NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -
New Jersey residents have the biggest nest eggs in the nation, while Mississippi residents have the smallest, according to an index compiled by retail stock broker A.G. Edwards.
The index measured a dozen statistical factors -- including participation in retirement savings plans, personal debt levels and home ownership -- to compile what it calls the "Nest Egg Index." The results show the best savings rates are often in regions of the United States with high real estate values and comparatively high incomes, while some of the poorer areas of the country, not surprisingly, have smaller savings.
But two of the largest states with the highest-priced real estate -- New York and California, also have below-average savings, according to the index.
"A number of factors influence how well people are doing at building their nest eggs," said a statement from A.G. Edwards Financial Planning Specialist Sophie Beckmann. "There are external forces involved, such as economic trends and cost of living. But other factors, such as starting early, participating in a retirement plan at work and keeping personal debt low, are based on personal choices that help foster financial security for individuals and families, regardless of where they live."
In addition to ranking the states, the study ranked the 200 metropolitan areas with the best Nest Egg Index scores, although the list found only 136 above the 100 score that represents the national average.
San Jose, Calif, came out with the best score at 128.37, followed closely by three New York City suburbs: Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y., which was No. 2; Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, N.J., which came in at No. 3; and Bergen-Passaic, N.J., which came in at No. 5.
San Francisco came in at No. 4.
The study found that many smaller cities had better scores than many big cities. New York City and Los Angeles did not crack the top 200. While No. 3 Chicago tied for 39th with a score of 108.98, Houston, the nation's No. 4 city in population, barely made the top 200, finishing 199th with a score of 95.73.
"There may be a perception that economic and savings opportunities are more limited in smaller cities," Beckmann said. "But in many of the small markets that scored well on the Nest Egg Index, unemployment is lower than the national average, and participation in savings plans such as 401(k)'s is relatively high," Beckmann said.
For a look at how people are fleeing some higher-priced real estate markets, click here.