New Hampshire’s state motto, emblazoned on its license plates is “Live Free or Die,” and Granite Staters take pride in their flinty independence, including on economic issues. New Hampshire is unique among the six New England states in that is has no income or sales tax. It also has the lowest minimum wage, the only one to pay the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.
Northern New Hampshire is known for its stunning geography, capped by the White Mountains, and is largely rural. Southern New Hampshire is heavily populated, including its two largest cities, Nashua and Manchester. Many southern and seacoast New Hampshire residents are transplants from Massachusetts, across the border, lured by the lack of sales and income tax.
Still, services for the state’s 1.38 million residents must be paid for somehow. This means the highest property taxes in New England, and third-highest in the nation. With the average Granite State home valued at $333,739, owners paid an average $6,775 property tax in 2020.
The median household income (combined income of all members of a household) of $76,618, is nearly $10,000 higher than the national median, but is skewed by wealthy towns in southern New Hampshire. In the rural western and northern areas of the state, the median income drops as low as $51,900.
Most of the state’s jobs are in education and health care, retail, hospitality and recreation. Men are paid an average 1.29% more than women for comparable work. The disparity is across all job categories, from retail clerks to registered nurses.
New Hampshire’s minimum wage of $7.25 is well below the other New England states, which range from $11 to $14. Many New Hampshire residents work more than one job to make ends meet.
Debt Relief Options for New Hampshire Residents
If you’re a New Hampshire resident who is having trouble making ends meet, there are a lot of resources that can help.
One solid option for New Hampshire residents struggling to pay their bills is a debt management program or counseling by a nonprofit company like InCharge Debt Solutions.
Certified credit counselors at nonprofits like InCharge can review your finances and help you work out a budget. The counseling service is free. If you’re struggling with credit card debt, you may want to consider a debt management program. If you’re struggling to make payments and your credit is always at its limit, chances are you’re also paying interest rates as high as 29%. If you opt for a debt management plan, a counselor can work with creditors to lower rates to 8% and set up a payment plan that will help reduce your debt.
You make a fixed monthly payment to the debt management company, which includes a fee of $40, and the debt management company pays your creditors. The program takes 3-5 years to complete.
Debt management plans don’t have a negative long-term impact on your credit score. While initially the score may be lower as you stop using credit, in the long run, on-time payments and less debt will increase your score.
Other options for New Hampshire residents struggling with debt are:
- Debt Settlement – Debt settlement differs from debt management in that you pay a private debt settlement company, which negotiates a settlement with your creditors for a lower balance. Your payments to the company are held in escrow until they reach the amount agreed to with the creditor, then the debt is paid. If you owe a large amount to one creditor, this solution may work for you. However, the fees paid to the company can eat away at any savings you may gain. Debt settlement will also stay on your credit report for seven years, and lower your credit score by as much as 60-100 points. The IRS will also consider the amount that you saved as “income,” and you will have to pay taxes on it.
- Credit Card Debt Forgiveness – This is offered by a select group of nonprofit credit counseling agencies. The difference between this and traditional debt settlement is that the creditors have agreed in advance to reduce the amount owed by 40%-50%. Consumers can start reducing the amount owed with the first monthly payment and eliminate the debt in 36 months.
- Debt Consolidation Loan – Debt consolidation loans are low-interest loans used to pay off higher-interest debt. This may be a good option if you have good credit. Some lenders will make payments directly to your creditors, others will let you do it. The trick is to rein in your credit card use once you’ve paid your debts, or else you’ll have the loan payments as well as more credit card payments.
- Bankruptcy – Bankruptcy should only be used as a last resort. It wipes out your credit card debt, but also will have a severely negative impact on your credit report for 7-10 years, which will make it hard to get a car loan or a mortgage. When you file for bankruptcy, you’re required to take a credit counseling course. That course may lead you to a better option.
- Do it Yourself – You can negotiate with your creditors for lower interest, cut down on using your credit cards and draw up a budget and stick to it if you want to save money and get out of debt. While it can be hard to do it yourself, some people are able to and make it stick.
New Hampshire Debt Resources
There are a variety of government and private nonprofit resources in New Hampshire to help if you’re having trouble making ends meet. Some are:
Financial Assistance to Needy Families Program (FANF), under the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, provides cash assistance to families with dependent children. Programs under its umbrella include:
- New Hampshire Employment Program (NHEP);
- Family Assistance Program (FAP);
- Interim Disabled Parent (IDP) program;
- Families With Older Children (FWOC).
The programs have cash eligibility requirements and benefit limits.
New Hampshire Emergency Housing Assistance. The Emergency Assistance (EA) Program helps families get into a home, or keep the one they’re in. It also helps with rent or utility security deposits, first month’s rent, home heating fuel deliveries, past due rent, mortgage or utility debts. Families must meet the eligibility rules for FANF cash assistance, but do not have to get the FANF cash benefit to qualify.
NHCarePath provides financial literacy resources and community services that provide medical, food, child care and other support. Its webpage has links to resources, and it also has a telephone hotline 1-866-634-9412.
Utility assistance. New Hampshire residents who are having trouble paying their heat or electric bill, or need help with weatherization that will lower energy bills, can find several resources on the state Public Utility Commission assistance page. Those who don’t quality for government assistance paying their utility bills can still get help from Neighbor Helping Neighbor, a donor-funded program.
Community Action Partnership of New Hampshire comprises the state’s regional Community Action Agencies. Community Action offers assistance that includes help for pregnant woman, child care, nutrition, seniors, housing, energy assistance and weatherization, employment training and more.
New Hampshire Food Bank supplies food and other resources to food pantries, schools and nonprofits across the state. Its website has information and resources, as well as an interactive map that will help locate your nearest food pantry.
New Hampshire Debt Statistics
New Hampshire residents are overall doing a good job at handling debt, with a high average credit score and debt just above the national averages. Here’s a look at the numbers:
- Average FICO credit score: 729 (national average 710)
- Average overall debt: $95,504 (national average $92,727)
- Average mortgage: $184,468 (national average $208, 185)
- Average auto loan: $17,654 (national average $19,845)
- National rank for per-capita bankruptcy filings in 2021: 46th (New Hampshire has consistently ranked between 42-47 for bankruptcy filings since 2015)
- Estimated time to pay off credit card debt: 12 months and 17 days on a median balance of $2,111 with a monthly payment of $180 (ranked 11th longest payoff time in U.S.)
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