When you have student debt, where you live matters. High housing and transportation costs can make paying off your loans that much harder — and the longer it takes, the more you have to pay over your lifetime. Recent graduates have to choose where they live wisely — and often don’t.
Do you live in one of the worst U.S. cities for millennials in debt? It might be time to pack your bags and move to one of the best instead.
8. Greenwood, Mississippi
A high unemployment rate makes Greenwood, Mississippi, a bad place to live if you have student loans. | Meinzahn/iStock/Getty Images
Greenwood’s 14.05% unemployment rate and high housing and transportation costs make it an unfriendly place for job-seeking millennials deep in student debt. Millennials in the area reportedly have the lowest credit scores nationwide.
Next: If you have a degree, you might not be able to find a good job here.
7. Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chattanooga, Tennessee | RobHainer/iStock/Getty Images
Degree holders won’t have much luck finding suitable employment in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A calculated 70.61% of the area’s available jobs involve blue collar, food, and other service work, which likely won’t provide enough to offer a living wage while also paying off student loans.
Next: People here spend most of their money on living expenses.
6. Columbus, Mississippi
Many people living in Columbus, Mississippi, are barely making ends meet. | Keepphotos/iStock/Getty Images
The average Columbus, Mississippi, renter spends up to 98.2% of their income on housing and transportation costs, if they’re making the area’s median income. And that’s if they’re lucky enough to become employed — 13.2% of those living here aren’t working at all.
Next: There are more people in debt here than anywhere else.
5. Charleston-North Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston residents have the highest median student debt in the U.S. | Digidreamgrafix/iStock/Getty Images
This metropolitan area is home to residents with the largest median amount of student debt throughout the United States — and more debt overall than anywhere else. Millennials here also have higher-than-average unpaid credit card balances.
Next: You won’t build up your savings accounts here.
4. Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Double-digit unemployment is a problem in Hattiesburg. | Wildpixel/iStock/Getty Images
Hattiesburg’s 10.4% unemployment rate makes it an unpleasant place for recent graduates to move to — or stay in, if they’re already living there. The average renter can expect to save no more than $2,000 a year after accounting for living and transportation expenses.
Next: A lot of people here have credit card debt.
3. Wilmington, North Carolina
With a median income of about $30,000, many millennials are barely getting by in Wilmington. | Burlingham/iStock/Getty Images
On average, millennials living in Wilmington, North Carolina, have more student loan debt and higher credit card balances than those of the same generation living elsewhere in the United States. Its median income of $30,916 is barely enough to cover high housing costs.
Next: There aren’t enough jobs here.
2. Dothan, Alabama
There are too many people and not enough jobs in Dothan, Alabama. | Zimmytws/iStock/Getty Images
When there aren’t enough jobs to provide income for a population, those who are capable of leaving are the lucky ones. Dothan, Alabama has a below-average ratio of available jobs per square mile — 1.3. Non-existent public transportation makes commuting to any job you might get a costly nightmare.
Next: A college degree doesn’t make a difference here,
1. Meridian, Mississippi
Recent graduates should think twice before relocating to Meridian. | Moussa81/iStock/Getty Images
Meridian, Mississippi, welcomes new residents with a 10% unemployment rate and extremely high housing costs compared to its median income. Only about 30% of its jobs require college degrees, making it the worst place for recent graduates to put down roots.
Next: Ready to move? Pick one of these economically sound cities that are the best for indebted millennials.
7. Mankato-North Mankato, Minnesota
Low unemployment is a plus in Mankato. | Alex_Ishchenko/iStock/Getty Images
This area’s 2.4% unemployment rate is among the lowest in the United States. Millennials living here have lower-than-average student loan debts, and some of the highest credit scores nationwide.
Next: There’s a shortage of student loan debt here.
6. Champaign-Urbana, Illinois
University of Illinois graduates might want to stick around town. | iStock.com/benkrut
Home of the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana offers residents a median rent of just $780. Residents living here have lower-than-average student loan debt and credit card balances, and find its plethora of urban development financially attractive.
Next: This is the most renter-friendly city in the U.S.
5. Anchorage, Alaska
A yearly check from the government is a perk if you live in Alaska. | Photobuay/iStock/Getty Images
Anchorage, Alaska residents receive a “negative” income tax due to a yearly government initiative paid out of its petroleum revenue. It’s the most renter-friendly place to live in the United States, especially since the median renters’ income nearly hits $50,000.
Next: Crime rates are lower here than anywhere else.
4. El Paso, Texas
El Paso is both affordable and safe. | John Moore/iStock/Getty Images
El Paso’s lower-than-average median student debt could be in part due to its crime rates, which have been the lowest in the nation for nearly five years.
Next: Higher education institutions employs almost half this city’s residents.
3. Columbia, Missouri
Another college town makes the list. | Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images
Three separate colleges in the area provide massive rates (nearly half) of employment for its well-educated residents. Unlike many areas, younger generations are keeping up with older ones when it comes to student loan debt.
Next: Rent is super cheap here.
2. Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wisconsin
Milwaukee is a good place for young grads. | Tasos Katopodis/AFP/Getty Images
With a median monthly rent of $740 and a short drive or train ride away from decent-paying jobs, residents in this area tend to have plenty of funds left over every month to chip away at their student loans. Renters here also maintain a higher-than-average median income overall.
Next: The unemployment rate in this city is unbelievable — you should go there.
1. Lincoln, Nebraska
Low unemployment and a well-educated population make Lincoln a good city for indebted millennials. | ChrisBoswell/iStock/Getty Images
An impressively low unemployment rate (2.75%) and overall well-educated population make Lincoln, Nebraska the No. 1 place for debt-burdened millennials to call home. Living costs rank low even compared to other optimal cities on this list, allowing residents to pay off their debt and still live comfortably.
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