For many, it seems that America is becoming too expensive to live in.

Inflation plays a significant role in this, hitting a record 40-year high of 9.1% in the summer of 2022. It has lowered since then: “In May, core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, was up 0.2% on a monthly basis and 3.4% from a year ago. Economists had projected a 3.5% annual gain,” per Forbes Advisor.

In 2022, a single parent with two children would have needed an average of $35.80 an hour to make ends meet, a yearly income of $74,400 that most American families were not near making.

As of the fourth quarter of 2023, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average salary in the U.S. at $59,384. Mississippi has the lowest average ($48,048), and Massachusetts has the highest ($86,840). Utah’s average salary was $61,516.

Due to the high cost of living, a study done by digital personal finance company Achieve found that very few Americans live free of financial burdens, and as few as 1 in 10 believe they live with financial freedom.

“We’re seeing far fewer Americans with the goal of becoming ‘rich’ and many families pivoting to just trying to be able to pay their bills on time. With all of the economic pressures facing American families, financial freedom is currently more about making ends meet,” Brad Stroh, co-founder and co-CEO of Achieve, said per the study. “Reaching financial stability is particularly challenging for consumers living with debt.”

Are certain states financially freer than others?

A new report by WalletHub found that when it comes to financial dependencies, some states struggle more than others to stay self-reliant. “Residents display their independence in a variety of ways, from not being reliant on state- or federally-provided benefits to saving money for the future and not being addicted to gambling, alcohol or drugs,” analyst Cassandra Hoppe said in the study.

Top five most independent states:

  1. Utah
  2. Colorado
  3. Florida
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Vermont

Top five most dependent states:

  1. Louisiana
  2. Kentucky
  3. Mississippi
  4. Alaska
  5. West Virginia

The Beehive State took the crown for most independence for a few reasons. Few Utahns take in government support. The study noted that Utah “has an extremely low percentage of people with public assistance income (1.6%) or who receive SNAP or food stamps (5.6%).”

According to the Department of Workforce Services, the state’s unemployment rate was 2.9% as of last month, which is comparatively low next to other states like California (5.2%) or the national average of 4.0%.

“To top things off,” WalletHub added, “people in Utah are not very dependent on addictive substances. Utah has the lowest share of people who smoke or binge drink in the country.”

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