Top 12 Jobs for Skilled Seniors That Pay Well in 2024

For a growing number of Americans, turning 65 no longer automatically means retirement. As of May 2022, 21.9% of Americans 65 and older were working, compared with 19.5% in May 2020, according to a survey conducted by MagnifyMoney.

If you want to keep up the 9 to 5 into your golden years, there’s a wide range of options for you to explore. This is especially true if you’re a skilled senior interested in full-time employment.

Tips When Finding a Job as a Senior

There are pros and cons and working after retirement. If returning to the daily grind is right for you and your financial situation, then there are a few things you’ll want to keep top of mind:

•   Weigh the pros and cons of working for a company versus freelancing or consulting.

•   Think about whether you’d prefer to work from home or go into an office or to a job site.

•   Read the job listing carefully, paying close attention to the requirements listed.

•   Remove graduation dates from your resume unless they’re fairly recent.

•   Include a couple of your key accomplishments in a cover letter.

•   During an interview, be sure to strategically share key career highlights from the past 10 to 15 years, and spotlight the ways in which you’ve kept your skills up to date.

•   Move ahead with confidence!

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12 Jobs for Skilled Seniors That Pay Well

Working can help provide seniors with a degree of financial security as well as other benefits, such as connecting with coworkers and creating a sense of purpose. Let’s take a closer look at jobs for skilled seniors that suit a variety of skills and interests.

#1: Teacher

If you have the appropriate credentials, teaching can be a rewarding job. Don’t fret if you don’t have the right credentials — you might still be able to land a position. Many high schools, career centers, and community colleges may be open to hiring experienced people to teach general interest or professional development courses. Educational organizations may also be seeking teaching assistants or tutors, both of which can be excellent jobs for skilled seniors.

#2: Government Worker

Government jobs can offer competitive salaries along with good benefits, often including a nice pension. Even after you stop working at a federal government job, you may be eligible for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Depending on your background, education, and work experience, you may be qualified for roles with the National Institutes of Health, which participates in jobs fairs specifically for workers aged 55 and up; the Peace Corps; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and more.

#3: Tax Preparer

Interested in becoming a tax preparer? If you have an accounting background, then this type of work may be a natural fit. That said, you don’t need to be a certified accountant — you just need to obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number from the IRS and pass a competency exam.


💡 Quick Tip: Check your credit report at least once a year to ensure there are no errors that can damage your credit score.

#4: Real Estate Agent

You can earn a good income helping people buy and/or sell their home or property. But there’s another selling point to being a real estate agent: the ability to set your own schedule, as long as you can still satisfy your clients. In fact, this flexibility can be useful if you’re deciding whether you want to work part time or full time. Before you start working, you’ll need to get a license, and requirements vary by state.

#5: Bank Teller

You typically only need a high school diploma or the equivalent to qualify for a bank teller’s job, and you may be required to undergo a short period of on-the-job training. In this position, you’d handle the standard transactions at the financial institution. So if you’re comfortable handling a steady flow of cash and enjoy working with customers, this could be a job to consider.

#6: Medical Biller

A medical biller works for a healthcare organization such as a hospital or doctor’s office and is responsible for appropriately billing insurance companies, managing the status of claims, and addressing problems that arise. This is one of those jobs for skilled seniors that require organization and the ability to follow through — in this case, with both patients and the insurance companies.

Recommended: How to Negotiate Medical Bills

#7: Virtual Assistant

Plenty of small businesses in the United States need help with daily administration tasks. Depending on your skills, virtual tasks could include making phone calls, managing emails, scheduling appointments, maintaining calendars, offering bookkeeping services, handling social media, and so forth. Although many virtual assistant jobs are part time, if you wanted more work, you could have multiple clients to whom you provide your services.

#8: Telework Nurse or Doctor

Telehealth services have greatly expanded since the start of the pandemic, and demand for remote healthcare providers remains high. If you’re a recently retired nurse or doctor, and are still licensed, you may want to explore a telehealth position. It could allow you to continue providing care but from the comfort of home (or a home office).

#9: Counselor

Forty-seven percent of Americans live in an area with a shortage of mental health care professionals, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. If you’re a retired counselor or therapist and are interested in working again, re-entering the field could allow you to provide much-needed services.

#10: HVAC Technicians

From installation to maintenance to repairs, HVAC pros can find themselves in great demand all year long. If you have this kind of experience, or are handy and able to incorporate HVAC into your skill sets, then this type of work can be a steady source of income.

Recommended: What Is the Cost to Replace an HVAC System?

#11: Paralegal

Busy attorneys need plenty of help researching information, creating documentation, and contacting clients. If you have the education and experience — and you’re highly organized and able to multitask — then a paralegal job may be right for you.

#12: Grant Writer

Grant writing is a specialized type of writing where you’d write proposals to help nonprofits and other agencies to obtain funding for their programs. To succeed at grant writing, it’s important to research the requirements and deadlines of the funding, write compelling proposals to receive the grant dollars, follow up with the proposals, and write reports about them.


💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

The Takeaway

Your golden years are what you make of them — and for some, that can mean re-entering the workforce or pursuing a new, rewarding career path. Fortunately, there are plenty of jobs for skilled seniors that suit different skills and interests and provide a source of extra income.

See exactly how your money comes and goes at a glance.

FAQ

Can seniors still work full time and receive Social Security benefits?

According to the Social Security Administration, the answer is “yes.” If you’ve already reached your full retirement age, then you can work and earn as much as possible without a reduction in benefits. If you aren’t yet at full retirement age, then you can earn up to $21,240 in 2023 without a reduction. For income earned beyond that annual limit, your benefits would be lowered by $1 for each $2 earned.

What types of job skills are in high demand?

Management and leadership skills are appreciated by many employees, and these are skills seniors may well have developed over the years. It’s important to be able to effectively communicate, both verbally and in writing, and to work well with others. For many jobs, sales and marketing abilities are key, while in others the ability to research and analyze are crucial. Note that these are general categories. Specific skills will depend upon the job you’re applying for.

What type of work-life balance should working seniors expect?

Maintaining a work-life balance is especially important for working seniors. As you consider re-entering the workforce, you’ll want to consider your physical and mental health as well as your finances, and ensure that whatever job you take on will fit in your lifestyle. As an older adult, you may discover that you don’t have quite as much stamina as you once did. On the other hand, having children out of the home and on their own may open up more time than you expected.


Photo credit: iStock/Vesnaandjic

*Terms and conditions apply. This offer is only available to new SoFi users without existing SoFi accounts. It is non-transferable. One offer per person. To receive the rewards points offer, you must successfully complete setting up Credit Score Monitoring. Rewards points may only be redeemed towards active SoFi accounts, such as your SoFi Checking or Savings account, subject to program terms that may be found here: SoFi Member Rewards Terms and Conditions. SoFi reserves the right to modify or discontinue this offer at any time without notice.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How to Make Quick Money in One Day Online

Having a steady job with secure income makes it easier to pay the bills. But if you’re between jobs or simply aren’t making enough at your current gig, you might want to look for quick ways to make money in a single day.

We’ve compiled a list of 11 ways to make quick money online — and 11 more to make fast money out in the real world.

How to Make Quick Money in One Day

It’s possible to make quick money in a single day, as long as you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Just keep in mind, you might not get paid that same day.

Looking to bring home money the day you do the work? Here are 19 jobs that pay you daily.


💡 Quick Tip: Online tools make tracking your spending a breeze: You can easily set up budgets, then get instant updates on your progress, spot upcoming bills, analyze your spending habits, and more.

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11 Ways to Make Money Online

The internet and smartphones have unlocked so many unique ways to make money from home.

Wondering how to make quick money online in one day? We’ve rounded up 11 easy methods:

1. Perform User Testing on a Website

When businesses create new websites, they often look for feedback on usability and design before launching them to the public. That’s where you come in.

From the comfort of your couch, bed, or local cafe, you can navigate websites, share your perspective, and get paid to do it. Two legitimate user-testing sites that pay decent money include UserTesting and UserPeek.

2. Take Online Surveys

Similarly, brands need consumer opinions to inform future products, services, and processes. One way they collect this data is through online surveys.

You won’t make much money completing online surveys, but it’s something you can do from home while binging Netflix. It’s so easy that it’s almost passive income.

Legitimate online survey sites include Swagbucks, Survey Junkie, and Prolific.

Recommended: Active vs. Passive Income

3. License Your Photos

Fancy yourself an amateur photographer? If you have stunning photos from a recent vacation or just everyday life, you can upload them to sites like Shutterstock and Alamy.
Individuals and businesses alike often need stock imagery for blogs and websites, and they’ll pay to use your photos.

4. Tutor Students Online

If you have a background in science, math, the arts, music, etc., your knowledge is in demand. Help students who are struggling in your area of expertise by tutoring them online. Hourly rates vary widely from $11 to $60 and up.

5. Try the Freelance Life

If you like the idea of being your own boss, consider launching a freelance business. Writers, photographers, graphic designers, website designers, editors, SEO analysts, business consultants, and proofreaders can all find paying work on sites such as Upwork, Freelancer.com, FlexJobs, and Fiverr.

With a little research, you can learn the basics of managing your money as a freelancer.

6. Become a Voiceover Actor

Have a unique voice? You might be able to earn income by recording audiobooks, video games, and more. Sites like Upwork and Fiverr are a good place to start.

7. Open a High-Yield Bank Account

Are you still earning 0.01% APY on your savings? Switch to a high-yield bank account that pays you more for your money. For instance, the SoFi Checking and Savings account pays out 4.60% APY on all savings deposits.

Plus, banks like SoFi often pay out new account bonuses. That’s free cash just for opening an account and meeting some basic criteria.

8. Test Video Games

Love playing video games? Now imagine getting paid to do it all day.

You can download several reputable apps to test out new games on your smartphone, including Mistplay and Cash Giraffe. PC gamers can earn rewards like Steam codes and gift cards through Gamehag.

9. Review Music

Music lovers can turn their passion into payments. Sites like Playlist Push and SliceThePie pay you to listen to music and leave reviews.

Let these 13 songs about money inspire you to get started.

10. Start a Blog or YouTube Channel

The beauty of content creation is that, when it’s done well, it can become a passive income stream. If you’ve got something to say, start a blog or YouTube channel. Monetize it once you’ve got a following, and let the money roll in.

11. Become an Influencer

Have a substantial following on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok? You might have what it takes to be an influencer.

If your followers regularly engage with your content, brands may pay you to promote their products. To get started, choose a niche, get to know your audience, and start creating regular posts that people want to share.


💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

11 Ways to Make Money Offline

We’ve covered how to make quick money in one day on your phone, but what if you actually want to leave the house and experience the world?

There are plenty of ways to make quick money without going online:

1. Rent Out Storage Space

If you have a garage or shed that you don’t use (at least, not entirely), you may be able to find people willing to pay you for storage space.

You can list the space online and use a basic contract to arrange for a rental. Apps like Neighbor can make it easier to find people who want your space.

2. Rent Out a Parking Spot

Similarly, if you have a parking spot or driveway space that you don’t use — and parking is hard to come by near you — people may be willing to pay you for a parking space. Neighbor is a good app for this as well, but other options include SpotHero and JustPark.

Recommended: How to Make Extra Income From Home

3. Rent Out a Room or Your Yard

There’s even more you can rent out! If you’re comfortable with it, rent out a spare room on Airbnb or VRBO.

You can even rent out your backyard to campers if you live somewhere cool enough that people are interested in roughing it in your green space. It’s a weird way to make money, but totally legit.

4. Use Your Car to Earn Cash

Rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft have normalized driving strangers for cash. But those aren’t your only options. Nowadays, you can deliver food through apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash, and you can even pick up and deliver complete grocery orders.

5. Sell Your Stuff

Spend the day cleaning your garage, attic, closet, or basement, and see what you’re willing to part ways with. You could have a garage sale, sell your belongings to a consignment shop, or even list the stuff on sites like eBay or Facebook Marketplace.

Don’t want to give up your belongings? Here are some ways to make money online without selling anything.

6. Be an Extra

Ever dream of being a movie star? You might not reach Tom Hanks or Meryl Streep status, but you can pull in some cash for being a film or TV extra during a day of shooting — and you don’t have to live in a big city to do it.

Use sites like Central Casting and Backstage to find open casting calls for extras in your area.

7. Join a Focus Group

You’ve got opinions, and companies want to hear them. On average, you can make $50 to $200 for participating in a study. (Some focus groups may even be online!)

8. Join a Clinical Trial

Make money and do your part to further medical research. The National Institutes of Health offers an easy way to find paid clinical trials near you. Just remember, there are risks involved.

Recommended: How to Make Money With No Job

9. Sell Plasma

You can donate blood out of the kindness of your heart, but when it comes to plasma, you can attach a dollar amount to it. You can potentially make hundreds of dollars per month by selling plasma twice a week.

10. Become a Dog Walker or Pet Sitter

Turn your love of animals into a steady side hustle. You can market your services as a dog walker or pet sitter, or you can use apps like Rover and Wag.

11. Become a Secret Shopper

You can make good money from mystery shopping. After signing up through apps like Market Force or Mobee, you’ll head to local retailers and provide feedback about the experience.

Tips on Making Extra Money

How can you make extra money quickly? We’ve put together a few tips:

•   Be willing to do jobs no one else wants to do: Shoveling snow after a blizzard, driving an Uber during the Super Bowl, and joining a clinical trial may not be fun — but fewer people are willing to do these things, so there’s more earning potential.

•   Find passive income streams: Passive income streams, such as renting out storage space or creating a high-traffic blog, may require some upfront work. But after everything is established, you can mostly set it on autopilot and let the money roll in.

•   Watch out for money-making scams: Unfortunately, there are bad people who will take advantage of hard workers trying to earn an extra buck. Guard yourself against common money scams, like pyramid schemes, investment scams, and fake check scams. Read reviews of websites and apps before participating in any work. And if a job sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The Takeaway

Earning quick money can be relatively straightforward if you know where to look. It’s possible to make some cash without ever leaving the house, as long as you’re willing to give up some free time and put in some work to set up your side business.

Take control of your finances with SoFi. With our financial insights and credit score monitoring tools, you can view all of your accounts in one convenient dashboard. From there, you can see your various balances, spending breakdowns, and credit score. Plus you can easily set up budgets and discover valuable financial insights — all at no cost.

SoFi can help you take control of your finances.

FAQ

How can I make 200 dollars a day?

You can make $200 a day by becoming a rideshare driver, delivering food, participating in a focus group, or renting out storage space in your garage or shed. There are ample ways to make money online and in person, as long as you’re willing to do the work.

How to make $100 a day?

Making $100 a day can be easy, even from home. Try doing user testing online or reviewing video games and music. If you have in-demand skills, you can become a freelance writer or designer and make $100 or more in a day. You can also sell your belongings at a consignment store or garage sale, mow your neighbors’ lawns, or donate plasma.

How can I make immediate money?

Making money fast can be challenging, as some apps and businesses may have delayed payments. Some jobs may pay you more instantly, like if you mow lawns for your neighbor, become a rideshare driver, or become a pet or babysitter.


Photo credit: iStock/pixdeluxe

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

*Terms and conditions apply. This offer is only available to new SoFi users without existing SoFi accounts. It is non-transferable. One offer per person. To receive the rewards points offer, you must successfully complete setting up Credit Score Monitoring. Rewards points may only be redeemed towards active SoFi accounts, such as your SoFi Checking or Savings account, subject to program terms that may be found here: SoFi Member Rewards Terms and Conditions. SoFi reserves the right to modify or discontinue this offer at any time without notice.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How Much Does a Diesel Mechanic Make a Year?

Even if you haven’t thought about diesel mechanics before, chances are you’ve benefited from their expertise. These skilled technicians fix the machines that harvest our food, the generators that provide electricity when the power goes out, the big rigs that ferry our goods across the country, and so much more.

Being a diesel mechanic requires a certain skill set and level of training. Generally speaking, they tend to earn slightly more than auto mechanics. According to the latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for a diesel mechanic is $48,690 per year, or $23.41 per hour. (By comparison, the median pay for an auto mechanic is $46,880 per year, or $22.54 per hour.) However, pay rates can vary depending on where a technician works and their level of experience.

What Do Diesel Mechanics Do?

Diesel mechanics inspect, repair, and maintain vehicle engines that run on diesel fuel. This includes everything from trucks, overhaul buses, and trains, to cruise ships, generators, and construction and agricultural equipment. Their goal is to make sure vehicles are safe for both drivers and passengers.

A diesel mechanic position is a manual labor trade job you can get without a college degree, though most employers want diesel techs to have at least a high school diploma or a GED equivalent. While you don’t need secondary education to do the job, you do need specialized training, which can be acquired on the job, through a certificate program, or by attending a trade or vocational school.

And though diesel mechanics may need to occasionally speak with customers about issues with the vehicles, it can be a good job for introverts.

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Recommended: 25 High-Paying Trade Jobs in Demand

Examples of a Diesel Mechanic’s Job Responsibilities

There are many daily responsibilities for a diesel mechanic, ranging from simple servicing to major repairs. For instance, when examining a diesel engine, the mechanic can run a diagnostic test to determine if the engine is running properly. If there’s a problem, a diesel mechanic can replace a vehicle’s engine, transmission, steering, and braking systems.

Here are some other essential work duties a diesel mechanic typically performs:

•   Identifying any engine malfunction issues

•   Securing the parts needed for servicing

•   Test driving vehicles for performance

•   Communicating issues about the vehicle to the customer and advising them on how best to maintain the machinery

•   Keeping detailed work records on engines serviced

What Is the Starting Salary for a Diesel Mechanic?

According to ZipRecruiter, the national average salary for an entry-level diesel mechanic in the U.S. is $38,456 a year. This breaks down to approximately $18.49 an hour, which in some states is only a few dollars more than minimum wage. Working at this rate comes out to be $739 a week or $3,204 a month.

Whether you’re paid a set weekly salary or hourly rate, starting out as an entry-level diesel mechanic can be challenging. The wages may be difficult to live on, especially if you have a lot of financial obligations or live in a place with a higher cost of living.

But if working with machinery and, in particular, on diesel engines is what you really want to do, it can be worth any initial sacrifices. And the good news is, diesel mechanic jobs are expected to continue to grow. So in time, you can move up the ladder or seek out a new job to increase your yearly salary.

In the meantime, using a spending app can help you keep tabs on where your money is going so you can make ends meet.

Recommended: What Is a Good Entry-Level Salary?

What Is the Average Diesel Mechanic Salary by State?

If you’re considering going into the field, you may be wondering how much a diesel mechanic makes a year. As previously mentioned, the median pay for a diesel service technician and mechanic is $48,690 per year, or $23.41 per hour.

Keep in mind that in certain areas, there’s an increased demand for diesel mechanics, which means there’s a greater chance pay rates will be higher. Per ZipRecruiter, here’s the average diesel mechanic salary by state.

State

Annual Salary

Alabama $47,167
Alaska $51,024
Arizona $44,680
Arkansas $49,830
California $46,127
Colorado $46,225
Connecticut $52,830
Delaware $50,876
Florida $36,659
Georgia $35,806
Hawaii $62,784
Idaho $52,657
Illinois $43,238
Indiana $48,669
Iowa $57,473
Kansas $53,686
Kentucky $46,223
Louisiana $42,718
Maine $50,513
Maryland $48,486
Massachusetts $53,382
Michigan $43,086
Minnesota $61,283
Mississippi $52,587
Missouri $52,531
Montana $42,669
Nebraska $45,549
Nevada $53,507
New Hampshire $47,757
New Jersey $44,682
New Mexico $47,691
New York $58,441
North Carolina $49,082
North Dakota $47,576
Ohio $50,582
Oklahoma $50,671
Oregon $51,376
Pennsylvania $41,550
Rhode Island $56,114
South Carolina $45,138
South Dakota $59,477
Tennessee $55,858
Texas $41,608
Utah $56,740
Vermont $45,870
Virginia $47,185
Washington $59,028
West Virginia $42,562
Wisconsin $41,647
Wyoming $44,289

Recommended: The Highest-Paying Jobs in Every State

Diesel Mechanic Job Considerations: Pay and Benefits

Looking for a diesel mechanic job? Along with researching positions with competitive pay, it’s important to factor in employer benefits.

Here are common employee benefits offered to diesel mechanics:

•   Health, dental, vision, and life insurance

•   401(k) with possible employer match

•   Tuition reimbursement

•   Flexible Spending Account (FSA) and/or Health Savings Account (HSA)

•   Paid sick days, vacation, and holiday pay

•   Parental leave

•   Stock options

•   Profit sharing

•   Low prescription drug costs

•   Wellness programs, such as free counseling services

Pros and Cons of a Diesel Mechanic’s Salary

When it comes to a diesel mechanic’s earnings, there are potential upsides and downsides you’ll want to keep in mind.

Advantages of a Diesel Mechanic’s Salary

Disadvantages of a Diesel Mechanic’s Salary

Salary can be comfortable depending on state or city where you work Wages may not be enough if you live in a state or area with a higher cost of living
Steady work schedule with opportunities for overtime pay Salaried workers may not be entitled to overtime pay
Pay can rise with career experience, increased job education from extra certification, training programs, or vocational school Lack of work experience and little to no training can mean a lower salary when you first start out
Can receive a commission, tips, or bonus in addition to base salary, depending on the company Employers may not offer commissions or bonuses, and employees may not be allowed to accept tips

The Takeaway

The median pay for a diesel service mechanic is $48,690 per year, or $23.41 per hour, according to the latest figures from the BLS. However, that amount can vary by state, and there may be opportunities to earn more with additional training and experience. Diesel mechanics are in demand, and jobs are expected to continue growing. This means skilled technicians may have opportunities to join companies that offer benefit packages, potentially move up the ranks, and even increase their take-home pay.

Take control of your finances with SoFi. With our financial insights and credit score monitoring tools, you can view all of your accounts in one convenient dashboard. From there, you can see your various balances, spending breakdowns, and credit score. Plus you can easily set up budgets and discover valuable financial insights — all at no cost.

See exactly how your money comes and goes at a glance.

FAQ

What is the highest-paying diesel mechanic job?

According to some of the top online job seeker sites, the highest salaries for a diesel mechanic clock in around $70,000 or more a year. Types of diesel mechanics who generally make more money include those who work on heavy duty trucks, tractor trailers, and water-based vessels such as cargo and cruise ships.

How much does a diesel mechanic earn in the Bay Area?

The average annual diesel technician salary in San Francisco is $58,022, but salaries can span from $42,000 to $79,000 a year. The average hourly rate for diesel techs in the Bay Area is $27.90.

Is being a diesel tech worth it?

For people who enjoy working with their hands and have an interest in the workings of machinery, becoming a diesel tech can be a rewarding career. The field offers opportunities for constant learning, increased expertise, job stability and room for career advancement.


Photo credit: iStock/sathit trakunpunlert

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

*Terms and conditions apply. This offer is only available to new SoFi users without existing SoFi accounts. It is non-transferable. One offer per person. To receive the rewards points offer, you must successfully complete setting up Credit Score Monitoring. Rewards points may only be redeemed towards active SoFi accounts, such as your SoFi Checking or Savings account, subject to program terms that may be found here: SoFi Member Rewards Terms and Conditions. SoFi reserves the right to modify or discontinue this offer at any time without notice.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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12 Best Small Cities to Live in the USA

More Americans are choosing to leave the hubbub of big cities in order to move to smaller towns, according to multiple studies. Reasons include a desire for a less stressful environment, more affordable housing and lower cost of living, and a shorter commute.

Thousands of smaller U.S. cities offer all of the above and more. But which one to choose? Below you’ll find 12 prime candidates, drawn from public data and our own personal favorites.

What Is Considered a Small City?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “urban” areas have at least 5,000 people. A midsize city has a population of 100,000 to 250,000, and a large city counts more than 250,000 inhabitants.

Our list includes small cities with a population of 5,000 to 100,000 residents.

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Why People Choose to Live in a Small City

People find life in a small city appealing for a variety of reasons. If you’re coming from a bigger city, a less populated one often means reduced traffic, noise, crowds, and pollution. You may see lower housing costs, or find you get more space and amenities for your buck. The overall cost of living also tends to be more affordable, given lower prices for groceries, gas, utilities, and dining out. Lower sales and property taxes can also be a factor.

Smaller cities can be much easier to navigate. For families, the public school system may rank higher and be less competitive (no more stressing out trying to get your kid into pre-K). Smaller populations may also result in tight communities, where residents feel safe and welcome.

Living in a smaller city can be more manageable for older adults especially, providing a peaceful and reassuring place to retire. Some retirees for whom taxes are a prime concern gravitate to small towns in states with lower taxes on retirement savings.

Recommended: Price-to-Rent Ratio in 52 Cities

Pros and Cons of Living in a Small City vs a Big City

If you’re not sure whether a small city is better for you, here are some pros and cons of each. Note that some factors — such as large populations of young singles or a slower pace — may be pros or cons, depending on your demographic.

Pros of a Small City

Cons of a Small City

Lower cost of living Fewer employment opportunities
Slower pace Limited entertainment and culture
Less crowded Too sparsely populated
More indoor and outdoor space Less access to medical care and major airports
Reduced crime Less diversity
Larger populations of families and retirees More college students, recent grads, and young singles
Quieter and cleaner, with less pollution Little to no public transportation

Traditionally, many people migrate to big cities to establish themselves professionally, since small cities tend to provide fewer employment opportunities. That may be changing due to the rise of remote work.

Pros of a Big City

Cons of a Big City

Personal autos may be optional Public transportation can be unreliable or unpleasant
Access to arts, culture, entertainment, and sporting events Higher local taxes and cost of living
Larger job market More competitive employment standards
More diverse population Potentially overcrowded
More social opportunities for singles, younger people, and couples without children Higher crime rate
Access to medical care and major airports Streets can be dirty, with greater noise and pollution

5 Tips for Living in a Small City

Whether you’re moving from a rural area, the suburbs, or a large U.S. city, a small city can take some getting used to. Here are five suggestions on how to find your way as the new kid in town:

•   Get to know the locals. They know the best places to go, from basic services to restaurants and cultural venues. Plus, they can tell you how to get there, including shortcuts, streets to stroll, and areas to avoid. And of course, meeting people helps you feel a part of the community.

•   Allow time for adjustment. A small city may not have all the amenities you had in your previous hometown. But given time, you’ll find that for every perk you give up, you’ll discover at least one new advantage.

•   Seek out like-minded people. Even in cities where the bulk of the populace doesn’t share your political or social perspectives, you can still find people who do. It might just take a little effort. Volunteering, taking a class, or hanging out in a particular neighborhood can foster new friendships.

•   Rejigger your budget. If you’re paying less than you used to for housing and essentials, don’t fritter away that extra cash. Download a good spending app and channel that disposable income toward emergency savings, retirement, or other financial goals.

•   Seek out hidden treasures. Smaller cities tend to have more mom-and-pops and independent businesses, which can be a nice change from national chains. And small cities are often rich in green spaces, hiking and biking trails, and local festivals. Make time to wander and discover all that your new home has to offer.

12 Best Small Cities to Live in the USA

To compile our list, we reviewed numerous roundups of the best small cities to live in the U.S., along with government statistics and personal anecdotes. Read on for our recommendations.

1. Tupelo, Mississippi

•   Population: 37,748

•   Median household income: $58,887

•   Median home value: $158,800

•   Median monthly rent: $825

•   Mean travel time to work: 19 minutes

•   Cost of living: 19% lower than the national average

•   Crime statistics: 1 in 649 chance of being a victim of a violent crime, 1 in 96 chance of being a victim of a property crime

Located in the northeastern part of Mississippi, 90 miles from Memphis, Tupelo offers big-city perks in a small town setting. This racially diverse area is often cited as one of the best places for young professionals, families, and retirees to live. That’s due in part to a highly rated public school system, lower crime rate, low cost of living, and pleasant year-round weather.

Each year, Tupelo attracts thousands of visitors to its museums and festivals, including the Gumtree Museum of Art and the Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum. Tupelo celebrates its native son with an annual Elvis festival in June, and there’s a Chili fest in October.

Tupelo offers a varied culinary scene (lots of authentic BBQ and southern comfort food), plus a vibrant downtown that’s been designated a “Great American Main Street” by MainStreet.org.

2. Greenville, South Carolina

•   Population: 72,310

•   Median household income: $60,388

•   Median home value: $349,300

•   Median monthly rent: $1,078

•   Mean travel time to work: 20 minutes

•   Cost of living: 5.4% lower than the national average

•   Crime rate: 1 in 141 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime, 1 in 27 chance of becoming a victim of a property crime

If you’re looking for a picturesque setting worthy of a postcard, Greenville may be the place for you. Situated in the northwest part of the state about halfway between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Greenville is a stone’s throw from the Blue Ridge Mountains, lakes, rivers, and more than 50 waterfalls.

Greenville’s population is diverse, and the city is well-suited to families, retirees, and singles. Parents will find it appealing because of a highly rated public school system and myriad family friendly activities including Falls Park on the Reedy River, Greenville Zoo, and the Children’s Museum of the Upstate.

For older adults, Greenville is often recommended as an ideal place to settle. The pace of living is slower, the weather is mild, and South Carolina is one of the best states to retire in when it comes to taxes.

Like many smaller towns and cities, Greenville has a dedicated Main Street and lively downtown area catering to pedestrians, with wide sidewalks, outdoor plazas, and al fresco dining. “Mice on Main” is a series of nine life-size bronze sculptures scattered up and down the main drag, providing a fun scavenger hunt for all ages.

Foodies can enjoy an array of international and regional specialties, including a bustling weekend farmer’s market and several food trucks. More than 20 local breweries also serve as music venues and community centers.

The city has a rich African-American heritage, with 13 cultural sites across the greater Greenville area. Residents and tourists can catch the city’s minor league baseball team, the Greenville Drive, the Swamp Rabbits hockey team, plus professional men’s and women’s soccer teams.

Expect mild, comfortable temperatures during the fall, winter, and spring months in Greenville, but the summers can be hot and muggy.

3. Ames, Iowa

•   Population: 66,950

•   Median household income: $54,339

•   Median home value: $222,900

•   Median monthly rent: $972

•   Mean travel time to work: 17 minutes

•   Cost of living: 5% lower than the national average

•   Crime rate: 1 in 488 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime, 1 in 65 chance of becoming a victim of a property crime

Home to Iowa University, Ames is a bustling college town in the center state, north of Des Moines. This energetic city is frequently listed as one of the best places to live in the country and one of the best college towns in the U.S.

Schools here win national recognition, and the cost of living is reasonable. If you’re looking for racial and ethnic diversity, Ames comes up short, with 80% of the population white. The city also skews young, with many college kids. While the city might not suit all retirees, families will find many parks, with opportunities for biking, golf, and an indoor ice arena.

Ames has an old town historic district and a downtown full of shopping, dining, art galleries, and live music. The Iowa summers can be warm, humid, and often rainy, while the winter brings cold temperatures and often snow. But if you enjoy the heartland, Ames is a charming place to consider.

4. Fredericksburg, Texas

•   Population: 11,257

•   Median household income: $54,771

•   Median home value: $317,600

•   Median monthly rent: $1,064

•   Mean travel time to work: 17 minutes

•   Cost of living: close to the national average

•   Crime rate: 1 in 738 chance of being a victim of a violent crime; 1 in 92 chance of being a victim of a property crime

Fredericksburg is located in the middle of the state, in Texas Hill Country. It’s often voted one of the best places to retire, with retirees making up about 31% of the population. Older adults are drawn to the warm weather, low property taxes, and affordable housing, and low crime.

Fredericksburg was founded by German immigrants back in 1846, and the city retains a strong German connection. About 21% of the population is Hispanic or Latino, 6% Native American, and 5.4% encompassing Black, Asian, and mixed race.

Tourism makes up a good part of the local economy, along with the medical and agricultural industries. A staggering 400 festivals take place each a year, including a three-day Oktoberfest. Visitors will find a raucous live music scene, numerous breweries and distilleries, and more than 50 wineries. In fact, Fredericksburg is the most popular wine-tasting destination in the state of Texas.

The Fredericksburg public school system is highly rated, and the many kid-friendly activities make it a great place to raise a family. Things to do include hiking trails and parks, and a Main Street featuring art galleries, restaurants, ice cream parlors, and toy stores. Younger adults and couples can take advantage of the many dance venues and bars.

5. Bloomington, Indiana

•   Population: 79,107

•   Median household income: $41,995

•   Median Home value: $231,500

•   Median monthly rent: $988

•   Mean travel time to work: 17 minutes

•   Cost of living: close to the national average

•   Crime rate: 1 in 167 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime, 1 in 43 chance of becoming a victim of a property crime

Bloomington is the home of Indiana University and their legendary Hoosiers basketball and football teams. Often called B-Town, Bloomington (pop. 80,000) is frequently cited as one of the best places to live in Indiana and in the U.S for its lively, bohemian vibe.

B-Town offers a walkable downtown area where you’ll find restaurants, bars, shops, museums, art galleries, and venues for live music and comedy. Bloomington also features many parks, forests, lakes, and other spots to commune with nature.

Much of life in Bloomington revolves around the university and its large student body, so retirees may not find it ideal. The city is often voted a great place to raise a family and gets high marks for its public schools. The cost of living is low, and the city is considered relatively safe.

Indiana winters can be very cold and snowy, and summers are warm, wet, and humid. It’s cloudy a good part of the year too. Bloomington is flush with youthful energy and rife with perks, making it a great Midwestern city to hang your hat.

6. Cedar City, Utah

•   Population: 38,692

•   Median household income: $55,022

•   Median Home value: $245,700

•   Median monthly rent: $861

•   Mean travel time to work: 14 minutes

•   Cost of living: 1.5% higher than the national average

•   Crime rate: 1 in 716 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime, 1 in 86 chance of becoming a victim of a property crime

Cedar City is located in the southwestern part of Utah, situated 5,800 feet above sea level. To the east you’ll find 10,000 foot mountains, and to the west, a large desert. If you’re an outdoors enthusiast, look no further than Cedar City for fishing, rock climbing, skiing, kayaking, and star gazing. Often called the gateway to Utah’s parks, Cedar City offers easy access to the spectacular Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

Besides the amazing natural landscapes of red hills and alpine mountains, Cedar City plays host to a number of arts festivals, earning it the nickname of Festival City USA. Some of these events include the popular annual Utah Shakespeare Festival, the Neil Simon Festival, the Groovefest American Music Festival, and the International Red Rock Film Festival.

Cedar City provides a dense suburban atmosphere that primarily attracts young professionals and families, due to its lower cost of living and above average public schools. The city is home to the small Southern Utah University, and the city’s economy benefits from the school, along with tourism, agriculture, some mining, and industrial complexes.

7. Ithaca, New York

•   Population: 32,870

•   Median household income: $40,973

•   Median Home value: $282,000

•   Median monthly rent: $1,248

•   Mean travel time to work: 18 minutes

•   Cost of living: 2.7 % higher than national average

•   Crime rate: Chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime is 1 in 327; 1 in 25 of being the victim of a property crime

Ithaca is often identified with its two colleges, Ithaca College and Cornell University. The busy college city is situated on Cayuga Lake, the second largest of the Finger Lakes. The region is also known for its gorges and numerous picturesque waterfalls.

Cornell is Ithaca’s largest employer, attracting educators and students from all over. While diverse, more than half the population is in the 18-24 age group. Retirees may prefer the summer months in Ithaca, when the universities are on break and the weather is mild. Winters in Ithaca can be extremely cold and snowy.

There’s no shortage of things to do in Ithaca for children, teens, and adults. Kid-friendly attractions include many area state parks, the “Sciencenter,” Ithaca Children’s Garden, and the Museum of the Earth. Everyone can enjoy strolling on Ithaca Commons, a pedestrian walkway offering a vast array of restaurants, shops, and events. Autumn brings the Downtown Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival, followed by the Downtown Ithaca Chili Cook-Off in winter.

Downtown Ithaca offers an immersive street-art experience, with murals, sculptures, and a distinctly hippie vibe similar to Woodstock. Entertainment covers the gamut, with theater, film, and music. The State Theatre of Ithaca is a 1,600 seat venue featuring year-round concerts, comedy shows, readings, dance performances, and more.

Ithaca is considered safe, offering a lower cost of living, highly rated public schools, an inclusive sensibility, and lots of outdoor recreational options against beautiful scenery.

8. Bozeman, Montana

•   Population: 56,123

•   Median household income: $67,354

•   Median home value: $466,400

•   Median monthly rent: $1,229

•   Mean travel time to work: 15 minutes

•   Cost of living: 2% higher than the national average

•   Crime rate: 1 in 303 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime; 1 in 76 chance of becoming a victim of a property crime

Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, the southwestern Montana city of Bozeman has become an increasingly desirable place to live. In fact, The Wall Street Journal dubbed Bozeman as “Boz Angeles” and reports real estate is booming with out-of-town professionals flocking to the city. Montana State University and Gallatin College are both located here.

One big draw for families is Bozeman’s excellent education system, especially when it comes to pre-K choices, which have grown significantly over the last decade. Kid-friendly activities include the Museum of the Rockies, the JumpTime trampoline park, and Gallatin Regional Park, or “Dinosaur Park,”where kids can swim, climb boulders and sled in the winter.

Bozeman is an outdoor lover’s paradise. You can enjoy skiing, fly fishing, rafting, biking, hiking, and indulging in Bozeman’s natural, rejuvenating, hot springs. You can make a day trip to Yellowstone National Park, 80 miles south of Bozeman.

Like many other small cities, Bozeman has a downtown and a Main Street, where you’ll find casual and fine dining spots, art galleries, and retail shops. Bozeman offers a range of arts and entertainment, such as a multiplex movie theater, the Montana Ballet Company, Bozeman Symphony, and the Ellen Theater, a performing arts venue.

The cost of living in Bozeman is a bit higher than the national average, especially housing. Summers are warm and the winters cold, with substantial snowfall, which may not make it ideal for retirees. Bozeman also doesn’t offer much in the way of racial and ethnic diversity, with whites making up 91% of the population.

Overall, for people looking for a safe family-friendly city with lots of vitality and a beautiful natural setting, Bozeman delivers.

9. Santa Fe, NM

•   Population: 89,008

•   Median household income: $33,297

•   Median home value: $312,300

•   Median monthly rent: $1,199

•   Mean travel time to work: 20 minutes

•   Cost of living: 3.6% higher than national average

•   Crime rate: 1 in 286 chance of being a victim of a violent crime, 1 in 29 chance of being a victim of property crime

The capital city of New Mexico, Santa Fe is a popular place to visit, attracting about 2 million tourists a year. It’s also frequently touted as one of the best cities to live, especially for those approaching retirement. In fact, 24% of the city’s population is 65 and older.

Sante Fe promotes a laid-back lifestyle. Because of its slower pace, the city skews suburban and doesn’t feature a lot of nightlife. It does provide a diverse, culturally rich scene with a strong artistic and intellectual community. Visitors include authors, scholars, and global thought leaders giving lectures on a variety of topics. Entertainment offerings include productions by the Santa Fe Opera, Sante Fe Symphony, the local Santa Fe Playhouse theater company, and live music at multiple venues.

People looking to move to Sante Fe to bring up children can count on an above average public school system. Some people find Santa Fe a relatively expensive place to live, especially when it comes to housing. But the city has a relatively low crime rate and dry climate. Summers are warm to hot, with temps typically staying under 90 degrees, while winters are cold and snowy.

One thing to keep in mind, Santa Fe sits at 7,000 feet above sea level, so it can take a couple of days to adjust. For a small city, Sante Fe is rich with culture, history, the arts, and great Southwestern cuisine. If you crave peace and quiet set against mountain scenery, Sante Fe might be the perfect place for you.

10. Bellingham, Washington

•   Population: 93,896

•   Median household income: $59,163

•   Median home value: $440,300

•   Median monthly rent: $1,222

•   Mean travel time to work: 18 minutes

•   Cost of living: 11% higher than national average

•   Crime: 1 in 234 chance of being a victim of a violent crime; 1 in 19 chance of being a victim of a property crime

Looking for a home in the Pacific Northwest that’s not Seattle or Portland? Consider Bellingham. This coastal city in northwestern Washington serves up an expansive view of the Puget Sound. The area is known for its clean air, eco-friendly attitudes, and chill ambiance. Bellingham is positioned halfway between Vancouver, Canada, and Seattle, with easy access to the San Juan Islands and the Mount Baker and North Cascade mountain ranges.

Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy hiking, biking trails, fishing, boating, kayaking, and whale watching. Numerous beaches offer visitors a variety of landscapes, from hidden white sands to rocky shorelines and wetlands.

Families with children can rest assured the Bellingham public school system is highly rated. There are lots of kid-centric things to do, including Boulevard Park, where kids can frolic in a pirate-themed playground, and the Family Interactive Gallery at the Whatcom Museum.

Bellingham’s active Downtown area offers shopping, dining, art, and entertainment. You’ll find public art exhibitions, a classic bowling alley, theaters, performing arts venues, museums, and the Pickford Film Center, where you can catch independent and classic movies.

Bellingham has a strong and growing retiree population, along with college students from Western Washington University, and many young professionals. At nearly 82% white, Bellingham isn’t particularly diverse.

The area enjoys comfortable summers with temperatures rarely exceeding 82 degrees. However, winters bring overcast skies, cold, and rain. It’s a relatively safe city though it can be more expensive than others of its size. But if you want a small, seaside city with plenty of amenities, Bellingham lives up to its hype.

11. Portland, Maine

•   Population: 68,424

•   Median household income: $66,109

•   Median Home value: $341,700

•   Median monthly rent: $1,278

•   Mean travel time to work: 20 minutes

•   Cost of living: 19.8% higher than the national average

•   Crime: 1 in 449 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime; 1 in 57 chance of becoming a victim of a property crime

It’s understandable why Portland is frequently recommended as one of the best small cities in the U.S. Located on the Casco Bay shoreline, this small New England city is known for its connection to the sea, with its many lighthouses, rocky beaches, and sublime seafood.

People of all ages enjoy visiting and living in Maine’s largest city. Portland is home to the University of Southern Maine, and many former students make the city their home. Portland is considered one of the healthiest places for older adults, due to access to the outdoors and many recreational activities. Portland’s public school system is highly rated. The area is also more racially diverse than many other small cities, and crime is low.

There’s an abundance of room to stretch out in Portland, with more than 7,000 acres of public parks and open space. Fishing, sailing, and kayaking are popular ways to enjoy the area’s natural resources.

The quaint historic district of Old Port and the downtown area offer shopping, art galleries, restaurants, entertainment, and excellent people-watching. You can find plenty of cultural sites downtown too, including theater, movies, and live music. Many Portland locales cater to children, such as the beachfront amusement park Palace Playland and the Children’s Museum and Theater of Maine.

You’ll enjoy comfortable summers in Portland, but expect very cold, windy, and snowy winters. Portland can be the ideal spot if you love the Northeast, spending time outdoors, and living in a coastal town.

12. Burlington, Vermont

•   Population: 44,595

•   Median household income: $59,331

•   Median Home value: $338,100

•   Median monthly rent: $1,381

•   Mean travel time to work: 19 minutes

•   Cost of living: 28% higher than the national average

•   Crime: 1 in 291 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime, 1 in 27 chance of becoming a victim of a property crime,

Burlington is known for its warm and welcoming inhabitants, growing racial diversity (one in four people moving here is a person of color), and excellence in public school education. It’s also home to two institutes of higher education, the University of Vermont and Champlain College.

Ski resorts are a major draw, especially Stowe Mountain Resort and Cochran’s Ski Area. Burlington gets six feet of snow each year, making it a true winter wonderland. The summers are warm, and the change of seasons is visually dramatic.

Burlington has a flourishing arts and culture scene, with the city playing host to the annual Vermont International Film Festival, theatrical and musical productions at the Flynn Theater, and comedy shows at the Vermont Comedy Club.

Kids here are encouraged to stay active, with many opportunities for biking, hiking, sailing, and winter sports. Younger kids flock to Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, where they can shop for a handcrafted lovee.

The cost of living in Burlington can be challenging, and affordable housing hard to come by. But Vermont is one of the safest states to live in the U.S., making it a good option for well-off retirees who aren’t afraid of the snow.

The Takeaway

With thousands of small cities in the USA to choose from, naming even the top 100 would be quite a challenge. Our list of the 12 best small cities in the U.S. is based on safety, quality of education, arts and culture offerings, overall cost of living, and climate, among other factors. Whether you’re looking for a great place to raise kids or retire, we hope that one of our suggested small cities will pique your interest.

Take control of your finances with SoFi. With our financial insights and credit score monitoring tools, you can view all of your accounts in one convenient dashboard. From there, you can see your various balances, spending breakdowns, and credit score. Plus you can easily set up budgets and discover valuable financial insights — all at no cost.

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FAQ

What is the best small city to live in the United States?

No two small cities are alike, and the best small city for you depends on what you’re looking for. Generally, you want to find a safe, affordable city offering a vibrant cultural scene and opportunities for indoor and outdoor activities. We like Tupelo, MS; Cedar City, UT; and Greenville, SC, among others. But the best small city boils down to personal choice.

Where are some of the best small towns to live in?

Some of the best small towns — with populations under 5,000 — include Sedona, AZ; Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA; Mystic, CT; Gatlinburg, TN; and Telluride, CO.

What is the friendliest little town?

According to TravelAwait’s 2023 survey, Concordia, Kansas, is the friendliest small town in the U.S.


Photo credit: iStock/kate_sept2004

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When to Count Your Home Equity as Part of Your Net Worth

When Does Home Equity Count in Your Net Worth?

If you’re like many people, your home is probably your biggest asset, so you might think it always makes sense to include it in your net worth. However, in some situations, this may not always be the best idea.

Here’s why: Yes, all your assets usually should be tallied as part of your net worth. But some would argue that everyone has to live somewhere, and the money you have invested in your home is basically designated for that purpose and can’t be thrown in with other assets. For instance, if most people sold their home and moved, they would typically have to put the funds from the sale toward buying or renting a new home.

The specifics of your situation can also determine whether or not to count your home equity in your net worth. Generally, when using tools to tap your home equity, you may want to include your house as part of your net worth. But when calculating retirement savings, it’s a no-go.

Read on to learn more about when home equity counts in your net worth.

Why Is Knowing Net Worth Important?

Your net worth will fluctuate over time, but it can always be a valuable way to chart how your finances are going. If your net worth is negative, that means you have more debts than assets. This might encourage you to budget differently or focus more on paying off debt, especially high-interest debt.

If, however, your net worth is positive, that can help you see how you are progressing toward financial goals and what funds you will have available for, say, retirement.

Calculating Net Worth

At its most basic, net worth is everything you own minus everything you owe.

To calculate your net worth, tally the value of all or your assets, including bank accounts, investments, and perhaps the value of your home or vacation home. Then subtract all of your debts, including any mortgage, student loans, car loans, and credit card balances.

If the resulting figure is negative, it means that your debts outweigh your assets. If positive, the opposite is true.

There is no one net worth figure that everyone should be aiming for. Your net worth, though, can be a personal benchmark against which you can measure your financial progress.

For example, if your net worth continues to move into negative territory, you know that it is time to tackle debts. Hopefully, you’ll see your net worth grow, which can give you some idea that your savings plan is working or your assets are increasing in value.

Your home may, strangely, function as both an asset and a liability. Your home equity — the part of the home you actually own — can be an asset. But your lender may still own part of your home. In that case, mortgage debt is a liability.

As you track your home value and other assets to take your financial pulse, you may find that your home is simultaneously your biggest asset and biggest liability.

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When to Include Home Equity in Net Worth

Generally speaking, you may want to include your home as part of your total assets and net worth when you want to leverage the value of the equity you have stored there.

You can tap the equity in your home with a number of financial products. Here’s a closer look:

Home Equity Loan

A home equity loan allows you to borrow money that is secured by your home. You may be able to borrow up to 85% of the equity you have built up. For example, if you have $100,000 in home equity, you may have access to an $85,000 loan.

The actual amount you are offered will also be based on factors such as income, credit score (which may differ among the credit bureaus — say, between TransUnion vs. Equifax), and the home’s market value.

You repay the lump-sum loan with fixed monthly payments over a fixed term.

As with home improvement loans, which are personal loans not secured by the property, you can use a home equity loan to pay for home renovations.

Or you can use a home equity loan for goals unrelated to your house, like paying for a child’s college education or consolidating higher-interest debt.

Just remember that if you fail to repay the loan, the lender can foreclose on your home to recoup its money.

Home Equity Line of Credit

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is not a loan but rather a revolving line of credit. You may be able to open a credit line for up to 85% of your home equity.

How do HELOCs work? You can borrow as much as you need from your HELOC at any time. Accounts will often have checks or credit cards you can use to take out money. You make payments based on the amount you actually borrow, and you cannot exceed your credit limit. HELOCs typically have a variable interest rate, although some lenders may allow you to convert a portion of the balance to a fixed rate.

HELOCs use your home as collateral. If you make late payments or fail to pay at all, your lender may seize your home.

Traditional Refinance

A traditional mortgage refinance replaces your old mortgage with a new loan. People typically choose this path to lower their interest rate or monthly payments.

They may also want to pay off their mortgage faster by changing their 30-year mortgage to a 15-year mortgage, for example, reducing the amount of interest they pay over the life of the loan.

How do net worth and home equity come into play? One important metric lenders use when deciding whether you qualify for a mortgage refinance is your loan-to-value ratio (LTV), how much you owe on your current mortgage divided by the value of your home.

The more equity you have built in your home, the lower your LTV, which can help you secure a refinanced loan and positively influence the rate of the loan.

Another option: A cash-out refinance vs. a HELOC.

Cash-Out Refinance

A cash-out refinance replaces your mortgage with a new loan for more than the amount of money you still owe on your house.

The difference between what you owe and the new loan amount is given to you in cash, which you can use to pursue a number of financial needs, such as paying off debt or making home renovations.

Your cash-out amount will typically be limited to 80% to 90% of your home equity, and interest rates are typically a little bit higher due to the higher loan amount.

Reverse Mortgage

A home equity conversion mortgage, the most common kind of reverse mortgage, allows homeowners 62 and older to take out a loan secured by their home.

Borrowers do not make monthly payments. Interest and fees are added to the loan each month, and the loan is repaid when the homeowner no longer lives there, usually when the homeowner sells the house or dies, at which point the loan must be paid off by the person’s estate.

When Does Home Equity Not Count as Part of Your Net Worth

There are a few instances when it doesn’t make sense to include your home in your net worth, or you aren’t allowed to.

Retirement Savings

If you’re using your net worth to get a sense of your retirement savings, it may not make sense to include your home, especially if you plan to live there when you retire.

Your retirement savings represent potential income you will draw on to cover your living expenses. Your home does not produce a stream of income on its own, unless you tap your equity using one of the methods above.

Applying for Student Aid

A family’s net worth can have an impact on eligibility for federal student aid. The more assets a family has, the more that need-based aid may be reduced.

However, the equity in a family’s primary residence is a nonreportable asset on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Most colleges use only the FAFSA to decide aid.

Several hundred colleges, usually selective private ones, use a form called the CSS Profile, which does ask applicants to report home equity, though a number of schools, such as Stanford, USC, and MIT, have moved to exclude home equity from their considerations for aid.

When Becoming an Accredited Investor

An accredited investor may participate in certain securities offerings that the average investor may not, such as private equity or hedge funds. Accredited investors are seen to be financially sophisticated enough, or wealthy enough, to shoulder the risk involved with such investments.

To become an accredited investor, you must have earned more than $200,000 (or $300,000 together with a spouse or spousal equivalent) in each of the prior two years, or you have a net worth over $1 million. However, you cannot include the value of your primary residence in your net worth in most cases. (An exception worth noting: There are certain FINRA licenses that allow a person to become an accredited investor independently of one’s finances.)

Tips for Improving Net Worth

If you are looking to build your net worth, you might try these tips:

•  Rein in your spending. If your net worth is not rising as you would like, you might assess if you are spending too much. You might be shopping out of boredom, trying to keep up with your peers (aka, FOMO or Fear of Missing Out), or be experiencing what is known as lifestyle creep, when your expenses rise along with your income.

•  Deal with your debt. Having debt, especially high-interest debt like the kind you can incur with credit cards, can make it hard to grow your net worth. If you are struggling to get on top of debt, you might look into debt consolidation options or working with a low-cost or free credit counselor.

•  Consider automating your savings. Many financial experts advise that you “pay yourself first” and immediately transfer some funds into savings when you get paid. In one popular budgeting method, the 50/30/20 Rule, it’s recommended that 20% of your take-home pay go toward savings and debt. In addition, you would probably want that money to grow, whether that means putting it in a high-yield savings account or investing in the market.

The Takeaway

Whether or not you include your home in your net worth will depend largely on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you plan to tap your equity, then it is an important figure to include. But it’s not always included when it comes to things like student aid or retirement income.

While your mind is on home equity, maybe you’ve thought about a cash-out refinance, or maybe it’s time to sell and buy anew.

If you’re curious about home financing or mortgage refinancing options, see what SoFi offers. With competitive rates, flexible terms, and a simplified online application process, we can help you find the right loan product for your needs.

SoFi: The smart and simple option for your home loans.


Photo credit: iStock/Chainarong Prasertthai

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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