Survey Reveals Americans’ Biggest Money Fears in 2017

Living paycheck to paycheck or never being able to retire — what's the biggest money fear in the U.S.?

It’s safe to say many Americans worry about money. In fact, GOBankingRates found in its 2015 Life + Money survey that one in four Americans thinks about money daily. That survey also found that respondents’ biggest financial fear was always living paycheck to paycheck.

But Americans have a bigger money fear in 2017.

In our new survey on financial fears, we asked more than 2,500 Americans: “What is your biggest money fear?” Respondents could choose from the following answer choices:

  • Never being able to retire
  • Always living paycheck to paycheck
  • Living in debt forever
  • Losing my job
  • Losing all of my money in the stock market
  • Never being able to afford a home
  • Always having a low credit score

Keep reading to discover the biggest financial fear in the U.S. 

Americans’ Biggest Money Fears: Overall Results

Based on respondents’ answers, GOBankingRates found that the biggest financial fear among Americans is “never being able to retire,” followed by “always living paycheck to paycheck” and “living in debt forever.” Here are the highlights from the survey:

  • 22% of Americans chose “never being able to retire” as their biggest money fear.
  • 20% are most afraid of always living paycheck to paycheck.
  • 18% are most afraid of living in debt forever.
  • 16% are most afraid of losing their jobs.
  • 11% are most afraid of losing all their money in the stock market.
  • 8% are most afraid of never being able to afford a home.
  • 4% are most afraid of always having a low credit score.

For deeper insights into Americans’ biggest money fears broken down by gender, age and regions within the U.S., take a look at the following tables below.

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Americans’ Biggest Money Fears: Gender Insights

Our survey found that men and women have different financial fears. The top three financial fears among both genders are:

Men’s Biggest
Financial Fears

Women’s Biggest
Financial Fears
1. Never being able to retire1. Always living paycheck to paycheck
2. Always living paycheck to paycheck/living in debt forever/losing my job2. Never being able to retire
3. Losing all of my money in the stock market3. Living in debt forever

 

Here’s a complete breakdown of both genders’ responses to the question, “What is your biggest money fear?”

 

Answers

MalesFemales
Never being able to retire23%20%
Always living paycheck to paycheck17%25%
Living in debt forever17%18%
Losing my job17%15%
Losing all of my money in the stock market14%9%
Never being able to afford a home7%8%
Always having a low credit score5%

5%

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Americans’ Biggest Money Fears: Age Insights

The 2017 Money Fears survey also revealed the biggest financial fears among different age groups, including:

  • Ages 18-24 (younger millennials)
  • Ages 25-34 (older millennials)
  • Ages 35-44 (younger Gen Xers)
  • Ages 45-54 (older Gen Xers)
  • Ages 55-64 (baby boomers)
  • Ages 65+ (seniors)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey discovered that the biggest money fears vary by age — and some don’t. For example, older millennials, older Gen Xers and baby boomers all share their No. 1 financial fear: never being able to retire. Meanwhile, younger millennials and younger Gen Xers fear always living paycheck to paycheck the most.

In addition to never being able to retire, older millennials equally fear living in debt forever. Seniors are the only age group that chose “losing all of my money in the stock market” as their biggest money fear.

For a complete breakdown on how each age group responded to the survey, see the table below.

Answers18-2425-3435-4445-5455-6465+
Never being able to retire16%20%21%25%27%20%
Always living paycheck to paycheck25%19%24%17%18%21%
Living in debt forever22%20%18%16%13%17%
Losing my job15%18%18%18%14%8%
Losing all of my money in the stock market5%8%6%13%17%26%
Never being able to afford a home13%9%8%6%6%4%
Always having a low credit score4%5%6%4%4%4%

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Americans’ Biggest Money Fears: Regional Insights

You might assume Americans’ financial fears would vary across the country, but that isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, all four regions in the U.S. have the same top three money fears: never being able to retire, always living paycheck to paycheck and living in debt forever.

However, it’s worth noting that the No. 1 financial fear among residents in the Northeast differs from the biggest fears in the West, Midwest and South. Living in debt forever is the biggest money fear in the Northeast, while never being able to retire is the biggest financial fear in the rest of the country.

Here’s a look at the biggest money fears by region:

AnswersWestMidwestSouthNortheast
Never being able to retire21%21%23%20%
Always living paycheck to paycheck19%21%23%17%
Living in debt forever16%18%17%22%
Losing my job15%17%15%14%
Losing all of my money in the stock market13%10%11%14%
Never being able to afford a home9%8%7%8%
Always having a low credit score6%5%4%4%

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