Are Californians Good With Their Money? Report Ranks U.S. Cities By Financial Savviness


April 15, 2018 – By Michael McGough

With tax season winding down, many Americans have spent the last few weeks reflecting on how they’re handling their finances (perhaps with shades of regret, in some cases).

A recent report by personal finance website SmartAsset unveiled some good news for Californians: We’re generally financially savvy, and we tend to save at a much higher rate than the average U.S. resident.

Taking into account personal savings, credit utilization and late payments, the company’s “Most Financially Savvy Index” awarded San Francisco a perfect score of 100. Four other California cities joined S.F. in the top 10: No. 2 Santa Maria, No. 5 Salinas, No. 6 Eureka and No. 9 San Diego.

Sacramento ranked No. 16 out of about 200 major cities considered. Looking at data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, SmartAsset estimated that Sacramentans save about 13 percent, make an average of 27 percent of their payments late and utilize 30 percent of their credit.

For comparison, the nationwide numbers are 5 percent for personal savings, 35 percent late payments and 30 percent credit utilization. This means Sacramento is outperforming the national average in each category.

San Francisco’s performance is even more remarkable, with residents saving triple the national average at 15 percent, utilizing 25 percent of their credit and making late payments at just a 17 percent rate.

Other financial websites seem to agree that Californians are above average with their finances. WalletHub released its own savviness report for 2017 in September. California came in at No. 8 overall and ranked No. 2 in both the “Debt and spending” and “Saving” ranks. However, the Golden State was listed No. 47 in “Credit.”

Though we seem to do better than other states, financial savviness can be a tricky concept for many people. One 2015 survey of more than 27,000 Americans found that 63 percent could not pass a financial literacy test. Nonprofit organization American Consumer Credit Counseling in 2014 gave five tips to stay savvy:

  • Save for the future
  • Maintain a good credit score
  • Stick to a realistic budget
  • Invest wisely
  • Keep an emergency rainy-day fund with at least three months of living expenses.