Americans are anxious about their finances and it is getting worse, according to Northwestern Mutual, a financial and insurance company based in Milwaukee, Wisc.
Eighty-five percent of Americans say they are anxious about their money and 36 percent say the anxiety is getting worse, not better, according to the 2016 Northwestern Mutual Planning and Progress Study of 2,026 adults released Wednesday. One quarter say they worry about finances every day.
All of this worry is affecting more than half of the people’s health, happiness and home lives, according to the study.
“Clearly, the impact of financial anxiety in America today runs extremely deep,” says Rebekah Barsch, vice president of planning and sales at Northwestern Mutual. “This research provides a unique window both on the sheer number of people who say they feel anxiety, and the effect that financial uncertainty can have on everything from day-to-day moods to overall health and happiness.”
“Interestingly, what seems to keep people up at night more than anything else is the unexpected. The top two financial fears, according to American adults, are having an unplanned financial emergency (38 percent) and having an unplanned medical expense due to an illness (34 percent).” she says.
Barsch adds, “There's the sense that people are just staying afloat; that they're meeting their most immediate financial needs, but they're worried about what they can't see or don't expect. They fear the unknown. They don't know how to plan for the unplanned, and they worry that if something unexpected happens, it could have deep and lasting consequences.”
Having financial security could dramatically offset those negative effects, the study says. Eighty-four percent say it would positively impact their happiness, 80 percent say it would help their health and 79 percent say it would positively impact their home life. The most important benefit of financial security would be that it would give them peace of mind so they did not have to worry about day-to-day expenses.
"These findings can be viewed in two ways," said Barsch. "On one hand, they suggest a clear prioritization of values toward health, well-being and taking care of loved ones over pursuing one's own passions and material gain. At the same time, the findings could explain the fact that in the face of consistent and widespread financial stress, nothing's more appealing than simple peace of mind." Barsch says.