Many Marylanders living without a financial safety net
Marylanders on average have the highest income in the country, but when it comes to having a financial cushion in hard times, we're disappointingly mediocre.

If we were in school, our grade would be a C.

That's according to the 2012 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard to be released Tuesday by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, or CFED, a nonprofit research and advocacy group in Washington.

The CFED says one out of five Maryland households have little or no money squirreled away to cover expenses for three months if they lost their jobs. And if you exclude assets that can't easily be turned into cash, such as a house or car, then nearly one-third of Maryland households are living without a safety net.

"If they don't have more assets than that, how can they save for a home they want or to send their kids to school and achieve the American Dream, which is still the hope for most people," says Kasey Wiedrich, senior program manager with the CFED.

Overall, Maryland ranked 19th among the states and the District of Columbia in terms of the financial security of its residents. Vermont ranked No. 1. Georgia came in last.

In 2009, the last time the CFED took a similar financial snapshot, Maryland came in 18th.

"We're not in a terrible place," says Robin McKinney, director of the Maryland CASH Campaign, which partnered with the CFED on the survey. "We do have a lot of strength and a lot of opportunity."

At the same time, she says, for such a wealthy state, we have a high percentage of residents who are "asset-poor."

The CFED, which has been ranking states for about a decade, looked at more than 50 measurements in five key areas. The lower the number, the better.

Maryland, for instance, ranked third in the nation on education, partly because of a high number of college degrees here. That was our only A.

The state came in 15th for business and jobs — a solid B. The average annual pay in the state is $56,757, or about $10,000 more than the national average.

Though the state ranks high by some measures overall, the disparities among minorities or low-income households drive down some of Maryland's scores, Wiedrich says.

In health care, for example, Maryland is 13th in the country for uninsured residents. But the state drops to 46th place for minorities without health insurance and 48th in low-income residents with no coverage, the CFED found. Overall, our health care grade is C.

"Some households in Maryland are doing really well, but the prosperity is not equally shared," Wiedrich says.

Our worst grade was a D in housing and home ownership. We ranked 40th overall in the nation, hurt partly by a lack of affordability, and came in second to last in delinquent mortgages.

But perhaps the most surprising data show how many Marylanders are living on the edge, despite the state's sizable household net worth, which averages $180,899. That's more than double the national average of $70,600.

Yet Maryland came in 45th for credit card debt — an average of $13,145 among those who carry a balance, compared with $10,852 nationally — and 44th in the number of borrowers more than 90 days behind in payments.

"As a state, we could definitely be saving more," McKinney says. "We might be making good money, but we are not as stable as it looks from the outside."