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The Top Debt Ceiling Concern: Nothing

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Should Congress fail to reach a debt ceiling agreement and the government defaults on its debt, many Americans are concerned about mortgage rates rising and the potentially negative impact on their salaries and job security, according to a new Credit.com survey.

The survey consisted of two questions — one pertaining to interest rates, the other to personal assets that could be affected by a default — and respondents were asked to choose their greatest worries among several options. The most common answer to both questions: None.

That’s right: Roughly 3 in 10 Americans are not worried about any interest rates rising or any negative impact on their assets in the event of the government defaulting.

The survey, conducted Oct. 11 to 13 by GFK Custom Research for Credit.com, polled a nationally representative sample of 1,000 Americans, ages 18 and older. The resulting data has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Debt Ceiling Worries

Higher Income, More Concerned

Those concerned about mortgage interest rates and their employment were a close second to those who expressed no worries: 25.5% listed rising mortgage rates as a top concern, and 23.8% said they were most worried about risks to their job security. For comparison, 29.6% had no worries about rising interest rates, and 28.1% weren’t concerned about impacts on their personal financial portfolios.

Those with no worries over changes to interest rates or personal finances were most likely to make less than $25,000 a year. In that income bracket, 44.2% weren’t worried about interest rates rising, and 46.6% had no specific anxiety over a default’s effect on their financial portfolio.

However, the higher the income, the more concern about how personal assets would be affected by a default — only 15.9% of Americans with an annual salary of more than $75,000 answered “none” for that question. Respondents in that high-income bracket were also most worried about interest rates, though consumers in the income range of $25,000 to $49,900 were nearly as anxious about rising interest rates.

Age & a Shift in Priorities

The youngest and oldest age groups were least likely to worry about the potential scenarios presented by the survey. While 37.4% of 18- to 24-year-olds had no concerns about rising interest rates, 29.2% said they worried about rising rates for student loans. More than any other age group, Americans 65 years and older said they were worried about a potential spike in credit card interest rates (25%), but 42.4% had no concerns.

For the other age groups (25 to 34, 35 to 49 and 50 to 64), if they were worried about any changes in interest rates, it was most likely over mortgages. The 25- to 34-year olds were most concerned, with 38.1% choosing the answer “mortgage rates” for the first question.

As for worries over the potential impact on personal finances, all age groups except 65 and older were most likely to answer “none” or “salary and job security.” Only 4.2% of older Americans answered with job security, but they were more worried about their investment portfolio than any other age group (35.8% of that age group selected this as their top concern, while 38.2 % weren’t particularly worried about anything).

Many of the age-group trends made sense, as priorities and assets shift over a lifetime. Worry over investments, the ability to retire at a desirable time and potential increases in home equity interest rates tended to be more common among older age groups. Meanwhile, younger Americans were significantly more concerned about their job security, student loan interest rates and personal loan interest rates than older respondents.

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