Money questions are a good thing, and some parts of the country tend to ask more than others. But for those who do hop on Google and search for questions about money, what are they looking for? The answer varies by state, but some common patterns emerge regardless of where you live. Find out the most common money questions, where people are asking them, and who is trying to best boost their financial IQ by state.
According to a study by Liberty Bank, the most popular money questions in the United States are about student loans. In Maryland and New Mexico, this is the number one money question topic and number one overall. Questions in this category asked how student loans work and about the FAFSA application for student aid.
It is no surprise that student loans are among the top money questions in the US, as the total balance of student loan debt in the United States is about $1.5 trillion and the average new graduate leaves college with over $37,000 in student loans. These debt statistics are directly impacting all parts of the economy and deserve plenty of attention.
Mortgage and car loan calculators
The Liberty Bank study found that mortgage calculator questions are the second most common type of money question overall, with car loan calculator in third. Mortgage calculator questions were number one in Maine and Pennsylvania and car loan questions were the top in New Hampshire. These common questions show a major hole in our education system, as many people don’t know how loans work in general.
In many ways, one could argue that mortgage loans are “good debt,” as they help you get a place to live. Car loans are more of a neutral debt, as many people can save up for an auto purchase without a loan and cars are depreciating assets that become worth less and less over time, while a home will become more valuable in most situations over a long enough period of time. In both cases, how the loan works and what interest charges you can expect to pay are good reasons for asking money questions.
The number four most common money questions are about payday loans, which is also the top money question in Georgia. Payday loans are bad news, and searchers ask both how payday loans work and if they qualify for a payday loan. Here’s a little advice for those wondering: avoid payday loans if you can!
Payday loans are short-term loans that charge exorbitant interest rates. Most states put a cap on what payday lenders can charge, but that doesn’t mean the rates are reasonable. In Idaho, the worst offender, the average payday loan interest rate is 582%! That means in a year you would pay for the entire loan more than five times over in interest! Unless it will keep you from starving or homelessness, avoid payday loans at all costs. Nothing else is worth those terrible rates.
Finally, something about saving and investing joined the list! The number five most popular money questions on Google are about 401(k) accounts. This is the number one searched money topic in the highly educated states Massachusetts and Connecticut. If you live anywhere else, take this as a page from the New England playbook you can apply to your money.
401(k) accounts are a tax-advantaged retirement savings account where the money you put away is not taxed the year you earn it. It can grow for years until retirement, also unencumbered by taxes until you withdraw at your tax rate in retirement, which is presumably lower than your current tax rate. If you don’t have access to a 401(k), check out traditional Roth, and SEP IRAs as an alternative.
Foreclosure is the number 11 topic overall in the study, but number one in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. It was the most popular question in more states than any other. That is a disturbing statistic, as foreclosures were a big problem on the precipice of the 2008 financial crisis.
If you are worried about foreclosure, work with your bank, employer, and other resources at your disposal to try to regain your financial footing before you lose your home.
You are not alone with money questions
The study also found that people in some states are more likely to search for money questions than others. California, Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Georgia all popped out on the map as asking more questions. This doesn’t mean they know less, it could just mean they are financially more engaged. That is something we can all learn from.