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Americans are still freaked about money — and it’s disrupting their lives: survey

Minyoung Park

The Great Recession ended six years ago, but financial anxiety still plagues a majority of US adults who participated in a recent Northwestern Mutual survey.

That February survey of 2,646 adults over 18 found that 85% of American adults experience financial anxiety and 28% of Americans worry about their finances every day. And turns out, it’s only getting worse for those surveyed. Thirty-six percent said their anxiety has gone up in the last three years while only 14% say it has gone down.

"Clearly, the impact of financial anxiety in America today runs extremely deep," Rebekah Barsch, vice president of planning and sales at Northwestern Mutual, said in a prepared statement. "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."

Among those who experienced financial anxiety, 70% said it’s negatively impacting their happiness while 67% said it’s hurting their health.

The top two fears of the financially anxious were experiencing a financial emergency (38%) and getting hit with an unplanned medical expense (34%). These two fears surpassed the 17% of financially anxiou people who worry about losing a job, 15% who are concerned about extended unemployment and 21% who dread outliving their retirement savings.

When people were asked specifically about the sources of their financial anxiety, their answers included the following: unexpected expenses (55%); planned-for financial needs such as saving for retirement (29%); healthcare costs (27%); mortgage/rent expenses (25%); credit card debt (25%); and finally, student loan debt (13%).

This isn’t the first evidence of a high level of anxiety in post-recession America. Last year, a the Pew Charitable Trusts surveyed 7,000 households and determined that "financial worries cloud optimism." Only 21% of those surveyed by Pew were planning to retire and 36% said their houshounds had no savings.

“Our findings show that despite a steady economic recovery, many Americans continue to feel vulnerable,” Erin Currier, director of Pew’s financial security and mobility project, said in a statement when the survey came out in March 2015. “Many worry about their finances, and record numbers — more than 9 in 10 — say it is more important to them to achieve financial stability than it is to move up the income ladder.”

Based on this latest survey from Northwestern, it seems Americans’ money worries aren’t going anyway anytime soon.

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