Photo (cc) by Freddie Peña
Last Monday was April Fools’ Day, but it was also the kickoff of Financial Literacy Month.
Now in its seventh year, the survey asks Americans about their personal finance habits, hopes, fears, and dreams.
“This year’s survey results provided somewhat of a mixed message,” says Susan C. Keating, president and CEO of the NFCC. “More than one in four consumers indicated they are spending more than last year, yet 77 percent admitted to having financial worries, listing insufficient savings as their top financial concern.”
Could Americans be digging themselves back into the same hole they were in when the recession started? Keating is concerned…
“While consumers moving out of recession mode and becoming more comfortable with spending is positive for the nation’s economy, they need to be mindful of the fact that increasing spending without a safety net in the form of savings could have a negative impact on their personal economy.”
If money fears have you staring at the ceiling at night, check out the following video from Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson, then read on for more…
The 2013 Financial Literacy Survey polled 2,037 adults about their biggest financial fears. Here’s a list of the top half-dozen, followed by potential solutions.
1. Fear: Not enough savings
While 57 percent said they’re worried about not having enough savings, the other data is a glass-half-empty-or-full situation: 43 percent said they didn’t have a big enough “rainy day” fund, while 38 percent said they haven’t saved enough for retirement.
But you could look at that the other way – 47 percent think they do have enough in their emergency fund, while 62 percent think they have a solid retirement plan. Still, if you’re in the hurting half, what do you do?
Solution: Automate. Take your discipline (or lack thereof) completely out of the equation by automating your savings. Save before you see the money by transferring it automatically from every paycheck into savings, either regular or retirement.
2. Fear: Not being able to pay financial obligations
Americans are worried about paying off their credit cards (13 percent), student loans (8 percent), car loans (7 percent), and medical bills (6 percent).
“A total of 26 percent of U.S. adults, or roughly 61 million people, were worried about servicing their debt commitments,” the survey extrapolates.
Solution: Divide and conquer. As Stacy said in the video, make a list of all your debts. Then target one for destruction, focusing every dime you can find on it until it’s dust. Then move down the line to the next one. On debt two, use every dime you can find, plus the old payment from debt one.
Using old payments to help eliminate debts is called snowballing, and it’s a tried and true technique. Read more about the specifics in What’s the Single Best Way to Pay Down Debt?
3. Fear: Health insurance
“One in four U.S. adults (25 percent) are worried about health insurance,” the survey said. And that covers not being able to comfortably afford it (19 percent) and/or not having it at all (17 percent).
Solution: Do the best you can. Everyone needs health insurance, so set aside some time to investigate your options. If you need to pay less, read 7 Tips to Pay Less for Health Insurance. If you can’t afford it at all, read Can’t Afford Health Insurance? Here’s What to Do.
4. Fear: Credit
The interesting news here wasn’t that 19 percent “were worried about their credit score and/or lack of access to credit overall,” but that 65 percent of adults haven’t reviewed their credit report in the past year and 60 percent haven’t checked their credit score.
Solution: Knowledge is power. To see your credit history free, go to annualcreditreport.com. Credit scores aren’t typically available without cost, but where there’s a will, there’s a way: Check out Where Can I Get a Free Credit Score? And don’t worry about your credit score; do what you can to make sure it’s accurate, pay your bills on time, and wait. Time heals all wounds.
5. Fear: Job loss
“More than 42 million Americans indicated fear of job loss as a major concern,” says the report, based on 18 percent of respondents expressing this fear.
Solution: Keep your eyes and ears open. The trick to alleviating the fear of unemployment is ABL: Always be looking. Keep your resume updated, your networking skills sharp, and your fingers on the pulse of the job market. These days, that’s easier than ever. Check out Job Hunters: 4 Tips on Using Social Media.
6. Fear: Foreclosure
Pulling up the rear, only 4 percent of Americans are worried about losing their home to foreclosure – “undoubtedly a positive signal for the housing industry and the economy as a whole.”
Solution: Never surrender. It’s easy to give up the fight and your keys. But you have rights. Ask questions and seek help; here’s a good start: Facing Foreclosure? Turn the Tables on Your Bank.
What – me worry?
One final conclusion: The survey revealed 20 percent of adults claimed to have no financial worries at all. The authors declare that “a strong sign of consumer confidence.” But there are always people who are well off, as well as those centered enough not to fret over things they can’t control.
Want to join their ranks? Read The 10 Commandments of Wealth and Happiness.