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Granite Staters Have High Credit Scores and Low Unemployment

Two new reports show Granite Staters are on solid financial footing heading into the holidays compared to the rest of the U.S.

New Hampshire residents have the second highest credit scores on average in the nation according to a data analysis by Wallethub. At the same time, the labor market is improving, with New Hampshire experiencing one of the biggest week-to-week drops in new unemployment claims.

Frugal Yankees in New Hampshire hold an average 719 credit score, second only to Minnesota’s 724, Wallethub reports. The national average is 695, which means most Americans are just below the 700-score considered good credit, according to WalletHub’s findings.

Vermont, Massachusetts, and South Dakota round out the top five with average scores above 700. Alabama at 672, Louisiana at 668, and Mississippi at 662 are the three states with the worst average credit scores.

Patrick A. Cozza, who teaches business at Fairleigh Dickinson University, said the best way to build good credit is to pay your bills on time. Minimizing the use of credit cards is important as well.

“The simple answer again is to manage only the debt you can handle, do not overly subscribe to credit by securing additional credit cards,” Cozza said. “People feel more is better than few, but it could lead to real credit problems down the road if you cannot effectively manage the debt.”

The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, with business closures and high unemployment rates, put a lot of people into debt. Those who used credit cards to get by during the pandemic can dig their way out of debt and toward a better credit score, Cozza said.

W.H. “Joe” Knight at Seattle University School of Law said it is important to pay down debt and build savings.

“More Americans are saving more these days because of the fewer opportunities to shop, eat out, etc. Accumulate savings and apply some of those extra ‘saved dollars’ to the largest interest-charging creditor bills,” Knight said. “Slow but sure progress to improving a credit score, reducing the total amount of credit you have outstanding.”

New Hampshire residents are keeping up with their bills, and they are working. The Granite State keeps seeing unemployment rates drop, behind only Kentucky for the most recent unemployment rate report.

The labor market is still experiencing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are more opportunities being created, according to Thomas Kohler at Boston College Law School.

“A large number of Baby Boomers left the workforce during the pandemic while other workers changed jobs, a good example being the hospitality industry,” Kohler said.

With more opportunities for willing workers, the pressure is on employers. Employers who want to find and keep workers have learned they need to increase pay and benefits, given the new realities of the labor market.

“I think it will take some time for the situation to become clearer, but it seems increasingly clear that people are unwilling to perform unpleasant work at poor rates of remuneration with no voice in their working conditions. Hardly surprising, I would say,” Kohler said.

New Hampshire’s 2.4 percent unemployment rate in October was well below the national average of 3.7 percent reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But it was not the lowest in the nation. That honor went to Minnesota and Utah at 2.1 percent each. Vermont and North Dakota at 2.3 percent also edged out the Granite State. Those numbers reflect a tight labor market that some economists say could restrict growth.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, New Hampshire is suffering one of the most severe labor shortages in the nation, with just 44 unemployed workers for every 100 open jobs.

However, Jeffrey Arthur, a Professor of Management at Virginia Tech, said while employees have the upper hand now, the economic tide will turn to favor employers.

“Employees are more likely to feel empowered to form and join labor unions at places like Amazon, Starbucks, and other retailers where they have not been able to do this in the past. Employers are also motivated to provide employees with additional benefits such as tuition reimbursement and flexible work arrangements in order to attract and retain them,” Arthur said. “These changes may be short-lived, however. If the economy slows and unemployment increases, I expect to see the balance of power tilting back to employers. These cycles have happened in the past.”

Nashua Named Safest City in New England

The Gate City earned another recognition this week as WalletHub named Nashua the second safest city in the country, ranking it as the safest metropolitan area in New England and trailing only Irvine, Calif. 

And the Queen City also came in among the top 25 safest spots, yet another sign New Hampshire has largely avoided the national uptick in crime and violence.

The data analysts at WalletHub compared more than 180 cities across 42 key indicators of safety like assaults per capita, as well as the percentage of residents who are fully vaccinated, the unemployment rate, and road quality. The study also looked at the financial security afforded to residents in every community. Nashua ranked second on the financial end of the safety spectrum.

“Aside from the types of hazards that can cause bodily injury or other physical harm, taking out an unaffordable second mortgage, forgoing health insurance, or even visiting unsecured websites are also ways people run into danger. One of the biggest worries for many people right now is the cost of inflation, which reached a four-decade high this year and threatens Americans’ financial safety,” the study stated. “Some cities are simply better at protecting their residents from harm.”

Nashua beat out all the New England cities on the list, with the closest competition coming from Portland, Maine in fourth place, and Warwick, R.I. at fifth. Burlington, Vt. clocked in at eighth place, and Massachusetts did not get on the board until the 28th position with the city of Worcester. Boston is the least-safe New England metropolis, ranked at number 85.

San Bernardino, Calif., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and St. Louis, Mo. are at the bottom according to WalletHub’s ranking.

Not that New Hampshire — and the cities of Nashua and Manchester in particular — don’t have challenges. The number of opioid overdoses in both has soared in the past year. According to Chris Stawasz, regional director of American Medical Response, overdoses and deaths from drugs like fentanyl have been outpacing last year. By the end of August, the total number of overdoses was 624, and deaths were up by 19 percent over last year.

Nashua recently came in 4th in the WalletHub study of best-run cities in America, with overall safety being one reason for the top marks. State Rep. Michael O’Brien (D-Nashua) said one key to Nashua’s success has been local leadership understanding what people in the city need from their government, including robust safety measures.

“We in Nashua understand the needs of the community, and we actively work hard to make the city a desirable city to live in,” O’Brien said.

Doug Babcock, an adjunct instructor at Saint Michael’s College, told WalletHub that a transparent police department that has strong ties to the community is key to building a safe city.

“Police departments are a crucial pillar of our communities and the relationship of trust goes both ways,” Babcock said. “Departments need to be transparent and strive to represent the makeup of the community they serve. To do that, though, people from throughout the community must be willing and able to serve in the role.”

The Nashua Police Department is nationally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA, and s considered a flagship department by CALEA for its work to meet nationally recognized standards for community policing.

NH the Hardest Working New England State, But Inflation Is Still Hurting

Call it the Granite State Grind.

A new study finds New Hampshire residents are the hardest working in New England, though resulting wage gains are not keeping pace with inflation. 

According to findings from the data analysts at WalletHub, New Hampshire ranks ninth in the nation on Labor Day 2022, the only New England state ranked in the top 10. The hard work is evident in New Hampshire’s economic output, which ranks near the top of all 50 states in terms of growth and low unemployment.

Vermont is ranked number 26; Maine at 30; Massachusetts at 44; Connecticut at 45; or Rhode Island all the way down at 49, between New York (48) and New Mexico (50).

North Dakota, Alaska, and Nebraska are at the top of the list.

The WalletHub study looked at data points like average workweek hours, the share of workers with multiple jobs, and annual volunteer hours per resident. Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island rank near the bottom in terms of average hours per week.

Vermont and Connecticut rank near the top for average leisure time per day. Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire also have the lowest rates for idle youth in the study.

There are challenges ahead for New Hampshire employees and employers. According to a report by the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, despite a strong recovery from the COVID-19 economic crash, a critical labor shortage remains.

“Job growth in the last two years has been much faster than originally expected, mirroring other rebounding indicators of a strong economy, in large part due to swift federal policy action to provide both relief and financial support for the recovery,” the NHFPI report stated.

While the current strong economy means better pay and conditions for workers, those same workers are now paying more for food, energy, childcare, and housing.

“However, many Granite Staters find themselves struggling with rising housing costs, limited childcare options, and significant increases in living costs due to inflation as these key pandemic-related programs wind down or near their expiration. Among families with low and moderate incomes, and particularly those in rural areas of the state, these challenges have become even more pronounced,” the NHFPI report states.

According to a report in the New Hampshire Business Review, wages are up in the Granite State as the country recovers from COVID, thanks in part to the labor shortage creating supply and demand pressure that favors labor.

“Overall, hourly wages increased by $1.38 an hour annually, though they actually went down slightly from April by 11 cents. However, education and healthcare workers averaged $34.84, an annual increase of $3.12. Leisure and hospitality workers average $20.02, a $2.12 increase,” NHBR reports.

Still, a growing number of low to middle-income Granite Staters are working multiple jobs and are unable to keep up with inflation, according to the NHFPI report.

“Rising inflation has made making ends meet and paying for usual household expenses more difficult for individuals and families in New Hampshire,” the report states.

Consumer prices increased nationally by 9.1 percent between June 2021 and June 2022, the largest 12-month increase in inflation since December 1981, with energy prices increasing 41.6 percent from the prior year, according to the NHFPI report.

Even though wages went up due to the labor shortage, the raises are not keeping pace with the record-setting inflation.

“While nominal wages did increase during the same period, the average inflation-adjusted private-sector hourly wage in New Hampshire was 2.6 percent lower in July 2022 compared to July 2020. When price increases outpace wage growth, the purchasing power of consumers falls and financial pressures increase,” the NHFPI report states.

NH Climbs in Annual “Best State” Rankings

The Granite State is enjoying another win as New Hampshire has been named one of the best states to live by a new WalletHub report.

The report puts New Hampshire 6th in the nation overall and earning strong showings with a 6th ranking for health and education, 5th for safety, and 7th for its economy. New Hampshire comes in 40th in the nation for overall affordability and 36th for quality of life.

WalletHub used data to compare the 50 states based on 52 key indicators of livability. Those indicators range from housing costs and income growth to education rate and quality of hospitals.

Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York are the top three in the 2022 list. Maine and Vermont come in 11th and 12th respectively. Connecticut landed at the 25th spot and Rhode Island trailed the rest of New England with 28th place.

Louisiana, Alaska, and Mississippi were ranked the three worst states on the list.

Kenneth Johnson, professor of Sociology and Senior Demographer at the Carsey School at the University of New Hampshire, said that while New Hampshire ranks well overall, the lack of affordable housing could put a damper on future growth. Currently, New Hampshire’s saving grace is the high cost of living everywhere else in New England.

“(T)here is certainly widespread concern that the lack of affordable housing may limit the ability of families and workers to settle in some areas of New Hampshire. However, it is also important to recognize that many migrants to New Hampshire are coming from Massachusetts from the Boston metro area. Housing costs in the Boston metro area are generally higher than those in New Hampshire,” Johnson said.

New Hampshire ranked 8th in the 2021 WalletHub study, where it also placed well for its economy, education, and health, though last year it also placed 40th for affordability. Robert Ross, the Vice President of Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium, and Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Clark University said housing affordability is the most important factor when deciding where to live.

“The cost and supply of appropriate housing is a critical matter. In my own life, I have had to reconsider applying for jobs in places where I simply could not find affordable (to me) housing reasonably near where I might work,” Ross said.

New Hampshire is currently experiencing a housing affordability crisis. The rental vacancy rate is less than one percent statewide — the national rate is almost 6 percent — and the high cost of housing is driving employees away from some of the state’s biggest employers.

Gov. Chris Sununu announced a $100 million program to spur housing development and streamline local zoning in the coming months, to add thousands of rental units to the market.

Johnson said despite the high costs, the comparison to Massachusetts helps people decide to move North and further spur the economy.

“So, even though New Hampshire housing is expensive, families from the Boston metro area may still be able to get more house for the same amount of money in New Hampshire. For example, the median price of an owner-occupied house in the three New Hampshire counties just north of the Massachusetts border proximate to the Boston metro area is approximately $100,000 to $150,000 less than the median house value in the three Massachusetts counties in the Boston Metro area that are just to the south of the state line,” Johnson said.

New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate of all 50 states, and has the second lowest crime rate, right behind Maine, according to the report. The Granite State also has the 5th highest rate of people over age 25 who have obtained at least a high school diploma or higher.

New Analysis Ranks New Hampshire’s Public Schools in Top 10

New Hampshire public schools rank among the top 10 in the nation, according to the data analysts at Wallethub.

Using metrics like academic performance, safety, class size, funding, and instructor credentials, the analysis ranked the Granite State as having the nation’s seventh-best school system.

Among New England states, known for high-performing schools, the Granite State ranked third, behind Massachusetts (1) and Connecticut (2). Vermont came in at 11, Maine at 12, and Rhode Island at 16. 

New Hampshire tied for fourth when it came to having the highest median ACT scores, the standardized test that gauges English, mathematics, reading, and scientific reasoning skills and is used for many college admissions. New Hampshire also ranked fourth in best reading scores and third for student-teacher ratio.

New Hampshire does, however, rank poorly when it comes to having a high bullying rate, ranking 47 out of 48 on a best to worst scale.

Despite the two current school funding lawsuits in the state, WalletHub finds New Hampshire to be among one of the bigger spenders in education. It spends about $16,000 per pupil on average, a little less than Massachusetts’s $17,000, and significantly less than Connecticut’s more than $20,000 per pupil.

 

 

Rhode Island spends about $16,000 per pupil, and Maine around $14,000. Vermont spends the least among New England states, averaging $9,300 per pupil.

School spending is not the key factor in having a high-quality education. According to Purdue’s Christine Kiracofe, the director of the university’s Higher Education Ph.D. program, the family and neighborhood count for more than the per pupil spending.

“A lot has to do with how the communities and families that students come from are supported,” Kiracofe said. “When students come to school having had access to an educationally supportive community (access to preschool programs, opportunities for extracurricular learning, museums, educational camps, etc.) they are at a distinct advantage over students who have not had access to these things. Thus, increasing school quality really involves increasing what is available to entire communities.”

Like many states, New Hampshire public schools took a hit during the COVID-19 restrictions, with many students falling behind due to remote learning. Those education gaps are starting to improve, the New Hampshire Department of Education reports.

According to the DOE, 2022 test scores are already showing an improvement over the 2021 data, which recorded declines in student performance at every grade tested. 

This year, however, New Hampshire students in grades three through seven improved their math assessment scores while eighth-grade math scores remained the same. Proficiency scores showed slight gains with 51 percent of third-graders proficient in math in 2022 compared to 45 percent proficient in 2021. 

The older grade levels showed slight declines in English proficiency in 2022, with 49 percent of seventh graders scoring proficient in 2022 compared to 52 percent in 2021. A similar scenario occurred with 46 percent of eighth graders scoring proficient in English in 2022 compared to 49 percent in 2021. 

“Assessment scores are inching upward and returning to near pre-pandemic levels, but it is clear that there is still work to be done to recover from the academic declines that resulted from COVID-19. New Hampshire has not fully regained ground, but these early signs of improvement are promising,” said Frank Edelblut, education commissioner.

Nashua Named One of America’s Best-Run Cities

Nashua is one of the best-run cities in the country according to a new WalletHub analysis. It finds the Gate City offers high-quality services within an affordable municipal budget. 

Nashua ranks fourth overall in the study based on metrics like financial stability, infrastructure, safety, health, the economy, and education. Nampa, Idaho tops the list followed by Boise, Idaho, and Fort Wayne, Ind.

There is no secret to Nashua’s success, city leaders said.

“It’s not that it’s magic, it’s just good old hard work,” said Nashua Alderman Mike O’Brien.

Mayor Jim Donchess said city hall staff and department leaders work at bringing the best services to residents at the most efficient cost.

“I know here in Nashua we are very careful with money,” Donchess said. “We look at every expenditure while also making sure we’re investing appropriately in our city services.”

According to the analysis, Nashua is tied for second place in quality of roads and fourth in lowest violent crime rate. The city made the top 10 in both the quality of the services and the lowest cost per capita. That is a rare combination.

Wendy Hunt, with the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, said if Nashua has a secret it is the leadership and the dedicated municipal employees.

“I think the secret to Nashua is the departments work well together, elected officials work well together, and they’re very responsive,” Hunt said,

Aldermen throughout the city are willing to deal with constituent problems and work for solutions, she said. “They are always very on top of the needs of the community.”

O’Brien said Nashua’s leadership takes a long view when it comes to managing the city.

“I’m not doing this to make changes, but to be a custodian for the city,” O’Brien said. “My grandchildren will grow up in this city and I want to make it the best city we can afford to make it.”

Robert Wright, Senior Faculty Fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, said many American cities saw the quality of life decline during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wright said poorly run cities suffered rising crime, school dropouts, increased unemployment, and increased municipal debt.

“All (the declines) were self-inflicted as shown by well-run cities that quickly dropped unnecessary COVID restrictions, nipped unrest in the bud, and maintained criminal deterrence policies.

Nashua continues to have low unemployment (2.3 percent) as the pandemic’s effects fade.  O’Brien said Nashua’s Police and Fire Departments have done an excellent job keeping people safe, and the city is even using a COVID-19 protocol–outdoor dining downtown–to its advantage. O’Brien said outdoor dining has become so popular the city plans to continue making it possible.

Nashua is not without its problems. O’Brien cited a lack of affordable housing in the city as a concern that needs to be addressed. He is confident the city will continue to work on improvements.

“We in Nashua understand the needs of the community, and we actively work hard to make the city a desirable city to live in,” he said.

Two New Hampshire cities made the top 20 despite being one of the smallest states. Manchester checked in at number 19.

REPORT: Granite State’s Economy Fifth Best in Nation

New Hampshire has one of the strongest state economies in the country, with high rates of high-tech jobs, low unemployment, and a GDP growth rate that outperforms California, according to a new data analysis from WalletHub. 

The report, which looked at how each state’s economy has fared since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic recession, ranks the Granite State as the fifth-best economy in America, behind Washington state, Utah, California, and Massachusetts.

New Hampshire easily outperforms the remaining New England states, with Connecticut coming in at 25, Rhode Island at 36, Vermont at 41, and Maine trailing at number 44.

However, according to experts, New Hampshire could be headed toward a recession as runaway inflation continues to drive up the price of energy, housing, and other needs.

New Hampshire comes in second, behind Tennessee and ahead of California, when it comes to positive change in gross domestic product or GDP. It is tied for first with Utah, Nebraska, Kansas, and Minnesota for the lowest unemployment rate. It is fifth when it comes to having the highest number of immigrants with advanced educations, and is fourth in the percentage of high-tech jobs.

Gov. Chris Sununu said the overall picture is good, but warned there are negative forces outside New Hampshire’s control that could be a problem.

“We’ve taken steps over these last few years to ensure that New Hampshire’s economy remains strong,” Sununu said. “But given Washington’s inaction in combating inflation and out-of-control spending, an economic downturn is on the horizon, and we are doing everything we can at the state level to minimize the impact on our citizens.” 

One expert interviewed by WalletHub, Robert Wyllie, Assistant Professor of Political Science ad Director of Political Economy Program at Ashland University in Ohio, said the country as a whole should be concerned about a potential recession and inflation getting worse. He said we could see a return to the 1970s.

“High inflation, fueled in part by high energy prices, combined with slow growth points has drawn many comparisons to the 1970s,” Wyllie said.

A recent University of New Hampshire Carsey School of Public Policy report warned of a stagnating economy. New Hampshire’s economy needs state and federal leaders to address roadblocks that come up as the world economy tries to move past COVID.

“As the state, nation, and world hopefully emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic carnage it created, New Hampshire is, to some extent, subject to economic forces beyond its control,” the report states.

The state’s many long-term challenges include the housing shortage, the shrinking labor force, the need for childcare, and infrastructure investments.

“New Hampshire has many economic advantages that position it well as it seeks to address the challenges of wage stagnation, childcare shortages, educational inequity, an aging workforce, housing affordability, struggling families, and C- infrastructure,” the UNH report states. “It has a strong and diverse economic base from which to grow, and its workforce is well-educated. With foresight and will, New Hampshire can chart a course to a productive, prosperous economy that addresses these challenges and enhances the well-being of all who live here.”

However, New Hampshire has also repeatedly been ranked near the top of the “Freedom Index” by multiple sources, due to its low tax and low regulation environment. And that could be both a reason its economy is overperforming today and has a brighter future tomorrow.

In the Wallethub report, Vincent Gloss, assistant professor of economics at George Mason University argued that “economic freedom (i.e. lower regulation, lower taxes and lower spending, safer property rights) does not only minimize downturns associated with exogenous shocks such as a pandemic, but it also accelerates recovery. Governments should look at policies that allow firms and families more flexibility in their decisions and that means stepping back.”

New Hampshire Best New England State for Veterans

New Hampshire is the fifth-best place in America — and the best state in New England — for military retirees. Neighboring Vermont ranks dead last.

That was the finding of a new data analysis by Wallethub that reviewed overall economic opportunity, quality of life, and access to healthcare for veterans. New Hampshire was number five, just ahead of Maine (8), Connecticut (11), and Massachusetts (14). Rhode Island came in a dismal 43. Vermont was at the bottom of the list.

Part of New Hampshire’s appeal to veterans is the low tax environment. Jeremiah Gunderson, director of Veteran and Military Affiliated Services at the University of Texas at Austin, said military retirees want to be where their military pension will not get taxed.

“I find it ridiculous that we make people pay taxes after choosing to sacrifice so much of their lives in service to their nation,” Gunderson said. “As tax-funded employees of the DOD, with taxpayer-funded retirement pay, why are we taking taxes on tax-generated retirement pay?”

Radio host Jack Heath, host of the syndicated show Good Morning New Hampshire, is an outspoken advocate for veterans through his work with Fusion Cell, an organization that helps veterans transition to civilian life. He also does an annual radiothon to raise money to help veterans. This year he brought in $104,000.

Word is spreading about the opportunities in New Hampshire for military retirees, Heath told NHJournal.

“I think there’s increasingly a growing network that veterans leaving the military are hearing about,” Heath said.

New Hampshire has a high percentage of military retirees among its residents despite not being home to a large military base or installation.

Heath said veterans are attracted to the 603 way of life, but also find they can also get help making the switch from military to civilian life.

“I met a lot of veterans. They move here because of family, a lot of them have never been here. They love the state motto, they hear the quality of life is good, the schools are good, and they are surprised by the support,” Heath said.

There is no veterans service hub in the state, so Easter Seals and its Veterans Count team try to be a one-stop shop for military retirees who need help. Stephanie Higgs, clinical director for Easter Seals New Hampshire Military and Veterans Services, said many veterans need services most Granite Staters need, like access to health care, mental health care, and access to affordable housing. Unfortunately, the current labor shortage is impacting the ability of veterans to get help.

“We know some of the services vets struggle with right now are the same things civilians struggle with,” Higgs said. “The demand is greater than the capacity to meet that demand right now.”

Heath said he was surprised when he started working with Fusion Cell to learn about the difficulties many veterans have when they get out of the military. The culture change is enormous, and the military services do not prepare the retirees for life on the outside.

“It’s a culture shock,” Heath said. “I’ve seen some veterans take months or a year to really get adjusted.”

Gunderson said one problem veterans face is that their military specialty rarely translates into employment qualifications in the civilian world.

“As an example, I was a medic in the Army with two deployments to Iraq and considerable experience running a clinic,” he said. “However, when I left the military I was not qualified to do anything other than possibly EMT basic.”

Fusion Cell works to connect veterans with civilian job opportunities, getting them the support they need to succeed in the world.

For the most part, New Hampshire does a good job in offering a variety of services to veterans, both Heath and Higgs said. But while there are many programs or organizations in the state to assist veterans, there is no coordinated platform to connect the overturns to the groups. Heath said the state government should step in and serve as a liaison.

“I bust my butt trying to do it every day, but we really need the state to do a better job,” Heath said.

As for the rest of New Hampshire, Heath wants Granite Staters to be good to the veterans all around.

“Be aware of the veterans are in our community, of the families who sacrificed while they were serving,” he said.

NH Top New England State on ‘Best Place to Retire’ List

The Granite State was one of the 10 best places to retire in the U.S, and the only New England state to crack the top 10, according to a new analysis of affordability and quality of life.

New Hampshire ranked ninth in the latest WalletHub report, well ahead of Massachusetts (19), Maine (27), Vermont (28), and Connecticut (29). Rhode Island came in last among the New England states at number 44.

While New Hampshire was not the most affordable state on the list, ranked 34 by WalletHub for senior affordability, it did rank high for quality of life and access to high-quality health care. The overall Granite State lifestyle is the main draw for people, according to Business and Economic Affairs Commissioner Taylor Caswell.

“Tourists, businesses, young families, and retirees all come to New Hampshire for our access to the outdoors, strong economy and wide array of jobs, and overall quality of life,” Caswell said.

Bedford-based financial advisor Arnold Garron said New Hampshire attracts people who are interested in pursuing new interests and activities while maintaining life in a small, friendly community.

“New Hampshire is a great place to retire with access to the ocean, lakes, and streams; colleges and universities for activities and events; close to Boston for traveling; and great access to airports and transportation. There are also activities galore: Skiing, biking, hiking, beaching, fishing, hunting, and arts. You can find it all without the hustle and bustle of major cities,” Garron said.

While New Hampshire continues to draw people based on the small-town lifestyle, recreation, and natural beauty, it is also the best financial deal for retirees in the region. Moneywise recently raked New Hampshire at 5 on its best states to retire list.

“New Hampshire boasts picturesque towns, mountains, and trails — perfect for an outdoorsy retiree who prefers a quieter kind of life. This New England state might not be the cheapest place to live in — you’ll pay high property taxes and a 5 percent tax on interest and dividends greater than $2,400 — however, it ranks well for quality of life and health care. It also has one of the lowest crime rates across the country,” they wrote.

And on Monday, RetirementLiving.com also joined the bandwagon, naming New Hampshire the second-best state (behind Florida) for retirees.

“New Hampshire is ideal for active retirees, offering beaches, lakes, mountains, cities and countryside. Health care resources are readily available even in rural areas. Seniors make up nearly 20 percent of the population, so retirees can find many peers with similar interests,” according to their analysis. And they note, “there’s no tax on retirement income, so New Hampshire’s affordability index is above average.”

Erin Mitchell with New Hampshire AARP said the state offers a lot in terms of recreation, natural beauty, and community resources that can encourage people to retire here.

“To get people to stay in New Hampshire, we need to keep focusing on safe, walkable streets, public parks, and age-friendly housing,” Mitchell said.

Sixteen communities in New Hampshire are part of AARP’s age-friendly communities’ network. Those communities keep the over 50 population in mind when planning municipal projects. The goal is to keep people in their homes, and home communities, safe and happy, she said.

Garron said New Hampshire offers retirees what they want in the so-called Four Pillars of retirement.

“In 2019, Edward Jones first partnered with Age Wave on a landmark study, The Four Pillars of the New Retirement. We have continued this research and one of the biggest insights from this study is that the majority of retirees say that all four interdependent pillars—health, family, purpose, and finances—are essential to optimal well-being in retirement,” he said.

“When I meet with my clients I ask them, ‘What is most important to you?’ Their alignment to these four pillars and their focus on fun aligns with the activities we have in New Hampshire.

‘Viva ManchVegas?’ Most Brides Just Say No.

Locals may call it “ManchVegas,” but few couples are willing to take a gamble and have their wedding there.

And they’re “just saying no” to Nashua, too.

That is the finding of a new study ranking America’s best places to get married, which puts both Manchester and Nashua in the ‘Ten Worst” category.

WalletHub’s 2022 rating of the Best Places to Get Married evaluated 180 cities as wedding destinations based on costs, available wedding venues, and services, as well as local attractions and, unfortunately, weather. 

Manchester came in number 172 out of 180. Nashua was 174.

Jennifer Matthews, owner of New Hampshire wedding planning firm Memorable Events, said most brides she works with look for special places featuring some of New Hampshire’s dramatic views, like the Lakes Region, the White Mountain area, or the Monadnock Region. 

“The Monadnock and Lakes and Mountains are some of the most accommodating and beautiful places in all of New England,” she said.

Weddings are big business, a $57 billion industry where the average wedding costs more than $22,000. Matthews said the average cost for weddings she arranges is around $50,000 to $75,000.

“Not to say you can’t do it for less,” she acknowledged. “But I have couples who do it for more.”

Wendy Hunt, president and CEO of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, defended the Gate City, saying Nashua and the region offer a lot for couples getting married.

“I think we have beautiful venues in the greater Nashua region,” she said.

There are event centers at large hotels like the Radisson and the newly renovated Sheraton. Manchester boasts its own facilities like the downtown DoubleTree by Hilton. 

“I’ve been to quite a few weddings at Sky Meadow (Country Club in Nashua),” Hunt said.

Matthews said many of the brides she works with want to have exclusive control over the venue. That means instead of going to a hotel or convention center where they might not be the only wedding that weekend, brides are renting private homes on one of New Hampshire’s lakeshores or a farmhouse with views of Mount Monadnock.

Matthews does have a venue she likes to use in southern New Hampshire, a family-run banquet facility in Hollis that can provide exclusive access for brides.

WalletHub’s listing finds Manchester and Nashua ranking high for costs while coming in low on extra attractions to make the wedding day a destination event. Ranking at the top of the list is Orlando, followed by Las Vegas and Miami, largely based on area attractions for each city.

One of WalletHub’s experts, Lisa Rene Reynolds, program director and associate professor in the Master of Science Program in Marriage and Family Therapy at Iona College, said city leaders need to work hard to get couples interested in spending wedding dollars in their towns.

“If local businesses want to get in on the wedding action, they need to do so by advertising this and especially marketing new and novel ideas that will make them stand out from the sea of other vendors,” she said. “For example, if a catering company can push a completely locally grown and sourced menu or late-night taco food trucks outside the reception, they should push what makes them stand out in the crowd.”

The 2022 wedding season is anticipated to be the biggest one since 1984, Matthews said. Many people delayed their weddings in 2020, and a lot of people decided to get engaged in the last couple of years after all the months of lockdowns, creating a COVID-marriage bottleneck.

“They figured, ‘We made it through that, we can make it through a lifetime,’” Matthews said.

Many New Hampshire wedding planners are already booked through 2023, no matter where brides want to have their special day.