A recent study by SmartAsset, a financial technology company in New York, listed Clay County as one of the best in Iowa when it comes to debt per capita.
Clay County was listed under Wright County, which was ranked No. 1. Other counties listed include OBrien, as No. 3; Des Moines, as No. 4; Allamakee, as No. 5; Buena Vista, as No. 6; Henry, as No. 7; Kossuth, as No. 8; Jackson, as No. 9; and Floyd, as No. 10.
In determining the rankings, the study used averages of income, credit card debt as percentage of income, auto debt as percentage of income and mortgage debt as percentage of income to calculate the lowest debt index. Clays lowest debt index was 95.57, compared to Wrights at 96.91, OBriens at 93.52. Buena Vistas lowest debt index was 92.77
Dean Jacobsen, with Northwest Wealth Management, noted several practices that may have attributed to the countys rank on the list.
Were more conservative in nature, he said. Our average credit card debt is less than other areas in the state and other states, weve been spoiled in that regard. Also, since 2007 and 2008 when we had the financial crisis, people have become much more aware of the effects of too much debt. There isnt as much (credit card debt) as there was then, but even then we were below the national average.
In addition, Jacobsen credited community bankers across the state for their push for financial literacy in the school system.
It makes the youth aware of the effects of too much debt, and teaches them how to manage debt responsibly, he said. We (local community bankers) have provided a software program to the schools in their business classes, and theyre using it as part of the curriculum.
Also, the high schools Game of Life program, which started in the spring and will be repeated this school year, has helped to teach students the importance of budgeting and saving and spending wisely, Jacobsen said.
It really points it out for them, Jacobsen said. Maybe they cant afford a new car because they have to think about rent. Or they have a car accident or need to plan for a new baby earlier than expected. The simulation really throws on some real life situations, and it makes it real for them. Thats the best education possible.
Jacobsen noted, especially with the steps in place to provide financial education for students, the lowest debt index for Clay County can only move up.
The only true freedom is financial freedom, he said. Saving money is the only way to get financial freedom, and once you have it in control youre able to make better decisions.