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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

We here in the Heartland like to think of ourselves as hardworking, salt-of-the-earth folks.

The Midwestern work ethic is a legendary thing that people from across the country marvel at.

In fact, Lincoln has ranked as the third-hardest working city in back-to-back years in an annual survey done by SmartAsset, a personal finance website.

But a recent survey from another personal finance site goes against that commonly held belief.

WalletHub last month released its list of "2018’s Hardest-Working Cities in America," and Lincoln is nowhere to be found in the top 10, top 20 or even top 50.

In fact, Lincoln ranked 89th out of the 116 cities included on the list.

The WalletHub ranking gives heavy weight to number of hours worked and puts less emphasis on factors such as unemployment rate and commute times, which are areas where Lincoln ranks highly.

If you look at the list, most of the top cities are expensive metros such as San Francisco, Washington, New York, Boston and Chicago. Those are the kind of places where people may have to work long hours and work more than one job to make ends meet.

By comparison, many Midwestern cities that are more affordable are way down on the list. For example, Des Moines ranks 86th, Sioux Falls is 98th and Wichita is 103rd. Omaha is one of the harder-working cities in the region, according to WalletHub, coming in at 64th. To see the full report, go to:

Where not to retire

After a life of hard work, whether it be in hard-working San Francisco or more leisurely Lincoln, you probably will want to retire at some point.

According to another report from another personal finance website, you won't want to retire in Nebraska.

The report released last month by GoBankingRates ranks Nebraska dead last when it comes to tax burden for retirees.

The website said its study analyzed several factors, including state taxes on Social Security benefits, sales taxes, income taxes and property taxes.

It did not specifically explain its rankings, but Nebraska is one of a handful of states that tax Social Security income, and it also has fairly high property taxes with few exemptions for seniors.

Nagging about Nelnet

When Nelnet completed its $150 million purchase last month of Great Lakes Educational Loan Services Inc. from Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation, it became the largest servicer of federal student loans, with more than 40 percent of the total outstanding.

At least one media outlet, MarketWatch, suggested that's a bad thing, largely because of Nelnet's somewhat checkered history in the student loan space. The company was involved in a few scandals under the previous loan program, which involved private lenders issuing loans with government backing.

Since the federal government took over the responsibility for lending, Nelnet has had a much better track record. In fact, it routinely ranks No. 1 or No. 2 among servicers for borrower satisfaction.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently released its 2017 database of student loan complaints, which showed that Navient, which prior to Nelnet and Great Lakes combining was the larger servicer, had a disproportionate share of complaints.

Navient accounted for 63 percent of all federal and private student loan complaints last year. The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Authority came in a distant second at nearly 12 percent of all complaints. Nelnet was an even more distant third at 4.6 percent and Great Lakes was fourth at a little more than 2 percent.

Those four companies are considered the "Big Four" of the federal servicing companies.

So, essentially, the company with more than 40 percent of the loans had fewer than 7 percent of the complaints.

That seems like a pretty decent track record and maybe a sign that borrowers won't be any worse off than they were before the merger.

List of lists

I often use this column to give an update on recent national rankings that Lincoln and/or Nebraska have made, and this time is no exception. Here are some of the recent accolades:

* Top up-and-coming tech hot spot (Lincoln and Omaha), Livability

* Fifth-best city to raise a family in 2018, SmartAsset

* Seventh-best state, U.S. News & World Report)

Best of the Buzz

Excerpts from recent Biz Buzz posts:

* Chocolatier Blue, the gourmet chocolate shop in Pioneer Woods Shopping Center at 70th and Pioneers Boulevard, closed recently.

A sign on the door says, "This Chocolatier Blue location has closed" and it directs people to the website for the store in Berkeley, California.

* A sign is up at the former smoke shop/gas station at 33rd and O streets saying it will be a Godfather's Pizza. The site has been undergoing remodeling for a few months.

* According to a building permit, another pizza place is being planned in the newer retail building at 4810 Pioneers Boulevard that houses Colby Ridge and LaMar's Donuts. No name was listed on the building permit.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.


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