work hard and use your money wisely, no matter where you live.
If you find yourself in a state with a high poverty rate, a dominant lower class and not a billionaire to its name, don’t fret. We’ve got some tips for living a rich life without relying on your local community and economy.
And, if you reside in a more successful state, pass these on to your Southern friends:
1. Find a Company That Offers Work-From-Home Opportunities
When you work from home, you don’t have to be tied to the economy in your area. Take advantage of the money flowing through other states.
Tons of companies offer work-from-home opportunities -- here are 125 of them.
Find a company from a “more successful” state with openings for remote workers. This way, you can actually benefit from a potentially lower cost of living in your state and stretch your pay much further than if you lived in the same state as your company.
If you haven’t worked from home before, you might have a bit of learning curve. You have to be able to manage your own schedule, survive without workplace companionship and avoid getting distracted by dirty laundry.
Check out these 12 blogs to find tips and communities to support your endeavor.
Also like The Penny Hoarder Jobs on Facebook to be the first to know about other fun and interesting work-from-home jobs.
2. Start a Side Hustle
If you don’t want to work for a remote employer, or you’re happy with the job you have, consider ways to earn extra money on the side.
An online business or side hustle is a smart way to build the career you want, regardless of your location.
It will take time to develop, but starting a blog can be a fun, creative way to generate passive income once you’ve built an audience. If you don’t have much money to put into it, you can start a blog on a budget with these 30 free or cheap tools.
Prefer to stay off the computer? Here’s how you can work for yourself, even if you hate the internet.
3. Start Investing Just a Few Dollars
Regardless of your local economy, you have an opportunity to grow your money by investing it -- even if you don’t have a lot to start with.
First, if you’re employed and have the option to contribute to an employer-sponsored 401(k), we recommend doing it. It’s like getting a 3% raise and will help secure your future.
If you don’t have that option, here are five other retirement accounts you could contribute to, and 12 ways to supercharge your savings with up to $5,000 this year.
Beyond retirement, there are lots of ways to grow your money, even if you only have a few dollars to invest.
The Clink app will automatically invest money from your bank account, as little as $1 a day.
If you want to go even lower, try Acorns. This app automatically rounds up your credit or debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and invests your digital change. I did the math and found I could set aside $420 in digital change this year without even thinking about it.
If you’re wondering just how far just $100 can go in various investments, we did that math for you, too!
4. Live Frugally (Without Clipping Coupons)
If you live in a community without a lot of wealth, frugality probably isn’t a novel concept. But we hope that doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing a rich life!
If you want to save money and still live a life you’ll love, here are some of our favorite frugal-living tips:
- Use these house-cleaning tips that save you money without putting a ton of time and effort into DIY supplies.
- Don’t forgo travel! Do it on a budget with these simple hacks.
- Follow my tips for managing money in less than 15 minutes a month.
- If you’re buying a new home, check out these 10 tips to save money on your mortgage — or buy in cash!
- Try these five strategies to save money on your next car and look into the cars that are the least expensive to maintain.
- To save money on utilities, try these 23 creative ways to slash your utility bills.
- Cut your entertainment costs by dropping cable and using these tips to watch your favorite TV shows without it.
- Save money on your cell phone service by getting a free phone plan through FreedomPop or the FCC’s Lifeline service.
Still think it can’t be done? Read about how this stay-at-home mother of four helps her family live richly on a $36,000-a-year budget.
5. Find a Good College, Even if It’s Out of State
Think you -- or your kids -- will be stuck with a bad education because you live in a sub-par state? Think again.
Because of need-based grants, colleges like Princeton or Harvard might actually be more affordable than you think. Don’t be afraid to set ambitious goals.
You could also find help paying for a quality education by applying for scholarships. There are probably a lot out there you haven’t thought of:
- Check out our list of 100 college scholarships…
- These nine colleges will even cover your full tuition.
Your Turn: Where does your state fall on the list? How are you making your own success there?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).