PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Residents of the Big Apple – one of the most expensive cities in the world – should find it easier to save than Philadelphians.
That’s just one of the surprising bits of information to be found in a new study on savings potential in big cities done by money management website Interest.com.
The research, which looked at median family income and median family expenses in 18 major cities across the U.S., found that families in every city except one should be able to save thousands each year – if they limit their spending to the median cost of living, that is.
Baltimore, MD clocked in as the city with the largest “savings opportunity,” or what Interest.com defines as the difference between the median household after-tax income and the median cost of living in that city. Those living in Charm City could save up to $24,250 a year.
Surprisingly, Washington D.C. came in second, with nearly $20,000 per year in savings opportunity.
And while Philadelphia ranked 13 out of 18 with a mere $5,025 potential savings a year, what’s really interesting is that New York City beat us out, coming in 10th on the list.
Yes – New York City residents should be able to save more per year than those of us living in less-expensive Philadelphia, if only marginally. According to Interest.com, NYC dwellers have $5,948 available in savings opportunity.
But regardless of where we live, where is all this money we could be saving actually going?
Academics Interest.com spoke to have two theories. The first is that savings just isn’t a top priority.
“When you’re starting a savings program, the habit is more important than the dollar value,” Chris Browning, a professor of personal finance at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, tells Interest.com. “Develop the habit and, if you hold on to it, you’ll find your savings increasing as your income increases.”
Furthermore, most of us feel a need to “keep up with the Joneses.”
“There are certain items families must have: for example, a house, car, food,” Interest.com explains. “But our sense that these items indicate our relative financial status has caused us to spend more on these ‘must haves.’”
Richard Serlin, an adjunct personal finance professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, seems to agree that as income equality grows, many may be mistaking luxuries for necessities in the effort to feel as if we’re doing as well or better than our peers.
“The end result is that these high fixed costs just don’t leave much room for saving,” he says.
If you are looking to save, though, there’s one place you probably want to avoid: Phoenix. Residents of Arizona city actually have a negative $1,136 savings opportunity. Ouch.
To read more about the Interest.com study, click here.