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America’s Biggest Financial Fears

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Bats and spiders may give us the willies, but do you know what kind of worries have staying power — and will last much longer than the hauls of candy little goblins and ghosts hope to bring home on Halloween? The boogeyman most of us fear is money, according to the latest Country Financial Security Index.

And the biggest among our financial fears is that we won’t have enough money to retire comfortably. More than one in four (28%) people surveyed said they worry about having enough money for a comfortable retirement. Interestingly, the people who were most worried were those who had the most education and the highest income. Although 41% of people between 50 and 64 were worried about it, 43% of respondents with an income of between $100,000 and $175,000 were.

The second-biggest worry was being able to afford healthcare, a fear shared by 18% of respondents, although as people age, their concern grows; 42% of people 65 or older said they were afraid of healthcare costs. Overall, only about 6% of respondents were worried about credit card debt, something we found heartening. That suggests that more people feel in control of their finances, and are confident that they are using credit wisely. The cost of credit can vary widely, depending on your perceived creditworthiness, and over a lifetime it can vary by tens of thousands of dollars (or more).

But we’re not about to reveal our credit scores, which many lenders or card issuers use in deciding whether to extend credit. Just 15% of respondents would prefer to divulge their credit score rather than the candidate they voted for in an election. But our reluctance to reveal personal information isn’t such a bad thing. About two-thirds of fear that our personal data will wind up in the wrong hands, and that’s a healthy, realistic fear. (Security experts recommend checking your financial account transactions daily. It is also smart to take a regular look at your credit scores — which you can do for free at Credit.com — because an unexplained change can alert you to potential identity theft or fraud.)

Other interesting findings:

  • About a third of us feel pressure to succeed financially or to appear to do so. Yes, we still feel peer pressure, and people who have children (43%) feel it most acutely.
  • Respondents under 30 (18%) were most likely to be worried about keeping a roof over their heads.
  • About one in 10 of us is worried about losing a job.

In other words, sometimes we worry about things we can’t control. But the survey said nearly half of us (47%) do not keep track of our discretionary spending at all. That’s something that, to a great extent, we can control. And there is no better time than now. Holiday “discretionary spending” is around the corner, and keeping track is a good way to keep bills for purchases we forgot about from haunting us in January.

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