Loudoun And Fairfax Are Ranked The ‘Happiest’ Counties In America

Two months after the United States placed number 13 on a report marking the happiest countries across the globe, SmartAsset is zoning in on the happiness of American counties. And two places in Northern Virginia are on top of the companys annual list.

Loudoun returns to its number one spot as the happiest county in America. For the second year in a row, Loudoun is favored for its low unemployment and poverty rates (both under 4 percent) and an income ratio of 2.5, meaning that residents incomes are more than twice the cost of living.

Closer to DC, Fairfax County ranked second on the list (it placed third last year). SmartAsset points out that the runner-up is just one of three counties in the ranking where residents are expected to live over 83 years. And with a population larger than eight states and the District, residents bring in median incomes of $100,584.

The list looked at counties with populations of at least 50,000. Each locale was then ranked based on the eight categories: income ratio, marriage rate, life expectancy rate, physical activity rate, poverty rate, unemployment rate, divorce rate, and personal bankruptcy rate.

The Virginian counties preceded Carver County, Minnesota, Chester County, Pennsylvania, Hunterdon County, New Jersey, and Morris County, New Jersey. Another District neighbor, Howard County, Maryland, came in at number seven. And Douglas County, Colorado, Somerset County, New Jersey, and Ozaukee County, Wisconsin rounded out the top 10.

Ken Plum: Being among the happiest

Technologists have applied their big data and computer-crunching to determine where in the world and where in the United States are the happiest places to live. The Happiest Places in America-2016 Edition was released last month by Smart Asset, a firm that uses technology to help consumers understand finances. Since my constituents reside in what this study rated the second happiest place to live in America and next door to the happiest place, I thought it would be interesting to examine how Loudoun County as number 1 and Fairfax County as number 2 got those distinctions.

While I am certainly a happy person surrounded by many happy people, I believe the methodologies employed while useful in understanding the communities in which we live can also create a false sense of community satisfaction.

Loudoun and Fairfax Counties are the two happiest counties in the US when you limit your study to counties over 50,000 in population. The only other counties in the top ten in happiness located near us are Howard County in Maryland at number 7, Chester County in Pennsylvania at number 4, and three counties in New Jersey; the rest are in the Midwest. No county west of Douglas, Colorado (number 8) made the list.

Eight factors determined happiness in the study. On the positive side, marriage rate, the ratio of median income to cost of living, life expectancy, and physical activity rate (the percentage of the population getting adequate physical activity each week) were considered. Negative factors were poverty rate, unemployment rate, divorce rate and personal bankruptcy rate. The factors considered together created a score for each county. Loudoun County for example has a median income that is more than twice the cost of living. Its unemployment rate and poverty rate are both under 4 percent. Fairfax County bolsters its score with a life expectancy rate over 83 years and a median income that is almost twice the national median income. At the time of the study, both Loudoun and Fairfax Counties had an unemployment rate of 3.2 percent.

Looking at an extended list of the top 25 happiest counties in America adds York, Virginia at number 15, Montgomery County, Maryland at number 19, as well as counties in Texas and California. Nearly a thousand counties were considered in the study.

For persons working in social services in Loudoun and Fairfax Counties, the list may cause some consternation. A 4 percent poverty rate is low but when applied to a population of 1.2 million in Fairfax County represents a very large number of people. The same is true of low unemployment rates when applied to a high number of persons living in an area with a very high cost of living. Even in the happiest of places, some among us struggle. We clearly have strengths in Northern Virginia that we can build on to extend health, wealth and prosperity to those who may not share those characteristics now.

Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

50/50 (BDC And MREIT) Update, New Stock-Tracking Tool Update POT2.0

Portfolio Concept Design…

The premise for my 50/50 portfolio design is based on the concept that BDC (Business Development Companies) outperform when the markets are flat or going up and mREIT (mortgage Real Estate Trusts) outperform when the markets are flat or going down. This concept implies that BDCs performance rely on company loans in their portfolio having the ability to repay their loans in good times, but go non-accrual or default during economic downturns. Agency mREITs on the other hand are leveraged securities that are backed by the US government. During bad economic times investors begin to invest in treasuries and MBS securities that are backed by the US government to protect against the loss of principle; and the result for the underlying securities is strong performance.

In essence, Im always hedging my bet with the tug-of-war between bull and bear markets while collecting over 10% yield on my portfolio. Im not in the camp that always tries to trade in the direction of the market; Ill leave that excitement to traders. I would rather try to select companies that fit in just two sections of the economy. This simple method lets me SWAN just fine, since this seems to be a concern for most investors.

Click to enlarge


Since my last portfolio update I added a few shares of three companies to bring my income allocation value to 72.5% of my gross employment income. My goal for the end of this year is 75% and Im on track to achieve this benchmark. For convenience I have normalized the portfolio balance to about $500,000 as of May 19, 2016. The very next day Friday when I nailed down this article the portfolio jumped once again by almost 1% and sits at about $505, 000 with a projected income of $63,700 and a yield of 12.6%. My previous article introduced you to POT1.0, 50/50 Portfolio Update, And Introducing A Brand-New Stock-Tracking Tool. I have since made incremental enhancements and decided this was a major update and have named the revision to POT2.0. The Excel 2010 application downloads Yahoo data and I have manipulated the data to display the information in graphical bar-chart form so investments can be compared on a relative basis. The changes are described below and the download link is in the conclusion section. Please see important disclaimers at the end of this article.

Junior Telemarketing executive promoted to Senior VP, Telemarketing, still sells personal loans

Jayant, who was working as a junior call center executive with Blue Oranges BPO. SolutionsLtd.(BLOBS) has received such a massive promotion, it has left all his colleagues in state of deep shock. Jayant has been promoted from being a Junior Telemarketing Executive (JTE) to Senior Vice President (SVP), Telemarketing, for Personal Loans division.

While there is no visible change in Jayant’s day to day job as he would still be calling people for personal loans, he has apparently received a hefty pay hike of 2.3% and a bigger cubicle, that too near the rest room.

Jayant who took 17 of his female colleagues for a treat at McDonalds, to celebrate his promotion, was visibly excited at the prospect of being called an SVP. He said, “I never thought I would become a Senior Vice President. Imagine how it will sound when I call people for loans. Right now they hang up whenever they hear that a junior executive is calling but when they hear that senior Vice President is calling, they will be so happy. Wow people are going to sign up like anything. My conversion rates will hit the roof.”

Mr. Mrungeri K the CEO at BLOBS lauded Jayant for his phenomenal progress and growth. He said, “I know Jayant since he was just a young kid with hazy dreams when he joined us 14 months back. Since then he has been a very vital part of our team. He never stops at selling personal loan to people. If they say no, he goes onto sell Cash on EMI, Overdraft limit, credit card bill transfer, additional bonus point purchases and hundreds of other Financial products to the customer, till they either buy something or cut the call. Although his conversion rates are less than 0.005%, and we have received complaints on his persuasive behavior and obsessive argumentativeness, but those are the very qualities this position needs. After all his relentlessness has helped him gain visibility in eyes of management, hence this promotion.”

After that, the CEO returned to his phone to convince a client to take a personal loan.

Discover Personal Loans Survey: Majority of Personal Loans Used by Financially Healthy Gen Xers and Boomers

RIVERWOODS, Ill.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Whether financing a major life event, handling an unplanned expense or
consolidating debt, a personal loan can help provide consumers with
control over their finances. In fact, people in solid financial standing
agree. Sixty percent of those who have used a personal loan
graded themselves as having good or excellent financial health,
according to a survey commissioned by Discover Personal Loans.

Survey results also found that many who have used a personal loan in the
past would consider using one again. More than half of those who have
used a personal loan in the past and grade their overall financial
health as excellent or good say they are very or somewhat interested in
using a personal loan in the future.

“After seeing how beneficial personal loans can be, it’s not surprising
that people in good financial health recognize the value in using them
more than once,” said Dan Matysik, vice president of Discover Personal
Loans. “A personal loan can be an effective option to help people
simplify finances and take control of their financial future.”

The survey results show that Generation X, those between the ages of 35
to 54, and baby boomers, those ages 55 and older, use personal loans
more than millennials, those ages 18 to 34:

  • 54 percent of baby boomers have used a personal loan
  • 49 percent of Gen Xers have used a personal loan
  • 36 percent of millennials have used a personal loan

The majority of Gen Xers, 61 percent, and baby boomers, 67 percent,
picked a personal loan because of the interest rate, followed by the
trustworthiness of the lender, according to the survey.

When asked to rank several categories for which they would most likely
use a personal loan, 53 percent of respondents said they would use one
for a major life event or purchase such as a wedding or car, 31 percent
said they would use it for debt consolidation or something else, and 17
percent said they would use it for an unplanned expenditure like a major
medical expense.

“When it comes to a personal loan, everyone’s situation is different.
Personal loans are a flexible financial tool that can be tailored to fit
a borrower’s individual needs,” said Matysik.

About the Survey

The national survey of 2,000 adults was commissioned by Discover
Personal Loans and conducted by Rasmussen Reports, an independent survey
research firm (http://www.rasmussenreports.com),
March 11- 15, 2016. The margin of sampling error was+/- 2 percentage
points with a 95% level of confidence, except for questions 13-17 for
which the margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points.

About Discover

Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) is a direct banking and payment
services company with one of the most recognized brands in US
financial services. Since its inception in 1986, the company has become
one of the largest card issuers in the United States. The company issues
the Discover card, Americas cash rewards pioneer, and offers private
student loans, personal loans, home equity loans, checking and savings
accounts and certificates of deposit through its direct banking
business. It operates the Discover Network, with millions of merchant
and cash access locations; PULSE, one of the nations leading ATM/debit
networks; and Diners Club International, a global payments network with
acceptance in more than 185 countries and territories. For more
information, visit www.discover.com/company.

Survey Results From Rasmussen Reports

Personal loans have become a cause of worry; here’s why

The Central Statistical Office (CSO) and some other experts have recently asserted that the large “discrepancies” in the expenditure-side GDP estimates are because of inadequate data and are statistically unbiased. These discrepancies were there in the past as well; over time, as more data became available, these got rectified or minimised. Further, such inconsistencies are not specific to India’s national accounts but a fairly common feature across countries; India is no outlier in this regard. So, when the statistical authorities have been transparent all along, we should have no misgivings.

But at another level, does transparency help us analyse India’s current macroeconomic data any better? Not really. Maintaining that the demand-side discrepancies are solely explained by inadequate data on expenditures is perhaps stretching the argument because these are residuals benchmarked to the production-side estimates; the latter themselves are under scrutiny for being overestimated. The concerns of critics could therefore be legitimate and cannot easily be brushed aside.

Think about the fact that if the expenditure-side GDP data, especially at quarterly frequency, are no good, then how certain are we in inferring that the current phase of GDP growth is consumption-driven? What if in the future, a large share of the discrepancies were apportioned to investment instead? Analysing such macro data therefore, can at best be tentative, both in its direction and magnitude. Reason enough why analysts seek buttressing evidence from many other high frequency indicators. The suspicion persists because not a single such indicator has aligned consistently with the national accounts’ narrative of accelerated value addition and growth in the last three years.

The worry is that the quarterly GDP estimates, an early indicator of the business cycle position, could gradually lose credibility as more analysts begin constructing Indian counterparts of the Li Keqiang index–pushing decision-taking by key agents into highly uncertain territory. The probability of policy error on the part of the government and RBI could compound. Boardrooms of businesses could turn to solving demand puzzles, delaying investment decisions. And bankers could end up making wrong and risky resource allocations!

The intention of this article is to flag one such issue: Concern about rising personal loans. Discretionary consumer spending is the current buzz; accelerating production of consumer durable goods in the general index (IIP) is a sure green shoot; and rising personal loans in credit portfolios of most commercial banks is settled evidence to support the proposition of a consumption-led, cyclical recovery. What then is there to worry?

Pose here a question: Is this trend sustainable? Is this based upon fundamentals of rising real incomes of consumers or merely bank-led in anticipation of a future? Deliberate these observations in recent months: bike sales suddenly picked up into double-digit territory, when the expected monsoon rains are yet to shower in any good measure; and large numbers of cars purchased by government employees even as the Seventh Pay Commission award is yet to be implemented. What is to be inferred from this?

Banks, both public and private, have been under tremendous pressure to grow their assets when they are either shy of lending to industry, or have seen very little loan demand. In such an environment, it is not surprising they are only too keen to lend to households. Hence, their personal loan portfolio has grown sharply; while nominal growth is touching 20% year-on-year, the inflation-adjusted growth in personal loans is trending at 14%, a historical peak.

Think of the contrast–credit to industry at decade-lows, credit to households at decade-highs! Is there a herd behavior, everyone rushing in, hoping for a safe bet? From the banks’ standpoint, there should be very little reason to worry; their assessment of incomes could be consistent with the national accounts’ narrative of consumption-led growth. When incomes are rising but investment remains subdued, it is but logical by the national income identity that consumption must have been growing, boosted by real purchasing power of consumers due to sharply falling inflation. How comfortable can we be with such an assessment?

While the confidence is attributable to GDP acceleration, the growth in value added has slowed–the difference owing to increases in net indirect taxes accruing to the government. And at a finer level, growth in nominal disposable personal income (ie income net of direct taxes) has been trending down. By an aggressive push to personal loans, have banks stretched household balance sheets and exposed themselves to further default risks? Is the growth in credit card outstandings an early signal? The worry should be that historically, India hasn’t ever witnessed such high growth in real personal loans, even in the heydays of rapid economic growth between 2003 through 2011.

The answer could therefore depend upon the uncertainties around assessments of demand conditions. Specifically, what if growth had been much slower than estimated? There could be several reasons why criticisms have some merit that needn’t be ignored: say for example, how readily is the estimated buoyancy in manufacturing value added growth explained by higher corporate profit margins from lower input prices relative to output prices even when volume growth remains muted? Hasn’t that also been true for other commodity importing countries including China, where the manufacturing share in GDP is so much higher?

Even conceding that India has specific advantages in creating large value additions by a million hitherto unmarked small firms, how did this additional demand dissipate? If it wasn’t spent on buying goods, which is what the weakening IIP and non-oil, non-gold imports point to, then it must be spent on purchase of services, pushing up their prices, which is what retail services’ inflation suggests. Then why deflate services’ activities like trade and finance with wholesale price indices, when consumer prices appear closer to producer prices of services? Can past practices justify such an inconsistency when the whole exercise was to switch over to modern national accounts compilation methods? Indeed, if one were to deflate these components with CPI inflation, growth estimates could slow down, raising questions about assessment of demand conditions.

Surely then the expectations that household real incomes will continue to grow, delinked from weaker balance-sheets of the private corporate sector, be suspect? If banks continue to expand personal loans, they could end-up stretching household balance sheets into vulnerable limits no sooner. It is to be hoped that bank branches are exercising abundant discretion in assessing creditworthiness of individual borrowers, and not letting down their guard in the effort to meet targets set by respective boards. Moreover, such growth is too brisk for any regulatory comfort; one expects this has not escaped RBI’s eagle eye. The economy could hardly afford to damage its household balance sheets when a large section of corporate balance sheets remain stressed and unrepaired.

The author is a New Delhi-based economist

Houston City Council To Consider Raising Limits On Personal Campaign Loans

An empty Houston city council chamber

Under the current ordinance a candidate for mayor cannot be reimbursed for personal loans to their campaign in excess of $75,000. Those seeking a city-wide office (controller and at-large council offices) are limited to reimbursement for personal loans in excess of $15,000, while district office candidates are limited to $5,000 personal loan repayments.

Though the request for increased limits came from current council members, Mayor Sylvester Turner said it will have little effect on the current council.

It doesnt impact the overwhelming members of the city council thats being considered, Turner said. It doesnt apply to the Mayor Pro Tem (CouncilmemberĀ Ellen R. Cohen, District C). It doesnt apply to me, the mayor added.

Following Wednesdays council meeting Mayor Turner was hesitant to disclose which members of the current council suggested altering the ordinance, or discuss concerns that raising the loan limits would benefit wealthier candidates. HeĀ did say that there is no intention to raise the $75,000 limit for mayoral candidates.

Thursdays meeting will take place in the City Council Chamber at 2:00 pm

Taking out personal loans in 2016 – Essential tips you need to follow

Personal loans are a great avenue to explore especially when you’re going through some dire financial issues during the middle of the month. We all face various monetary problems but we all don’t end up getting personal loans as most of us are not aware of the ways in which we should get one and others are confused about the right step to take. Nevertheless, it is a fact universally acknowledged that personal loans actually help cash-strapped people stay on top of their finances by boosting their reserve for a fixed time period. If you too have been thinking of taking out personal loans, here are some tips that you need to take into account so that you don’t fall into trouble in the near future.

  • Ensure that the personal loan is the best option for you: There are many different purposes of using personal loans. For instance, you could use them for combining your high-interest unsecured debts, for purposes of home improvement or for investing in your business. Hence the first thing that you should do is to check out whether or not the personal loan that you’re looking for serves your needs. There are secured personal loans and unsecured personal loans and you can choose anyone between them.
  • Select the right lender: Financing sources which offer personal loans include credit unions, banks, and online lenders. Each of them offers a wide range of interest rates and their terms and conditions vary from one another. You should choose the best lender who will offer you the most comfortable terms and conditions in accordance with the loan amount that you take out.
  • Don’t forget to read the fine print: You should be sure about reading the fine print of the loan agreement as there is the most confusing information which you should be aware of. If by mistake, you forget to read the fine print, you might end up signing on a paper which doesn’t have anything favorable for you. The lender will always try to deceive you and get more money from you but you shouldn’t allow them to do so.
  • Ensure having a good credit score: Your credit score is the most important number that is to be checked by your lenders before giving you personal loans. If you think you don’t have a good credit score which can help you qualify for a loan, you should immediately opt for credit repair. Ultimately you have to approach the lender with a good score so that he doesn’t turn down an offer on your face.
  • Don’t take more than what you can afford: Before you apply for a personal loan, you should take a look at your present financial situation to know how much loan you can comfortably afford. There are some lenders who can give you more than what you can afford. Don’t fall into this trap.

To know more on loans and its kinds, you may check out CashFloat so as to learn more about such loans. Try and manage your finances in the best way possible so that you can pay off the loan on time.

Look who takes out personal loans

Perception — mine, at least — appears to be trailing reality.

I know the market has changed for personal loans. Yes, there are still high interest loans offered to low credit score borrowers, but many consumers with solid credit have won some really good deals in recent years.

And yet I was surprised by results of a poll about who takes out personal loans.

The survey of 2,000 adults commissioned by Discover Personal Loans found that about 60% of consumers who have taken out a personal loan self-identify as being in good or excellent financial health. A nearly identical percentage of consumers who have never taken out a personal loan also indicate theyre in fine financial shape.

Of course, one persons notion of good financial health might not match anothers. Even so, the fact that both groups are feeling fine is worth noting.

RATE SEARCH: Let Bankrate help you find the best personal loan rates today.

More life experience

So, who exactly takes out a personal loan?

The Discover survey conducted by Rasmussen Reports found that personal loan borrowers skew older. While just 36% of adults ages 18 to 34 indicate they have taken out a personal loan, 49% of adults ages 35-54 and 54% of adults 55 and over say they have.

Those results track with a Bankrate survey taken in January that showed the older you are the more likely you are to have taken out a personal loan.

Dan Matysik, Discover’s vice president of personal loans, says awareness of loan options might play a role in why borrowers tend to be older.

I do think that the financial experiences of the borrowers come into play, Matysik says. As people have different financial needs over time, they become aware of the different financial products.

What matters when shopping for a loan

Discover also asked borrowers what matters most when taking out a personal loan. More than 6 in 10 borrowers said interest rate was the top consideration. I tip my hat to you, survey takers, because thats the No. 1 thing I suggested borrowers should look at, too.