1 in 4 Americans’ No. 1 Daily Thought Is Money, Survey Finds

Recent stock market volatility has highlighted the unique money challenges Americans face today. But the markets are just one of many factors that complicate money management. There’s also the $1.2 trillion in student loan debt Americans carry, plus $11.9 trillion in credit card debt and a retirement savings deficit as high as $14 trillion.

But unlike the high unemployment rates and rough economic times of the Great Recession, some of today’s biggest challenges are ones that Americans can control. The power to solve these issues can be found at the individual level when people make conscientious, smart money choices. GOBankingRates’ 2015 Life + Money Survey provides a clear view into the biggest financial obstacles U.S. residents currently face.

See the 2017 Results: Americans Are Living Their Worst Financial Nightmares, Survey Finds

2015 Life + Money Survey: A Look at Americans’ Biggest Financial Struggles

This survey was conducted over several sessions and collected responses to these questions:

  • What do you think about most?
  • What is your biggest financial fear?
  • What is your biggest financial challenge?

Money is one of the topics on people’s minds the most, which isn’t surprising given that it’s central to everyday life. The most common money fears and challenges also fall in line with daily struggles over money management; Americans are most afraid of always living paycheck to paycheck, while sticking to a budget is the biggest challenge.

Long-term financial concerns also weigh heavily on Americans’ minds. Planning for retirement was almost as common a challenge as sticking to a budget. Further, people fear living in debt forever and never being able to retire nearly as much as always living paycheck to paycheck.

“As our study indicates, money is clearly on the minds of most Americans,” said Cameron Huddleston, Life + Money columnist for GOBankingRates. “Many are finding it challenging to stick to a budget, plan for retirement or take other steps to get their finances under control.”

“That’s why it is so important for people to take the time to educate themselves about personal finance — or even get the help of a financial planner — so that they can overcome these challenges,” Huddleston said.

For full findings of the 2015 Life + Money Survey, click the corresponding links below to download a PDF version of the survey white papers, which include analysis by demographics such as gender, age, income and geography.

2015 Life + Money Survey: What Americans Think About Most

2015 Life and Money Survey What Americans Think About Most Graph

This section of the 2015 Life + Money Survey reveals the most common topics that Americans think about each day — including money. Key highlights include:

  • Money and work are the top concerns of Americans. One in three Americans thinks about one of these topics more than any other topic every day.
  • Americans think about money about the same amount across income groups and genders.
  • Thoughts about money peak among people ages 25 to 44.

Download: What Americans Think About Most (White Paper)

2015 Life + Money Survey: Americans’ Biggest Financial Fears

2015 Life and Money Survey Americans' Biggest Money Fears Graph

This white paper from the survey examines the findings of a survey of Americans’ most common money fears. Findings include:

  • One in five Americans (20 percent) fears always living paycheck to paycheck, the most common fear in the survey. The next biggest fears are living in debt forever (18 percent) and never being able to retire (16 percent).
  • Men are more likely to fear losing their jobs and losing money in the stock market than women, whereas women are more afraid of always living paycheck to paycheck and living in debt forever.
  • Fears tracked closely to life stages. Older Americans are more likely to fear never being able to retire and having their identities stolen, while younger Americans are more afraid of always living paycheck to paycheck and living in debt forever.

Download: Americans’ Biggest Financial Fears (White Paper)

2015 Life + Money Survey: Americans’ Biggest Money Challenges

2015 Life and Money Survey Americans' Biggest Money Challenges Graph

This white paper shows which money challenges affect Americans most. Some of the findings include:

  • Two in five Americans feel their biggest challenges are either sticking to a budget or saving for retirement, with these answers selected almost equally.
  • Men are more challenged by planning for retirement than women, at 20 percent and 17 percent, respectively. Women are more challenged by sticking to a budget, with 22 percent of women giving this answer compared to 20 percent of men.
  • As with fears, the money challenges Americans face closely relate to their age. A third (33 percent) of young millennials (ages 18-24) are most challenged by paying for higher education, while a similar portion (34 percent) of baby boomers (ages 55-64) struggle most with planning for retirement.

Download: Americans’ Biggest Money Challenges (White Paper)

Get Free Money Help With “What’s Next?”

This survey shows that many Americans struggle with overcoming money fears and financial challenges, particularly as they correspond with their current life stage. Getting professional financial advice can be a huge help in creating smart financial plans and working toward realistic money goals. You can get this help for free through GOBankingRates’ “What’s Next” section — request free financial services based on the biggest financial concern you have right now.