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Report: One in Five in SD Unprepared for a Financial Setback

February 1, 2012

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - South Dakota ranks 22nd in the nation for how well its residents fare in terms of their ability to achieve financial security - a ranking advocates say isn't terrible but isn't terrific, either.

The nonprofit Corporation for Enterprise Development bases its assessment on 52 measures in the areas of personal finance, business ownership and jobs, housing and home ownership, health care and education.

South Dakota ranks third nationally for its relatively low unemployment rate compared with other states. But Dr. Susan Randall, who heads the group South Dakota Voices for Children, says other indicators are not as encouraging.

"The state also has the worst ranking among all 50 in our average annual pay, which comes in at a low of $28,773 - that's average annual. And we're 44th in the nation in the percent of low-wage jobs."

Most South Dakotans have jobs, the report says, but one in five doesn't have adequate savings or other assets that could cover their expenses for three months in case of a job loss or other emergency. Randall says another concern is the debt carried by college students.

"Three-fourths of our college graduates are leaving school with debt; that makes us the highest in the nation. Yet they are entering the workforce with the lowest average annual pay, and with limited employer-offered health care."

To address the problems, Randall believes the state should match the deposits of those who put money into '529' college savings plans, and establish need-based post-secondary financial aid. She says both will require public investments.

"It does require the citizens to decide if they are going to invest in our own citizens, and the educational investment is one of the best returns that we can make."

Home ownership is out of reach for many in South Dakota, the report indicates, and 42 percent of renters are spending more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing. Randall thinks that's a cue for the state to establish a Housing Opportunity Fund to address unmet housing needs.

The report is online at scorecard.cfed.org.

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD