SmartAsset ranks Garfield County in state’s top 5 for income growth, paycheck friendliness |

SmartAsset ranks Garfield County in state’s top 5 for income growth, paycheck friendliness

Local financial advisors say high rankings are great, but complete data is better

Garfield County was recently ranked by as No. 4 in the state for “paycheck friendliness,” and No. 5 for income growth, but those numbers don’t paint a complete picture, local financial advisors said.

Run by a team of “techies, journalists and data nerds committed to bringing you transparency and accuracy,” according to the SmartAsset website, the company provides users collated data to help guide their financial decisions.

The provided data, however, should be taken with a grain of salt, said Mike McCallum, senior vice president of investments for Stifel financial services in Glenwood Springs.

“I think it’s great that Glenwood Springs looks good on this website; it’s a great place to live,” Mike McCallum said. “But there’s a lot more to take into account than this website provides.”

SmartAsset ranks Garfield County high in paycheck friendliness, but McCallum said he was unfamiliar with the term or what it would convey to residents.

The website reports paycheck friendliness is a measure of getting the most bang for the buck by comparing taxes deducted from a median income of approximately $50,000 across the state.

But Stifel Financial Advisor Breanna McCallum said the data doesn’t factor in local taxes or health care costs.

“Based on the data I’ve seen, someone living in or near Glenwood Springs and using the Affordable Care Act for health insurance might have as much as 30% taken out of their paycheck, resulting in much smaller paychecks than this site would have you believe,” Breanna McCallum said.

Another factor left out of SmartAsset’s assessment is Garfield County’s cost of living varies wildly. While high in Glenwood Springs, costs decrease as a person travels west, Mike McCallum said.

“If you live in Battlement Mesa, your paycheck might go further than if you live in Glenwood,” he said. “On the other hand, Glenwood has a lot of job openings.”

When it comes to income growth, SmartAsset is on the money, Breanna McCallum said.

“Because we have a lot of jobs open, employers have to create incentives — like higher pay — to attract employees,” she said.

An income growth rate of 5.8% was calculated during a period of five years using the county’s median income, SmartAsset reported. Although accurate when compared to other data sets Breanna McCallum has seen recently, she said five years might not be enough for a person to base a big financial decision.

“You really need to look at how hard it got in the bad times and how quickly it bounced back,” she said, explaining Stifel usually looks at a 20-year snapshot when creating a financial plan.

Websites like SmartAsset can be useful, Mike McCallum said, but if residents are truly interested in learning how to manage their money, he emphasized they should consult with professionals.

“It’s a good place to start,” Mike McCallum said, “but you simply can’t put together a complete financial plan on a website.”

Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at

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