Americans Are Stressed About Money — And This Is the No. 1 Reason Why

Are these money worries keeping you up at night?

Are money worries keeping you up at night? You’re not alone. A GOBankingRates survey found that a quarter of Americans are worried about their finances this year.

In the survey, we asked 1,000 Americans a series of questions to get a sense of what financial worries they have — and the goals they want to achieve in 2019. The results show that despite a booming economy and low unemployment rates, plenty of Americans are still concerned about their finances.

Click to See: The No. 1 Cause of Financial Stress in Every State

Biggest Money Worries: A Quarter of Americans Are Worried They Won’t Have Enough to Get By

About one in four people polled responded that they’re worried about their finances in the coming year. And even that belies people’s worries as the 13-17 age group — many of whom are probably still living at home and attending high school — only had about one in 10 say they were worried about money. For people aged 35-44 and 55-64, one in three people revealed concerns about the state of their financial lives.

Make Your Money Work for You

“It’s surprising that only a quarter of respondents are worried about their finances in 2019 because other GOBankingRates surveys have found nearly half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, and 58 percent have less than $1,000 in savings,” said Cameron Huddleston, personal finance expert and GOBankingRates’ Life + Money columnist. “It could mean that people feel confident about their financial situation despite any challenges they might be facing. But it also could suggest that many Americans might not even realize they’re in trouble financially.”

Women, meanwhile, are definitely more concerned about the issue than men. Some 29 percent of women answered that they’re concerned about their finances compared to just 22 percent for men.

Which Americans Are the Most Worried About Their Finances in 2019?

Age/Gender % of Respondents Who Are Worried
Ages 13-17 9%
Ages 18-24 26%
Ages 25-34 29%
Ages 35-44 33%
Ages 45-54 30%
Ages 55-64 32%
Ages 65 and Over 25%
Men 22%
Women 29%

For those Americans who are worried about their finances, worrying about having enough money to get by is the most common response from those polled — overall and in each individual age group save for 55-64, where rising healthcare costs edged it out by a single percentage point. Worrying about not having enough to get by was most common for those in the 25-34 age group at 40 percent, but at least about one in three people or more cited the issue as a concern in each of the other groups.

Make Your Money Work for You

Americans’ Biggest Financial Worries for 2019, by Age and Gender

Falling Into Debt Not Having Enough Money to Get By Losing a Job Losing a House, Car or Other Major Asset Losing Money in the Stock Market Rising Healthcare Costs Having to Pay More in Taxes Other
Ages 13-17 8% 30% 12% 11% 7% 7% 12% 3%
Ages 18-24 24% 34% 14% 7% 7% 12% 12% 2%
Ages 25-34 32% 40% 16% 14% 6% 26% 25% 1%
Ages 35-44 29% 39% 13% 11% 7% 25% 17% 3%
Ages 45-54 28% 39% 18% 8% 11% 37% 21% 2%
Ages 55-64 21% 34% 8% 8% 16% 35% 16% 4%
Ages 65 and Over 19% 31% 5% 5% 8% 24% 17% 2%
Men 20% 29% 13% 7% 9% 19% 15% 2%
Women 26% 41% 12% 12% 7% 25% 19% 3%
Survey respondents could select all that apply.

Rising healthcare costs were also a major concern. The 55-64 age group had that as its most common response, but they were actually the second-highest response rate for that answer with the 45-54 age group coming back with 37 percent of respondents saying they were worried about the cost of healthcare.

Worries about debt and healthcare costs were indirectly related, as young adults were more concerned with debt, giving way to worries about healthcare being more prominent among older adults. About one in three Americans aged 25-34 cited going into debt as a concern, but that rate decreased in each older group. Healthcare cost worries increased, though, with each age group up to the 45-54 group, then decreased only slightly for 55-64 before dropping to 24 percent for those 65 and over — probably a function of the availability of Medicare to senior citizens.

Make Your Money Work for You

Focusing on gender, women were markedly more concerned about finding a way to make ends meet, with worries about finding money to get by being cited by 41 percent of respondents compared to a rate of just 29 percent among men. The only other category with such a notable gap was concerns about rising healthcare costs, where 25 percent of women are worried compared to just 19 percent of men.

Find Out: Here’s Why Americans in Every State Can’t Save More Money

Top Financial Goals: More Than One-Third of Americans Want to Save More Money

As for what Americans are planning on changing in regard to their finances in 2019, the most common response was both simple and direct: save more money. Over one in three respondents said saving more money was their financial resolution for the new year.

“One of the easiest ways to actually stick to this resolution is to automate savings,” Huddleston said. “Have contributions to a retirement account automatically deducted from your paycheck — or increase the amount you’re saving — so that the money gets set aside before you have a chance to spend it. Also set up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account to a savings account to build an emergency fund — or have a portion of your paycheck deposited in a savings account.”

Make Your Money Work for You

Saving more money was definitely a much more common answer for younger people, as about half of respondents under the age of 34 included that as their planned resolution. Paying down debt, meanwhile, is not a major concern the 13-17 age group — as one might hope — but it jumps to 20 percent for the 18-24 age group and is about 30 percent for each older bracket save for those aged 65 or over.

Americans’ Financial New Year’s Resolutions for 2019, by Age and Gender

Save More Money Pay Off Debt Invest More Buy a House Find a New Job/Increase My Income Put More Money Toward Retirement Stick to a Monthly Budget Other
Ages 13-17 47% 5% 11% 7% 15% 4% 11% 4%
Ages 18-24 44% 20% 10% 5% 18% 4% 24% 1%
Ages 25-34 50% 30% 14% 14% 28% 11% 21% 1%
Ages 35-44 32% 33% 14% 14% 17% 12% 17% 0%
Ages 45-54 30% 28% 7% 9% 17% 14% 14% 4%
Ages 55-64 23% 29% 8% 2% 7% 13% 17% 2%
Ages 65 and Over 18% 21% 4% 8% 1% 8% 18% 1%
Men 28% 23% 9% 9% 13% 10% 14% 2%
Women 44% 23% 10% 8% 17% 9% 21% 2%
Figures represent percentage of respondents who chose each answer option for the question, “What will be your financial New Year’s resolution(s) for 2019?” Survey respondents could select all that apply.

For women, though, saving more money is a much higher priority as a New Year’s resolution than it is for men. Some 44 percent of women said that was their planned resolution compared to just 28 percent of men. Much of that gap, though, appears to be made up of men who don’t see a need to make a resolution: 37 percent of men said they wouldn’t be making a financial resolution for the new year compared to just 24 percent of women.

Americans Want to Save More Than $26,000 in 2019

But how much are people planning to save for the new year? The average savings goal in the survey was just over $26,000 — an impressive figure given that the national median salary is just $55,322.

Much of that is driven by a number from younger Americans that is most likely wildly optimistic. The average savings goal of those aged 13-17 — a group where one would expect full-time work to be relatively rare — was a whopping $39,221. That figure doesn’t fall far for young adults, though. Each age group through age 44 gave an average savings goal of at least $30,000 for 2019, dropping to just over $25,000 for ages 45-54 before falling below $10,000 for those 55 and older.

Americans’ 2019 Savings Goals, by Age and Gender

Age/Gender Average Savings Goal
Ages 13-17 $39,221
Ages 18-24 $33,315
Ages 25-34 $30,869
Ages 35-44 $33,515
Ages 45-54 $25,177
Ages 55-64 $6,604
Ages 65 and Over $7,077
Men $30,984
Women $21,421

At the end of the day, though, those figures are probably unrealistic. For starters, based on the 50-30-20 budget rule that allocates 20 percent of your income to savings, you would need to be making $130,000 a year after taxes to hit a savings goal of $26,000 in 2019. What’s more, previous GOBankingRates surveys have found that — regardless of what people are hoping to accomplish — the reality when it comes to saving money isn’t nearly as good. For example, the 2018 retirement survey found that some 42 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement.

Make Your Money Work for You

Saving Money Is a More Popular Goal Than Finding Love, Traveling and More

So how does putting away more of your income rate as a New Year’s resolution? Highly.

The GOBankingRates survey also asked respondents to name their lifestyle New Year’s resolutions, such as traveling, finding love and exploring a new hobby. More than one-third of respondents said they are resolving to get in shape, and about one-quarter said they plan to spend more time with family and friends.

But when comparing the percentage of people who chose financial resolutions versus lifestyle resolutions, the survey found some financial goals outweighed the lifestyle goals. For example, a higher percentage of respondents said they wanted to save more money than said that they wanted to learn a new skill or hobby, quit a bad or unhealthy habit or even find love.

Saving Money vs. Lifestyle New Year’s Resolutions

2019 New Year’s Resolutions % of Respondents Who Chose This Resolution
Save More Money 36%
Donate or Volunteer More 8%
Find Love 12%
Travel More 17%
Quit a Bad or Unhealthy Habit 19%
Explore a New Skill or Hobby 20%
Spend More Time With Family and Friends 24%
Get in Shape/Eat Healthier 37%
Survey respondents could select more than one answer choice.

Getting in shape/eating healthier was the only resolution with a higher response rate than saving more money, and it just edged it out at 37 percent of responses to 36 percent.

Accomplishing Your Financial Goals Is Easier Than You Think

The fact that so many people have major concerns about their financial picture might come as a relief to many who were worried that they were alone, however, the other good news is that some simple strategies can make saving more money an easy resolution to meet.

“One of the best things Americans can do to ease their financial worries is to get a clear picture of where they stand financially,” Huddleston said. Drawing up a budget or, as Huddleston suggests, simply figuring out how much debt you have can greatly ease financial tension as you’ll be able to create a plan to improve your finances. “Think of it like taking a cross-country trip. You have a much better chance of getting to where you want to go if you have a map or directions to guide you.” 

There’s also an abundance of solid budgeting apps you can access that make tracking your spending and expenses simple. Apps like Chime or Qapital can set up regular, automatic transfers to savings and don’t require any action on your part. You can even use investing apps like Stash or Acorns to turn those recurring automatic donations into investments in stocks or bonds.

Meanwhile, a separate GOBankingRates survey found that a quarter of Americans are confident they’ll be rich one day, but many of them aren’t taking the necessary steps to get there.

More on Americans’ Finances

Methodology: This survey was commissioned by GOBankingRates and conducted by Survata. Survata interviewed 1,002 online respondents between Nov. 16, 2018, and Nov. 19, 2018. Respondents were asked the following questions: 1)  What will be your financial New Year’s resolution(s) for 2019? Select all that apply. 2) What will be your lifestyle New Year’s resolution(s) for 2019? Select all that apply. 3) For this upcoming New Year, is it more important for you to stick to your financial goals or your lifestyle goals? 4) What is your overall target savings goal for 2019? 5) Are you worried about your personal finances in 2019? 6) Which of the following worries you when it comes to your finances in 2019? Select all that apply.

Share this article:

facebook sharing button
twitter sharing button
linkedin sharing button
email sharing button

About the Author

Joel Anderson

Joel Anderson is a business and finance writer with over a decade of experience writing about the wide world of finance. Based in Los Angeles, he specializes in writing about the financial markets, stocks, macroeconomic concepts and focuses on helping make complex financial concepts digestible for the retail investor.

Read More


See Today's Best
Banking Offers