CNBC make it 2024-04-07 02:00:53

10 U.S. states where Americans earn the lowest incomes—only 2 aren’t in the South

Throughout the U.S., workers earn a median annual wage of about $48,080, according to the latest available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But in the three states where workers earn the least, the median annual wage sits below $40,000 a year. And notably, all but two of the 10 lowest-earning states are in the South.

Check out the map below to see the median wage in every U.S. state.

Mississippi has the lowest-earning population in the U.S. with a median annual wage of just $37,500, according to the BLS. 

That’s due, in part, to the fact that Mississippi has one of the least-educated populations in the country, with just 1 in 4 adults in the state holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to St. Louis Fed data.

More education typically correlates with higher earnings, which helps explain why Massachusetts — the most-educated state, with nearly 47% of its population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher — is also the highest-paid, according to the St. Louis Fed.

A well-educated workforce can help attract businesses to the area and boost economic activity. That’s part of the reason Mississippi ranks among some of the worst states for business, according to CNBC.

These are the 10 states with the lowest median annual wages.

Though the local incomes are low compared with the rest of the country, the cost of living is relatively cheap in most of these states, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center state-by-state cost of living index, based on Council for Community and Economic Research survey data. Oklahoma ranks as the state with the cheapest cost of living, according to MERIC, with Mississippi coming in at No. 2.

Though most of the states with the lowest wages are among the cheapest to live in, New Mexico and South Carolina are somewhat outliers by this metric. New Mexico ranks as the 20th lowest in terms of cost of living, and South Carolina falls right around the middle of all states, according to MERIC’s analysis. 

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Where to get your free solar eclipse glasses: Warby Parker, the public library and more

Some astronomy aficionados are paying top dollar to catch the upcoming total solar eclipse, but there are plenty of options to take in the rare astrological phenomenon for free.

If you find yourself in the path of totality, you’ll want to make sure that you’re using eye protection before turning your gaze upward. Experts warn against looking at the obscured sun for “even a split second,” emphasizing that the solar radiation can burn the inside of your eyes and potentially cause irreversible damage.

The eclipse will take place the afternoon of Monday, April 8, with parts of states like Texas, Ohio and New York falling into the path of totality.

Normal sunglasses aren’t strong enough to protect your eyes from harm. Instead, you’ll need special protection designed specifically for observing an eclipse.

Luckily, both government organizations and private businesses are distributing eyewear that meets the requirements set by the American Astronomical Society.

Here’s where to get your free glasses before Monday’s eclipse.

Your local public library

Libraries across the nation are distributing glasses for free. To see which libraries near you have glasses available, check out this interactive map from Star Net.

Warby Parker

The eyewear brand has gone all out for the eclipse, creating an entire page on its website dedicated to the event. Warby Parker is distributing glasses free of charge at all of its retail locations. You can find the closest store to you at this link.

New York State

With a good chunk of the Empire State falling in the path of totality, New York is distributing free glasses at locations including New York State Welcome Centers and Thruway Rest Stops.

Sonic and Smoothie King

Chain restaurants Sonic and Smoothie King are offering free eclipse glasses with a purchase.

Make your own

If there’s nowhere near you to get free glasses, it’s simple enough to make your own. Follow these instructions from NASA to create your own viewing tool with materials that you can find around the house.

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43-year-old started a side hustle in college—now it brings in $200M/yr: It took ‘everything that I had’

Two decades ago, Seth Berkowitz was a college student with a late-night craving for a “warm, delicious treat.”

Today, he’s the CEO of Insomnia Cookies, the company he co-founded as a college junior and grew into a chain with more than 260 locations by satisfying that very craving for customers around the world. Insomnia was most recently reportedly valued at less than $500 million, following a 2018 majority-stake acquisition by Krispy Kreme.

It brought in over $200 million in revenue last year, according to the company. “I just thought a warm cookie worked,” Berkowitz, 43, tells CNBC Make It. “It was a craving that I was looking for, and it was clear that it was something that resonated with others.”

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Berkowitz started Insomnia at the University of Pennsylvania in 2002, baking cookies in his college house and personally delivering them around campus in the early hours of the morning. In one semester, he made roughly $10,000 in profit, he says.

By the time he graduated in 2004, Berkowitz signed a lease to open Insomnia’s first brick-and-mortar location, near another college campus in Syracuse, New York. Stores in Champaign, Illinois and College Park, Maryland soon followed.

Now, with Krispy Kreme looking to sell Insomnia, Berkowitz says he’s “grateful for the journey.”

“That warm, delicious moment is really working for us,” he says. “So, the goal is to just keep going.”

School by day, cookies by night

In the days before Grubhub and Uber Eats, college students had limited options for after-hours food delivery — and Berkowitz got tired of eating the same Papa John’s pizza “every night,” he says.

The economics and history major estimates he spent roughly $150 on ingredients to start baking cookies in the “really small kitchen” he shared with eight friends in college housing. Taking orders on his cellphone, Berkowitz drove deliveries around campus as late as 4 a.m. some nights.

Running a late-night business while attending classes during the day was predictably difficult. “I was going to give myself a semester or two to see if Insomnia Cookies was going to be a success or not,” says Berkowitz.

His marketing efforts — putting flyers in dorms, handing out free cookies — didn’t gain much traction, until a campus newspaper wrote an article about Insomnia. The business went from averaging three cookie orders per night to as many as 80, Berkowitz says.

“They put me on the front page,” he says. “It was me, and this backwards baseball cap, and a hand mixer.”

Looking to expand, he brought in a partner — co-founder Jared Barnett — and hired a handful of employees to grow Insomnia’s operations. He reinvested all of the business’ profits, building a website for online ordering and renting a commissary kitchen off-campus to increase cookie production.

They took the concept to other cities, starting in Syracuse. But from there, Insomnia’s path to national success was anything but smooth, says Berkowitz.

The difference between a side hustle and a startup

Managing the growth and expansion of an aspiring national business was much harder than running a college side hustle, Berkowitz quickly learned.

As Insomnia’s sole employee, he made money. Paying employees and renting space eliminated those profit margins. “Professionalizing a business [is] expensive … It was a much different setup and it required investing ahead of growth,” Berkowitz says.

The first-time entrepreneur spent years experimenting with different business models to reach profitability again, staying funded through angel investors. He tried ghost kitchens, licensed frozen yogurt shops and even launched vending trucks.

Barnett left the company during that period, selling his equity stake to Berkowitz. “At that time, my vision for the company was no longer aligned with Seth’s, and we agreed to part ways,” Barnett says.

Insomnia topped $1 million in annual revenue for the first time in 2008, according to Berkowitz, but it still wasn’t profitable. The following year, the CEO made a drastic cost-cutting decision, downsizing Insomnia’s corporate team to two people: himself and a finance associate.

Once again, he took on much of the work of running Insomnia himself — driving from New York to Philadelphia to fix a vending truck’s broken generator, personally delivering cookie dough to the Syracuse store every week, visiting college towns across the country to scout new potential locations.

“2009 and 2010 [were] some of the hardest years ever at Insomnia Cookies,” says Berkowitz, adding: “There wasn’t anyone else to do it. So, if I was going to grow the business … it was going to take everything that I [had].”

‘Insomnia Cookies is a perseverance story’

After nearly a decade of experimentation, Berkowitz returned to a brick-and-mortar model. A “really huge sign” in the window would create buzz, he theorized, and quick deliveries would encourage repeat customers.

Coupled with a mobile ordering app, the strategy worked. In 2012, Insomnia funded a new location with its own internal cash flow for the first time ever, says Berkowitz — its 22nd store, in Kent, Ohio.

“That was a huge milestone,” he says. “It created a situation where we were self-sufficient. We controlled our destiny.”

Over the next six years, Insomnia opened 125 new stores, Berkowitz says. Then, the Krispy Kreme acquisition ushered Insomnia through the Covid era, creating some co-founder drama along the way: Barnett sued Insomnia over the sale, claiming he was due a share of the proceeds.

In January, Berkowitz reportedly agreed to pay Barnett $3.5 million to settle the case. Both men declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Last year, Krispy Kreme announced plans to explore a sale of Insomnia, creating uncertainty over the future of the business. Berkowitz says he’s still focused on growing the brand, which recently announced plans to open dozens of new locations across the U.S. in 2024.

“When I talk about the brand and our journey, [I often say] that Insomnia Cookies is a perseverance story, right?” says Berkowitz. “Like, there’s so many reasons why we shouldn’t be here. And they very much outweigh the fact that we are.”

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Insomnia Cookies was most recently reportedly valued at less than $500 million, following a 2018 majority-stake acquisition by Krispy Kreme.

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Tipping is very different here, says mom who left the U.S. for Denmark: Which system I prefer

In July 2020, my husband and I left Los Angeles with our two small kids, to visit his family in a small town in the Danish countryside. We didn’t realize the trip would result in a permanent move and a new adventure.

When a 1700′s farmhouse came on the market, we took a chance and decided to relocate our family to Denmark for many of the reasons you might’ve heard about: trust, national healthcare and education, safety and living in one of the world’s happiest countries

Since then our adjustment process has been long, but rewarding. Starting life over in a new country, learning the language, understanding how everything works, making friends: It has been a humbling and fascinating experience for me. 

One of the things I learned early on was that tipping culture is very different in Denmark than the U.S. It took me a little time to get used to it, but now I prefer the system here.

Why tipping is not expected in Denmark

Tipping is not commonplace in Denmark, largely because the responsibility is placed on businesses to pay their employees fairly.

Many service workers used to rely heavily on tips for their income, and it was customary for guests to add 15% to their bill, but tipping was officially discontinued in Denmark in 1969

Instead, a collective agreement was established, ensuring that waiters received adequate pay without relying on tips. As part of this agreement, a 15% service charge was included in the bill to compensate. 

These collective agreements set a minimum wage, which is negotiated by trade unions every two to three years. Today, Danish service workers have some of the highest wage rates in the EU — around $19 per hour.

Tipping is definitely an ingrained habit I’ve had to unlearn here. The last thing I want to do as a resident of a new country is not follow the proper etiquette — and Danes fiercely protect their non-tipping culture. 

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For exceptional service, people tip 10% at most

When I first arrived, when I tipped 20% or more on a coffee, I would get puzzled looks from servers and my Danish friends would quickly explain the rules to me, while taking over the payment of the bill.

It took a little while to sink in but now, I will tip around 10% — and only if I have truly excellent service or if I’m part of a large party at a restaurant. The same goes for taxis, bars, hotels, tours and other services. It’s considered a nice thing to do to “round up” the bill to the next full amount if you have change, but it’s definitely not expected. 

Cafes or bars sometimes have a “drikkepenge / drinking money” container on the counter, which is their equivalent of a tip jar. Sometimes I see leftover change or bills in them, but since digital payment options are so ubiquitous, that is not often the case. 

I see many fewer “add tip” options when paying with a card in Denmark than in the U.S. I’ve had quite a few Danish servers preemptively cancel the tip before handing me the machine. 

This isn’t just the situation in restaurants and cafes. Something I’m still getting used to about the lack of a tipping culture is that it means you typically don’t get any extras as part of some self-care services like you would in the U.S. For example, salon manicures here are very basic, no frills, so I’ve taken to doing them myself at home.

How Denmark’s tipping culture is a reflection of its values 

From what I’ve observed, Denmark’s sensibility about tipping is an extension of its approach to labor in general.

Restaurant servers, cab drivers, porters, bartenders, and many others who provide similar services are not only paid a living wage in Denmark — they receive benefits, including maternity and paternity leave, childcare, disability coverage and paid vacation from the government or their employer.

They don’t have to depend on tips to just get by.

You are not allowed to work in the service industry in Denmark until you are 18. If you are underage, you need parental signoff and have strict hours. Job options for minors are typically limited to grocery stores, delivering newspapers, agriculture or childcare. 

I really appreciate being a part of the Danish system. I will happily pay my 48% income tax because I see that my money goes towards healthcare for everyone, subsidized school costs, transportation and more. 

The country’s dedication to worker’s rights adds to my overall quality of life here, and I like knowing that my contribution helps take care of others.

Brooke Black is a storyteller with a journalism degree who has had a long career in entertainment and tech PR. After many years spent in New York, London, and Los Angeles, she relocated to the idyllic Danish countryside, where she lived in a 1722 farmhouse in a tight-knit community surrounded by Scottish Highland cows. She currently resides in Copenhagen with her Danish husband and two young daughters, and shares about her experiences living abroad on Instagram and TikTok.

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I grew up in Italy and studied longevity for 35 years—the No. 1 way to eat for a long, healthy life

Valter Longo has been studying longevity in Italy for nearly 20 years, but having grown up in regions like Molochio, Calabria, he would say he’s been interested in how to live longer basically all of his life.

In 1989, Longo officially started researching what it takes to make it to age 100 and beyond. Now, he’s the director of the Longevity and Cancer Laboratory at the IFOM Institute of Molecular Oncology in Milan, Italy.

Longo is also the director of the Longevity Institute of the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California-Los Angeles.

Italy is the perfect place for Longo’s work, as its home to several areas where people live longer than most including Sardinia, which is the one of the first regions longevity researcher Dan Buettner designated as a “Blue Zone.”

One of Longo’s biggest takeaways in his studies is that “diet is by far the most important.”

Here’s what Longo says is the best way to eat for longevity.

The longevity diet I follow

“I recommend what I call the longevity diet, which takes from lots of different things,” Longo tells CNBC Make it. “Both the Okinawa diet and the Mediterranean diet.”

Ideally, the longevity diet that Longo suggests will follow these characteristics:

  • Mostly vegan
  • Relatively low fruit intake, but high vegetable intake
  • Legumes
  • Tree nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Fish three or four times a week

From ages 20 to 70, he also recommends that people eat “no red meat, no white meat, maybe two, three eggs a week, at most, very little cheese [and] very little animal-based products.”

The 5 problematic Ps I avoid

There are foods that Longo suggests limiting — he calls them the five problematic Ps.

They include:

  1. Potatoes
  2. Pasta
  3. Pizza
  4. Protein
  5. Pane (bread)

“I think they’re very good ingredients. They just happen to be problematic,” he says, “because people just eat tons of it, and they become sugar very quickly, almost as quickly as table sugar.”

Longo also believes that fasting in a safe way contributes to longevity — “I recommended 12 hours of fasting daily. Let’s say you eat between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. [or] 7 a.m. [and] 7 p.m.” — and is a proponent of periodically implementing a fasting-mimicking diet for five days at a time.

The fasting-mimicking diet involves eating a diet “high in unsaturated fats and low in overall calories, protein and carbohydrates,” according to the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.

A recent study published in the journal Nature Communications (in which Longo was a senior author) found that the health of mice — adhering to the fasting-mimicking diet — was associated with reduced biological age and a lower risk of developing diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart conditions.

Longo says, “Those periods of fasting were probably key to maintaining functionality and staying younger.”

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