MONEY

Here Are The 10 States That Spend The Most At Walmart

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Danny Johnston—AP Customers shop on widened aisles at a Wal-Mart Supercenter store in Springdale, Ark., Thursday, June 4, 2015.

The average Oklahoman spends almost $1,700 each year at Walmart.

Walmart has recently taken a hit to expected profits. But that’s not for lack of business from Midwestern and Southern states.

A new analysis by GOBankingRates ranks the ten states in which shoppers spend the most money at Walmart. Oklahoma is number one: Spending at Walmart’s 133 stores in the state added up to $1,622 per Oklahoman. That’s 3.5% of the state’s median household income.

South Dakota, with spending of $1,512 per capita, was a close second. It has 16 Walmarts.

The birthplace of Walmart, Arkansas, at number three, has the highest concentration of stores: approximately 1 for every 22,500 residents. Its residents also spend the greatest share of their incomes at Walmart.

Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee round out the top ten, in that order.

Yesterday the retail giant cut the low end of its expected profit range for this fiscal year by 30 cents per share. It said its recent decision to raise the company’s minimum wage to $9 has caused profits to drop in spite of steadily increasing sales.

CEO Doug McMillon has called the increased spending an investment in Walmart’s customer service. The rewards of which, it appears, some states will experience more strongly than others.

MONEY Banking

Banking Group Says ‘Consumers Hold All the Cards’ And Pay Almost No Fees

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Ale Ventura—Getty Images

61% of consumers pay no ATM access or banking maintenance fees at all.

Sick of tacked-on ATM and banking maintenance fees? You’re doing it wrong: most Americans aren’t paying them at all.

According to a survey conducted by the American Bankers Association, 72% of bank customers spend $3 or less on a monthly basis in maintenance and ATM access fees, and 61% pay no fees at all. The survey, conducted annually by the ABA since 1998, involved a national sample by telephone of 1,000 adults aged 18 and up.

“The financial services marketplace remains highly competitive and consumers hold all the cards,” ABA’s senior vice president and deputy chief counsel for consumer protection and payments, Nessa Feddis, said in a press release Wednesday. “Today’s consumers have become adept at using the many options that may allow them to bank for free, whether it’s maintaining a minimum balance, opting for direct deposit or using ATMs owned by their bank.”

The low percentage of fee-payers marks a notable shift since 2009, when the annual account fees collected by U.S. banks were at an all-time high—$41.1 billion—and marked a major source of banks’ revenue. Today, account fees are down after steady growth from 1942 to 2009, and account for about $31 billion in revenue: almost 25% less than at their peak. But consumers don’t get all the credit for the shift: experts point to a 2010 Federal Reserve regulation requiring customers to opt-in to overdraft coverage that banks charge a fee for as another major catalyst.

But let’s say you’re still paying fees, or, potentially worse, don’t know what you’re paying. 8% of Americans surveyed by the ABA weren’t sure whether they were paying fees or not, and according to a survey by the Pew Charitable Trusts, most checking account users don’t understand their bank’s overdraft policies.

Feddis’ statement contains a few key tips: keep a minimum balance, use direct deposit, and avoid ATMs that don’t service your bank. The ABA has a few more: If you don’t have overdraft coverage, watch your balance—or better yet, set up text alerts to warn you when you’re getting low. Check whether your bank will offer free services if you open both a checkings and savings account with them. And, if you’re a college student, scope out whether your college has partnerships with any nearby banks.

Read next: 3 Stupidly Simple Ways to Make Sure You Never Ever Pay ATM Fees

MONEY shoes

This NBA Player is Building an Actual House for His Shoes

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Thearon W. Henderson—Getty Images Shoes worn by NBA star LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge has a lot of footwear.

After nine seasons with the Portland Trailblazers, Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge is coming home to an $80 million contract with the Spurs—and a brand new house he commissioned.

The one problem?

His “massive” closet turned out to be too small to contain his collection of more than 150 pairs of shoes.

In a new video interview with Slam Magazine, the NBA player says his solution is to build a mini-house behind his regular house to act as “a little showroom” for his footwear.

Here’s the full interview, below.

Read More: How To Choose an Appraiser to Value Your Collectibles

MONEY

America’s Total Net Worth Just Hit a Record High

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PM Images—Getty Images

But that doesn't mean the average American is growing wealthier.

U.S. households saw their total net worth rise to a record level of $84.9 trillion in the first quarter of this year, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday. That’s compared to $80.3 trillion a year ago.

But this raw figure—which includes all assets including homes and stocks, minus debts—doesn’t tell you much about how the average American is doing.

It doesn’t account for inflation, or for the way wealth is distributed among different households.

Other data have been showing that most people in the U.S. have actually seen both their income and net worth decline, in inflation adjusted terms, in recent years. Gains have been concentrated among the wealthiest Americans.

In fact, the wealth gap between the rich and the merely middle-class is at a 30-year high, according to a recent Pew study. And once you account for the fact that most people have their net worth tied up in their homes, it becomes clearer why many Americans don’t have enough money for retirement.

Still, a more meaningful measure in the number released by the Fed today shows that there is promise for the economy. The ratio of household net worth to personal disposable income has risen to 639% from 629% a year ago, signaling that—at least in the aggregate—people might soon be ready to start spending more.

MONEY Investing

You Told Us: What You Would Do First with an Extra $1,000

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iStock

MONEY asked you how you'd deploy a $1,000 windfall. Your answers made us laugh, made us cry, and made us proud.

Related: 30 Smart Things to Do With $1,000

Related: 24 Things to Do with $10,000

Related: 13 Things to Do with $100,000

Tell Us: What Would You Do With $1,000?

MONEY

WATCH: U.S. Men’s Soccer Star Alejandro Bedoya on His Biggest Money Mistake

Alejandro Bedoya, midfielder for the U.S. World Cup team, talks about blowing a paycheck, investment strategies, and an important money lesson from his father.

Bedoya on his biggest money mistake:

My first paycheck, I remember, I put in the bank. And the second one…you know, in Europe everybody is always…they want to look good…and it’s probably buying one of those brand name designer things that, I remember, for that month it was like probably my whole paycheck. Buying things like that. I mean, those things are cool to have, but it’s not really important.”

Bedoya on what he’s learned from his father about money:

He’s always taught me that it’s not what you’re worth, it’s what you negotiate. That holds true in every aspect. It’s really how you handle things and how you go about what you think you deserve. I feel like that has helped me out a lot with the opportunities I’ve gotten with money and investments.”

 

 

MONEY Economy

What’s Your Money State of Mind?

Money magazine's exclusive poll reveals both improved confidence and lingering anxiety about our financial well-being.

Money's exclusive survey reveals mixed emotions when it comes to our personal economy: We're feeling pretty good today, but worried about our prospects for the long run.

At first glance the Brough family of Dallas seems to have emerged from the tumultuous economic events of the past six years unscathed.

Sole earner Richard, 44, a project manager in software consulting, worked steadily throughout the financial crisis — even landing a new job that pays $45,000 a year more than his old one, which pushed his salary comfortably into six-figure territory. The value of the home he shares with wife Kelley, 46, and two of their four children (ranging in age from 15 to 27) has rebounded to pre-2007 levels, and so has his 401(k).

Yet five years after the official end of the downturn, Brough feels anything but confident about his finances.

“I’m more obsessed with security and worried about the future than I was during the recession,” he says. “Even though I was making less then, our money seemed to go further. I’m anxious about being able to pay for everything we need, anxious about our savings, anxious about staying out of debt.”

The results of MONEY’s new national survey of more than 1,000 Americans age 18 and older reveal that most people share Brough’s concerns: The Great Recession may be over, but a Great Insecurity seems to have emerged in its wake.

True, the majority of respondents acknowledge that their finances are better now than they have been in some time. About three-quarters report that their situation has stabilized or improved compared with a year ago; less than half felt that way when MONEY posed that question in 2009.

Indeed, in that earlier survey, only about 10% said they were doing better than the year before, vs. 30% now. And far fewer folks seem to feel as if they’re teetering at the edge of a financial cliff: Just 24% say their circumstances have gotten worse over the past year, vs. 51% in 2009.

Meanwhile, people are even more optimistic about the year ahead: Almost nine out of 10 expect that their finances will be the same or better 12 months from now.

Yet while the outlook for today and tomorrow has brightened, the day after tomorrow appears decidedly grayer. Six out of 10 respondents own up to being worried about their family’s long-term economic security, and even greater numbers register anxiety when getting down to specifics; they’re really worried about having enough money for retirement, how they’d manage if a financial emergency arose, whether safety net programs such as Social Security and Medicare will be intact when they need them, and how they’ll pay for health care.

Moreover, that undercurrent of anxiety cuts across virtually all groups: Young and old, men and women, married couples and singles, even the affluent — all shared the same concerns.

Related: How we feel about our finances

Some of the fretting may be the result of a lingering hangover from the financial crisis. “People are influenced by what is more recent and most vivid, and that is still the recession,” says behavioral finance expert Meir Statman, a professor at Santa Clara University in California. “We fear that what happened in 2008 will happen again.”

The current state of the economy is also cause for continuing concern. “The unemployment rate is still pretty high, and there are a lot of questions about what the government is going to do,” says Olivia S. Mitchell, a Wharton economics professor who has studied the impact of the financial crisis on U.S. households. “We’re in an environment of pervasive uncertainty that’s not going to go away for years.”

What is causing the most agita about our financial future — and why? How has that affected the way we manage money? And what are the best steps to alleviate our anxiety and move forward? The answers follow, along other insights from the 2014 Americans and Their Money survey.

We’ve regained some stability — and faith

When MONEY polled Americans about their finances in 2011 and 2009, the nation was hunkered down and wrestling with post-recession panic. Families had pulled back drastically on spending, postponed vacations and major purchases, and even curtailed giving to charity. People were deeply worried about losing their jobs or getting a pay cut, concerned about the eroding value of their homes, and anxious about big losses in the financial markets.

Five years ago, when asked whether they’d be better off putting money under the mattress or in stocks, half of the respondents chose the bed.

Now that home values and stock prices are up and unemployment is modestly down, a lot of that fear has abated. This year, for instance, 71% of those surveyed opted for stocks instead of the mattress. Folks are once again comfortable tuning out the daily movements of the market: Only about a third of those surveyed said they were laser focused on financial news, vs. two-thirds in 2009.

There’s also a greater willingness to stretch for risk: In the most recent poll just over half of Americans said it was more important to keep investments safe than to aim for a higher return. While that’s a substantial number, it’s down from 64% three years ago. In general, concerns about losing money in the market, declining home values, and being laid off have dropped to close to the bottom of the collective worry list.

Related: 5 ways to reduce your financial anxiety

Other signs bolster the notion that Americans are backing away from the financial bunker mentality that swept the nation after the recession. A Challenger, Gray & Christmas analysis of employment data, for instance, found that more Americans are quitting their jobs, reflecting growing confidence in their ability to find a better position elsewhere.

After years of relative frugality, Americans are loosening the purse strings a little. Sales of big-ticket items such as cars and new homes recently hit six-year highs, and the fourth quarter saw the largest quarterly increase in outstanding credit since before the recession.

Among those feeling calmer is Ralph Schmitt, 69, of Fortson, Ga., whose savings fell by a third in the crash.

When the recession arrived, Ralph, who had planned to retire in 2008, decided to postpone that step. He and his wife, Kathleen, did not sell any investments, however, and by late 2009, with their portfolio growing again, Ralph felt confident enough to quit for good.

“I was still worried about the uneven recovery and our retirement savings,” he admits, “but I believed in the resilience of the U.S. economy and the momentum of the stock rebound.”

Besides, he says, he and Kathleen, 67, who stopped working in 1993, felt they could live on less, having drastically cut back on their spending for travel, fine dining, and theater.

Today the Schmitts’ portfolio is back to where it was in 2007, and the couple have “kicked up” their spending accordingly. “I wanted to travel extensively with my wife while we still had our health,” says Ralph.

Good habits have held

We may be opening our wallets again, but that doesn’t mean we’ve abandoned the fiscally prudent practices adopted after the crash. Nearly three-quarters of those in the MONEY poll reported that over the past three years they’ve been cutting back on luxury purchases and eating at home more often — a modest drop from 2011, when consumers were still shell-shocked from the financial crisis, but a big increase from the 2009 survey.

Nearly six in 10 say they feel guilty about buying something they don’t need, virtually unchanged from three years ago. And six in 10 say they’re trying to beef up their emergency cushion, a huge jump from 2009, when less than a quarter said the same. Indeed, the national savings rate, while down from its post-crash peak, is now 4%, about where it’s been for much of the past three years and substantially above the 1% rate of the pre-crisis boom years.

Whether we’ll be able to maintain that restraint for good, however, is unclear. “We’re not back to a status quo environment that would allow you to make those kinds of judgments,” says Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer economics at Moody’s. He thinks consumers will let loose eventually: “Underestimate the desire to spend at your own peril,” he says.

It’s particularly tough to assess the long-term trend while the recovery is still so uneven, notes Caroline Ratcliffe, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, pointing out that some groups, such as high-income baby boomers and retirees whose wealth is tied to the stock market, are feeling more flush than others these days.

Jim Durkis says the improving economy has not changed his habits — yet. The government lawyer and his wife, Deborah, an elementary-school teacher, both 50, were looking to buy a bigger house near where they now live in Albuquerque but decided against the move when housing values in the area declined.

Since the recession, the family, which includes Jason, 22, and Kaja, 21, have switched insurance companies, delayed vacations, and cut cable — though they signed up again last summer after Deborah, a former-spender-turned-bargain-hunter, found a good deal.

Though both spouses are working and he has a solid pension plan, Durkis says he’s still focused on saving. “I’m not convinced there’s been a true recovery,” he says. “I’d rather have extra money, just in case.”

Part 2 of Money magazine’s survey: The long term still looks uncertain

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