New year, same stress: Americans spend 3 weeks worrying about money each year

NEW YORK — Living paycheck to paycheck can be stressful to say the least. Now, a new poll finds Americans with limited savings stress about their finances for nearly an entire work month each year — that’s nearly 19 days!

The survey of 2,000 U.S. adults with less than two months of liquid savings or assets on hand found that while their finances are often top of mind, a third (33%) feel paralyzed to act when a financial disruption occurs. The most common disruptions that make people feel paralyzed include an unexpected bill or expense (55%), medical emergency (52%), cost of living increases (44%), increase in loan payments (37%), or losing a job (36%). 

Financial tasks take up a lot of time in an average month, with about a quarter of respondents devoting one full week per month to budgeting, checking their bank account balance, and reviewing their credit transactions. Commissioned by Best Egg and conducted by OnePoll for Financial Wellness Month, the survey also found a whopping 77 percent of respondents say they carry the mental load of their finances for their household.

Forty-six percent find it difficult to balance their financial wellness and other priorities — especially Gen Z (53%). Those priorities include spending time with friends (41%) and family (40%), as well as their mental well-being (39%) and day job (39%).

It’s no surprise, then, that people’s hobbies (46%), personal relationships (44%), and sleep patterns (41%) have all been affected by their unique financial situations.

Additionally, the data looked at how people define financial wellness and financial confidence, and what they need to support them in their journey to becoming money confident. Respondents characterized financial wellness as being able to pay their bills on time (50%), maintaining good credit (47%), and being able to afford necessities (47%).

Other definitions included ​​not having any debt (46%), having an emergency fund (45%), being able to save for retirement (42%), and being able to save for their children’s education (42%).

When it comes to financial confidence, though, most said it’s about feeling prepared for unexpected expenses (54%), knowing how to make the right decision when it comes to money (53%) and understanding their financial situation and goals (52%). However, only 57 percent rated their current level of financial confidence as “high.”

woman paying bills money
(Credit: Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels)

“The keys to financial confidence are having knowledge, control and security about your finances so you feel prepared to handle the financial challenges that may come your way,” says Bobby Ritterbeck, President of Best Egg, in a statement. “When people have the right tools to take control of their finances, their budget gets some room to breathe, empowering them to continue working on their short and long-term financial goals.”

While people are most likely to devote their time to managing their finances after paying their bills (50%), their financial stress typically peaks at the end of the month (24%). Thankfully, 85 percent feel they have support from their family to help with financial stress

However, this sentiment differs by generation, as younger age groups, especially millennials (90%), were far more likely to feel their family has their back compared to baby boomers (60%). When a financial disruption occurs, nearly a third (32%) will tap into their savings, with 28 percent asking family for assistance and only 10 percent considering loan options.

“Everyone’s financial situation is different. Finding the right product that supports your financial needs will help you make smart financial decisions and be money confident,” Ritterbeck says.

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 U.S. adults with limited savings (defined as having less than two months of liquid savings or assets on hand) was commissioned by Best Egg between Nov. 20 and Nov. 23, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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