“Top 10 states to save money for retirement” or “The 5 cheapest cities in the US” are common articles pushed across various media publications each year. They’re intriguing, too! If you’re considering a big move and new locations are in the mix, you have to become familiar with a range of far-off places very quickly.
These listicles offer the promise of being in-the-know for some beautiful, hidden haven with great community and even better savings for your budget. However, they often pull a very selective set of data points to come up with their rankings. They may miss certain taxes, ignore weather and lifestyle changes, or calculate health insurance based on the payments of a younger single person with a catastrophe plan.
That’s why one of the tools available for Willowfinch users in the Booster and VIP Explorer Packages are our nationwide data maps.
These are based on the data Willowfinch founder, Andrea, pulled to get a sense of the world around her and how it related to her and her husband’s needs and goals at certain points in the future, not just right in the moment.
These are general data points, but they’re important. You’ll see patterns that may rule somewhere out, add a surprise location to your list, or help inform your timeline and plans.
About Each Nationwide Map
These are included because so many people want to move to “better weather” (like cold to hot climates), but it’s important to know how hot “hot” is in each place. Other considerations are what climate means for other things like precipitation and long-term climate change. This is a way to match personal preferences up with different places and make more informed decisions about where you want to live, instead of basing it on regional marketing slogans.
These maps are created from the NOAA data set that covers around 5,800 measuring stations for temperature, 5,600 for precipitation, 1,600 for snow depth, and 1,300 for average snow days. You can look through measurements across the country down to zip codes in the areas that matter to you. The maps include:
- Snowfall Data
- Precipitation Data
- Average Temperature Data
Sales Tax Information
This data was important to include because the general information we know tends to be statewide. Statewide taxes isn’t what will impact you day-to-day though. This map breaks it down to the county or even municipality level.
You don’t want to miss a great spot because the other areas across the state are higher and shift the average. And you definitely don’t want to end up somewhere that is a lot higher than you though, where you’re left paying more than you expected or driving a few counties over to buy things.
A quick example is the 35016 zip code in Alabama, where the sales tax is 12.5%, compared to a general expectation for the state to be cheaper, on average.
State and Local Tax Information
It’s hard to track all of the taxes for a particular property and see what applies to you (based on your age, income, needs, and wants). The cumulative amount of the state and local taxes is what actually hits your bank account, so this map is showing the unique combo in each location all the way to county, city, school district, townships, or boroughs.
While this nationwide version is based on population-driven amounts, Willowfinch users who sign up for the VIP Explorer Package get personalized tax data for up to 100 recommended locations for their scenario!
Health Insurance Information
On this map, we use the second cheapest silver health plan costs. That tier is the national standard for how much subsidy you get toward your plan. We don’t calculate the subsidy itself, because that changes from household to household and year to year, but you get the best picture of possible premium starting points for each spot based on more than 2,500,000 data points.
(You can look at this subsidy calculator to get an idea of what your subsidy may look like at the current levels for each location.)
If the state is a big increase in premium for you or it hasn’t opted into the Medicaid expansion, you want to know that. In addition to possible cost increases, states that haven’t opted in are often particularly vulnerable to plans ignoring federal regulations since they’re not receiving federal funding.
Because this is such an unpredictable but high-priced budget element, we tended toward worse-case scenarios. Pay attention here, this can be a shift of thousands per month per person just by ending up on the wrong side of a county line or in a slightly different zip code in the SAME county.
A couple hundred dollars in monthly mortgage payments here or a percentage or two on sales taxes there just don’t pack the same punch.
You may need to give it a second to load, but this is one of the most personal and expensive bits of information you’ll get about an area.
Presidential Election Data from 2000-2020
This is just a small snapshot of A LOT of voting and political data, so you won’t be seeing all the nuances. However, this can be a powerful way to get an idea of some of the political trends happening in a location (which is exactly why we go back to the 2000 election instead of a shorter period).
When policies and laws impact your quality of life, how you can fit into a community, and your financial situation, general political trends can be a quick view of what to expect for each spot.
Just keep in mind that every area has its own feel and real-life outcomes can be different than a broad-view generalization!
How to Use These Maps
When the maps load, they show a simple cover section with the map information. To see the map and start looking through the data, just click the tab in the submenu located between the map title and the cover section.
It can be easy to miss, it’s a thin, grey section! Here’s a selected tab highlighted in yellow and the matching map showing in the content section.
Looking at the different elements of living in a location can be important when you compare it to other savings or rewards areas may offer. Let’s take the example of a move from Allegheny county, Pennsylvania to Lewisburg in Greenbrier county, West Virginia to get the $12,000 incentive as part of the Ascend West Virginia program. If you’re 58, you’d be looking at approximately:
- $3880 more a year in just state income taxes (married, filing jointly, at $100,000 a year)
- $870 more a month for health insurance
- A 1% decrease in sales taxes (7% to 6%)
That adds up quickly! In your first year, you could use your whole incentive up on just those costs. If you have other reasons you’d love to move to Lewisburg, that’s probably not a huge deal. But if you were considering it just because of the incentive, it’s worth knowing.
These maps come with our Booster Package and the VIP Explorer package, which you can purchase any time in the profile of your free Willowfinch account.
If you have those packages, take some time to test out some of your favorite spots and see how they line up! Then find a few listings in the most promising areas, save them to your Willowfinch account, and see how they line up with your personal financial info and goals. It’s powerful data to compare!
Ready to dive in?
You can land these data maps for free as part of the Willowfinch launch for our new tools and resources! Just start your free Willowfinch account by Tuesday, November 22nd!