NJ 7th-worst in US at managing money, report says
New Jersey ranks 45th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia for money management, according to a recent study which measured residents' average credit scores relative to median household income.
The report by CreditCards.com found the Garden State somewhat predictably in fifth place for median income, trailing only New Hampshire, Maryland, Virginia and Connecticut, but at a less impressive 19th place in the credit score ranking. New Jerseyans' average credit score comes in at 680.4, although that is above the national average of 669.
So what does all of this prove?
"A higher income doesn't always translate into a higher credit score, and having more money doesn't necessarily make you more likely to pay your bills on time," said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst for CreditCards.com. "Using conventional wisdom, we might have expected that a state with as high a median income would have a little bit higher credit score, but that wasn't the case."
Minnesota, at 704, was the only state with an average score that broke the 700 mark.
The study also charted residents' average credit card balances, again broken down by state. New Jersey had the sixth-highest amount in that category at $4,811.
"Those who earn a little bit more might be able to better deal with having a little bit of a credit card balance," Schulz said, however adding that a bigger bank account is not always indicative of a person who makes prompt or full payments.
"Just because you have more money than somebody might have in another state, it doesn't mean that it's any easier to pay your bills, pay the mortgage, pay that car payment," he said.
While it will take a concerted effort for New Jersey as a whole to climb in these standings, Schulz said there are specific things individuals can do to distance themselves from Maryland, which finished dead last, and become more like Montana, which came in first.
"It's really just about paying your bills on time, keeping your balances low, and not applying for too much credit too often," he said. States with lower unemployment rates, something New Jersey has struggled with since the Great Recession, also tended to rank higher on the list.
CreditCards.com's report was developed using 2015 data from Experian and predicted 2012-2013 income from the most recent U.S. Census.
Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's evening news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015, email email@example.com, and listen for his live reports Monday through Thursday nights between 6:30 and 11 p.m.