While the rest of the United States was grappling with how best to cope with the scourge of COVID-19, South Dakota simply decided not to participate.

Economically, anyway.

The result: South Dakota’s business climate sagged slightly — like everywhere else, tourism took a hit — but its rebound has rivaled a SpaceX rocket launch.

With just fewer than 893,000 residents roaming about more than 77,000 square miles, South Dakota is No. 46 in density among U.S. states. And much of the work force toils in jobs — agriculture, outdoor recreation, manufacturing, and oil and gas production — that rarely require prolonged elbow-to-elbow collaboration.

In short, South Dakotans were performing social distancing before social distancing was vital. Understanding that, as well as her voters’ Old West impulse not to be bossed, Gov. Kristi Noem never ordered the state’s economy shut down, never mandated masks, never closed those places people with discretionary income like to gather.

Noem’s laissez-faire policies were a boon to the Mount Rushmore State (even when locked-down Americans weren’t flocking to Mount Rushmore).  As noted by The Economist, the third quarter of 2020 found the combined value of South Dakotans’ wages and salaries “was where you would expect it to be had the pandemic never happened.”

And while a significant portion of the nation’s improved unemployment picture results from working-age people dropping out of the labor force, South Dakota’s best-in-the-U.S. sub-3.0 unemployment rate is jobs-driven.

“Every South Dakotan who wants a job should have little problem finding one,” Noem said last summer. “In fact, there are 10 job openings available for every South Dakotan currently receiving unemployment.” Indeed, WalletHub declared in June that, for job-seekers, South Dakota is No. 1 in America.

Still, some South Dakotans are sure to be feeling a financial pinch. Assorted private and governmental agencies see to it their needs are not forgotten.

Debt Relief Options for South Dakota Residents

Many consumers looking for a hands-on solution to their financial struggles have found success with InCharge Debt Solutions and its debt management program. InCharge, a nonprofit credit counseling agency, maintains an army of experts who go to bat on behalf of consumers. Applying their experience and expertise, InCharge counselors work with creditors to consolidate credit card debt, lower interest rates, and create an affordable payment plan that best suits the consumer’s unique financial situation.

Credit card companies extract a heavy toll from customers who maintain balances month after month, charging, on average, 16.5% interest rates in 2021. Slip behind even a little bit, and consumers already battling uphill to pay their monthly card bills can see their interest rates hiked to 25% or more by lenders. InCharge works with card companies to cut those punishing rates by two-thirds, getting them down to roughly 8%.

InCharges goal is simple and straightforward: Help clients clear their credit card debt in three to five years. Imagine being free of consumer debt that fast. However, part of the counseling and debt management involves tough love: To eliminate debt in the prescribed timeline, clients must adhere, with strict discipline, to a detailed spending budget.

Here’s how it works: Clients make a single monthly payment to InCharge — typically lower than the combination of minimum payments they endured prior to signing up for debt management. InCharge distributes that payment among the client’s various creditors in agree-upon amounts. Sound great? Apply for this user-friendly, low-hassle program over the phone or online.

Worried about being foiled by your credit score? Don’t be. Low credit scores are not an obstacle to qualifying for debt management plans.

Want to consider other options? Other avenues for struggling South Dakotans include:

  • Debt Settlement – Employed with some frequency for relief from onerous credit card debt, personal loans, and medical bills, successful debt settlement enables debtors to pay less than the amount(s) owed. For this to work, however creditors have to agree to a payment amount that settles the debt.  While this debt-relief option will help solve some financial issues in the short term, the downsides — immediate and long-term — abound. Creditors will continue collection efforts. The debt settlement goes on the consumer’s credit report and stays for seven years, adversely affecting access to credit. And the IRS may count the forgiven debt as regular income for tax-filing purposes.
  • Credit Card Debt Forgiveness – This program is offered by a select group of nonprofit credit counseling agencies. It also allows consumers to pay less than what they owe. 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 – Consumers with solid credit scores may be able to qualify for a debt-consolidation loan with an interest rate that is a fraction of that charged by credit card companies. Besides having to pay back the loan, undisciplined consumers run the risk of running credit card balances back up, if they don’t stop using cards altogether.
  • Bankruptcy Touted in some circles as “a fresh start,” bankruptcy allows consumers to get rid of their credit card debt. But it should be considered only as a last resort. Bankruptcy can deliver welcome relief in the short term, but the damage can — probably will — last for years. Bankruptcy weighs on the filer’s credit score for seven to 10 years. That means problems qualifying for a loan to buy a home or a new vehicle before the year 2030. Before choosing bankruptcy, carefully consider the future effects on your credit and your life.
  • Do it yourself plans – Consumers who are equally disciplined and adventurous might want to consider the merits of a do-it-yourself debt management program. The DIY option assists in crafting a plan that aligns with the consumer’s financial needs. But it still wouldn’t hurt to consult with a nonprofit credit counselor, such as the experts at InCharge. There’s no cost and no obligation for an initial review.

South Dakota Debt Resources

South Dakotans between jobs, who are battling uphill over housing or keeping pace with monthly bills have options. Financial assistance is available through assorted federal and state programs, as well as private sources. Here are some of the services offered to South Dakota residents in need of food, shelter, childcare, legal aid, and other basic necessities:

  • South Dakota Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): TANF is a public assistance program designed provide temporary assistance and economic self-sufficiency for children and families. Families with serious financial needs may qualify for TANF monthly payments. TANF payments will be received electronically.  Recipients may choose to have their payments deposited directly into their checking or savings account, or they may choose to receive the Way2Go card.
  • Childrens Health Insurance Program (CHIP): In South Dakota, CHIP assists children of low-income families with access to health care, including regular check-ups, dental, and vision care. Once enrolled, beneficiaries can choose medical providers such as doctors and hospitals within the CHIP network.
  • Help For Seniors and Disabled Persons in South Dakota: With its Long Term Services and Supports program, the South Dakota Department of Human Services provides assorted financial-relief services to individuals 60 years of age and older, and 18 years of age and older with disabilities. In field offices around the state, specialists provide information and referral services, assistance to access in-home and community-based services, ongoing case management, care plan development and other services.
  • Help for Prospective Homebuyers: The South Dakota Housing Development Authority (SDHDA) maintains a variety of assistance programs for prospective homebuyers: first-timers, repeat buyers, and those in need of down payment help.
  • Help for Renters: SDHDA works closely with federal agencies to administer programs designed to keep housing safe and affordable for assorted South Dakotans, such as low-income families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities.
  • Foreclosure Avoidance Assistance: The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development maintains a list of affiliates that provide counseling for homeowners facing foreclosure. The most important action to take for those who have fallen behind in their mortgage payments: Contact the lender early to keep the largest possible number of options on the table.
  • Legal Aid for South Dakotans: Through Access to Justice, the State Bar of South Dakota helps attorneys fulfill their ethical obligation to perform pro bono (free) work. Applicants who qualify can get assistance with wills and estates, as well as consumer, education, employment, health, housing, and family law.
  • Energy Bill Assistance: South Dakota Energy Assistance, administered by the state’s Department of Social Services, helps low-income residents pay home heating costs.
  • Assistance and discounts on telephone bills: Because being able to stay connected to family, friends, and businesses is a vital aspect of life, qualifying South Dakotans can take advantage of the state’s Lifeline

South Dakota Debt Statistics

Here is a look at some of the debt South Dakotans carried into 2021 after a challenging dozen months in 2020.

  • Mortgage Debt: South Dakotans ranked 33rd in the nation in average mortgage debt ($173,005), about $56,200 less than the national average, according to credit-tracking agency Experian.
  • Auto loan debt: South Dakotans’ average auto loan debt jumped 5%, to an average of $19,890, in 2020, putting them just about in the middle of the pack nationally.
  • Credit card debt: South Dakotans are not big on credit card debt. In fact, their median $1,454 balance is the lowest in the nation, according to a Wallet Hub study.
  • Household debt: Despite managing their credit in a fairly responsible manner, South Dakotans operate pretty close to the edge. Households owe $52,400 on average (not including mortgages), which is 96% of the average South Dakota household income.
  • Student Loan debt: South Dakota’s average student debt per borrower is $31,100, the fourth-lowest in the nation. South Dakotans owe $29.6 billion in student loans, the 39th lowest total in the U.S.
  • Credit scores: Generally, South Dakotans manage their debt well. Despite a fairly modest median income ($56,274 in 2018), South Dakota consumers’ average credit score (731) ranks third in the nation, behind only neighboring Minnesota and nearby Wisconsin.
  • Identity theft: Despite skyrocketing reports of identity theft in 2020, South Dakotans were fairly immune to this human-generated plague. Just 637 reports of ID theft came from South Dakota, or 72 per 100,000 — the lowest in the nation for the second straight year.
  • Bankruptcy and foreclosures: With 466 filings, through September, South Dakotans ranked 41st nationally for bankruptcies. On the foreclosure front, in June South Dakota was the only state to report a year-over-year increase, to 17, up 21%.

Sources

N.A. (2021, June 11) South Dakota Strong. Retrieved from https://news.sd.gov/newsitem.aspx?id=28162

N.A. (2021, March 18) South Dakotas economy defies conventional wisdom about covid-19. Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/united-states/2021/03/18/south-dakotas-economy-defies-conventional-wisdom-about-covid-19

Brown, J. (2021, October 12) 10 States With The Best And Worst Credit Scores. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/advisor/credit-score/states-with-best-and-worst-credit-scores/

Stebbins, S. (2021, September 27) How Mortgage Debt in South Dakota Compares to Other States. Retrieved from https://www.bhpioneer.com/news/state_news/how-mortgage-debt-in-south-dakota-compares-to-other-states/article_68d5d66a-33fc-5199-be73-37eaab03f881.html

Lembo Stolba, S. (2021, April 12) U.S. Auto Debt Grows to Record High Despite Pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/research/auto-loan-debt-study/

McCann, A. (2021, July 27) States with the Highest & Lowest Credit-Card Debts. Retrieved from https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-the-highest-and-lowest-credit-card-debts/63822

N.A. (ND) How Much of Your Paycheck Do You Owe? Retrieved from https://peerfinance101.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/average-debt-by-state-america.jpg

White, A. (2021, February 3) Minnesota residents have the highest average credit score — heres how other states compare. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/select/average-credit-score-by-state/

Daly, L, (2021, August 26) Identity Theft and Credit Card Fraud Statistics for 2020. Retrieved from https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/research/identity-theft-credit-card-fraud-statistics/

N.A. (ND) Bankruptcy Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.abi.org/newsroom/bankruptcy-statistics

N.A. (2021, July 15) U.S. Properties with Foreclosure Filings in First Six Months of 2021 Hit All-Time Low of 65,082. Retrieved from https://www.attomdata.com/news/most-recent/attom-mid-year-2021-u-s-foreclosure-market-report/