April 6, 2009 -- If it's financial happiness you're seeking for your next move, then the Midwest may be your best bet because according to a new study Nebraska tops the list of happiest states, fiscally.
The home of the Cornhuskers, Kool-Aid and the world's largest porch swing ranked No. 1 on MainStreet.com's Happiness Index, which used unemployment figures, foreclosures and nonmortgage debt to determine a state's overall financial well being.
"We don't go clear out on the edge with projects. We kind of go pay as you go. That's more what we like to do in Nebraska. We don't get the huge good time, but we don't get the huge bad time either," said Hastings Mayor Vern Powers. "We kind of stay in a little flatter area. In the long term, we think that's what's best."
Financial experts said other states can learn from Nebraska's conservative attitude toward money, as well as its efforts to grow a diversity of industries.
Its ethanol plants, in particular, have flourished and the ongoing effort to grow industry has enabled people who lose jobs to find new ones relatively easily.
In fact Nebraska's unemployment rate in February was a 4.2 percent. It also had one foreclosure per 25,187 households.
Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy for These States
And according to MainStreet.com, it's no coincidence that the nation's three happiest states all are in the Midwest.
"I think that on the coasts — In New York and California — we have a lot of people living beyond their means. But in the Midwest that's often not the case," said MainStreet.com general manager Harleen Kahlon. "Maybe the take-away is that living large is not the answer."
Take the financially savvy billionaire Warren Buffet. The frugal Nebraskan still lives in the same modest home he bought in 1958 for $31,000.
The Least Happy States: Unemployment and Foreclosures
High unemployment and foreclosure rates elevated Oregon to the moniker of the least happy state financially. The Pacific Northwest state was preceded by Florida, California, Nevada and Rhode Island with the Sunshine State fairing the best among the quintet.
The nation's unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent, the highest in nearly 26 years, but these states' statistics were even dimmer.
Both Rhode Island and California's unemployment rate was 10.5 percent in February, while Nevada had 10.1 percent. Oregon had 10.8 percent and Florida had 9.4 percent.
But MainStreet.com said it expects movement in the happiness index. Oregon is expected to climb thanks in part to its investment in the green sector, which MainStreet.com predicts will experience a great deal of growth in months and years to come.