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Daggett County best county to save in Utah, study says

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A sign welcomes visitors to Morgan on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. Morgan County is now the eighth fastest-growing county in the country, according to census estimates.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A new study reveals Utah’s least populous county is the best place to save money in the Beehive State.

The annual report from New York-based financial technology firm SmartAsset showed that rural Daggett County is the state’s top residential option for Utahns to be able to put away money for their financial future.

The study looked at the most suitable places where people could save based on regional factors, including median household income, average living expenses and income tax burden, according to AJ Smith, SmartAsset vice president of financial education.

The report calculated the average cost of living in each county for a household of two adults — one of whom is working — then created a purchasing power index for each county that showed the counties with the highest ratio of household income to cost of living and calculated how far their money would go, she said.

To better compare the income tax burdens across counties, the study applied relevant deductions and exemptions as well as calculated federal state and local income taxes for a family making $50,000 annually in each location. The study also calculated the weighted average of the indices for both of those metrics to yield an overall “best places to save” score, she said.

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Given the above-referenced parameters, Daggett County yielded the highest “Best Places to Save” index rating at 76.43, just above No. 2 Morgan County, which registered a score of 74.91 and No. 3 Summit County registering a score of 73.03. All three counties listed relatively high median household incomes and low cost of living totals, the report states.

“We hope this inspires people to kind of think about their own numbers if saving is important to you and one of your financial goals,” Smith said. “We hope this gets you thinking about ways that you can better do that, looking at your numbers, looking at how much you’re currently saving and thinking about ways to improve that.”

Smith said the research recognizes that people choose to spend their money in different ways, but the study hopes to highlight how individuals and families can allocate their disposable income in ways than can be beneficial to their long-term financial well-being.

“Especially when you have the higher income — where the rest of your money goes after housing (is important). There may be some more left over and how you are spending that money should be reflective of your values and your goals,” she said. “And hopefully, if you’re valuing saving money, and your goal is to have a healthy emergency fund or a healthy retirement fund, we hope this gets you thinking about ways to divert more money there — to rearrange your budget so that your values and your goals are aligned with where your money is.”

For those with more modest incomes, the study can show those individuals where they may be able to make adjustments to eventually reach their financial goals, Smith added.

“Maybe it’s thinking the best thing for me to do is to increase that household income. Is it asking for a raise? Is it asking for promotion? Is it doing additional education or classes to qualify for those raises and those promotions? Is it to apply to new jobs? she said.

“We hope this gets people looking at these numbers, and then also looking at their own numbers, their personal numbers and thinking about how they can improve them.”

Smith noted that SmartAsset calculated data for 3,100 counties across the country — with the highest index of 100 attained in Los Alamos County, New Mexico; Delaware County, Ohio, ranked No. 2 with an index of 93.85, followed by Williamson County, Tennessee, at No. 3 with an index of 93.45.

She said, in the end, people will need to make decisions based on what is most important to them in figuring out the best place to reside and how they choose to reach their financial objectives.

“It also just means you may have to make different choices, that you’re choosing to live in a place close to family or choosing to live in a place that allows you to engage in the job that you want to engage in, but it may mean you’re having to make other choices to really continue to have that savings as a goal,” Smith said. “Again, it doesn’t mean savings has to go away as a goal. It just means that different choices they have to be made to get you there.”