Fears vary widely, but there are some constants. Death. Losing
a family member. And, it turns out, finances.
In a society where money is a pathway to both success and
failure, financial fears are almost inescapable.
"Money fears touch upon every one of our deepest
psychological needs as a human being, those being: to love and be
loved, to experience fun and enjoyment, to want freedom and to
experience some degree of power over our lives," said Leisa
Peterson, CFP. "Not all things we deal with in life touch upon
every single one of these core psychological needs, but money
does. This means that when money problems comes up, we
are forced to consider every aspect of our lives falling apart
instead of just one or two. It is all subconscious but it is
To gauge just how pervasive financial fears are,
GOBankingRates conducted a Survata poll
to find out what worries Americans most. While the most
common fear among respondents was losing a family member,
financial fears comprised 66 percent of answers overall, even
though they only made up two-fifths of the response options.
What's more, financial fears beat out the ultimate phobia:
More people said they were scared of living paycheck to paycheck,
falling into debt or becoming homeless than death.
What are Americans' biggest financial fears?
Boomers fear never getting out of debt; millennials fear
GOBankingRates also polled respondents on their biggest financial
fears , their most dreaded financial chores and how often they
worry about money.
A few key findings:
- A fear of unemployment was most common among respondents
ages 18 to 24, who fall into the millennial generation -- and
no wonder, given how high the unemployment rate is for this age
bracket. According to August 2014 data from the Bureau of Labor
Statistics, the unemployment rate is 17.1 percent for 18- to
19-year-olds and 10.6 percent for 20- to 24-year-olds.
- Respondents ages 45 and up -- most of them baby boomers --
named never being able to get out of debt as their biggest
financial fear, even though this is the generation that should
be either planning for retirement or already retired.
- When it comes to their most dreaded financial chore, most
Americans chose paying their bills, followed by asking people
to pay them back. Those ages 45 to 54 and 65 and up dreaded
this financial chore the most, at 33 percent and 31 percent of
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How often are Americans worrying about money?
Perhaps one of the most startling statistics, however, deals with
how often people worry about money ; one in three respondents
worry about their finances "all the time."
Those in debt are constantly paying for that fact; that's
likely why respondents who said they worried about money "all the
time" were more likely to name never getting out of debt as their
biggest financial fear, at one in three respondents.
Why are people so worried about money?
Yes, money is required to pay for basic necessities -- that's an
easy explanation for why financial fears loom so prominently in
our lives. But there's also a combination of economic, societal,
emotional and psychological stressors that keep us thinking about
First of all, our
create a constant feedback loop: Financial mishaps reap
immediate penalties, whereas those who make the right money moves
build strong credit histories, save more, and are rewarded with
better interest rates
and banking products.
"People have significant money stress not because of a lack of
resources, but rather because of poor financial goals," said
Jason Tate, a chartered financial consultant. "Research shows
that people spend more time planning their vacations than their
While some aspects of financial security are in an
individual's control, like the initiative to create a budget,
other situations, like being in debt, can be incredibly difficult
to alter, especially without the right
. Those who find themselves in debt are constantly watching every
penny because they are systematically prevented from attaining
financial stability. This is how the rich increase their wealth
and escape the middle class, while those saddled with debt fall
out of it.
Money controls our comfort and basic ability to live; without
it, the lack of freedom and control over our livelihood could
become a source of acute psychological distress.
"A fear of heights, spiders, snakes, crime, etc., can be
avoided, prevented or at least addressed in advance in some way,"
said R. Joseph Ritter Jr., CFP(r). "If a situation does arise,
the fear is temporary. It is not like this with money. A person
who is genuinely struggling with money problems must deal
with financial fear and worry from the moment he or she
wakes up until going to bed, day in and day out. After weeks and
months of living this way, it wears on a person's emotional
well-being and affects many areas of their lives."
Money is a bigger source of stress than death because death is
an abstract concept; we're aware that it will occur but we don't
know when -- or what's on the other side. We know, however,
exactly how painful financial turmoil will be; after all, it robs
us of the things we want and need. We've learned this from our
banking system, which penalizes and rewards individuals based on
their ability to meet obligations.
It's actually not surprising at all that money is such a
source of crippling fear and anxiety; we're aware of all that it
gives us, from that
latte to the ability to finance our dream homes. Especially
lately, we know about the financial hole we could easily fall
into -- and we're wary of how the system will hinder us from
reaching financial stability once we fall.
GOBankingRates conducted a
survey from Aug. 26 to 29, 2014. The total number of
respondents was 1,021. Question No. 1, regarding respondents'
three biggest fears, required three responses per individual,
while all other questions asked respondents to select just one
This article originally appeared on
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