Money is the number-one thing on people’s mind, according to the survey of 5,003 U.S. adults, with 26% saying they think about it more than anything else. Respondents stressed about everything from identity theft to job loss, but not everyone was equally worried about the same things.
When given a list of seven fears to choose from, men indicated they were more worried than women about never being able to retire, unemployment, or losing everything to a bad investment. Women stressed more about always having to live paycheck to paycheck and being permanently in debt. Younger people had more anxiety about debt while seniors were concerned about identity theft.
“As our study indicates, money is clearly on the minds of most Americans,” said Cameron Huddleston, life and 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.”
Here are men’s top seven financial fears according to GoBankingRates, plus what you can do to combat them.
7. Not being able to afford a home
Some respondents worried that home ownership was permanently out of reach for them. Eight percent of men named never being able to afford a place of their own as their biggest financial fear.
How to fight this fear: Saving aggressively for a down payment is key if you hope to eventually buy a home, as is paying down debt and working to keep your credit score high. Cutting expenses and monetizing your hobbies can help build your nest egg faster. Also, make sure home ownership is the right choice for you, not just a box to tick off on a financial to-do list.
“The decision to own versus rent is very much a lifestyle decision as it is an economic decision,” Hollis Greenlaw, CEO of United Development Funding, told U.S. News & World Report. Realizing that buying isn’t right for you right now can help this fear melt away.
6. Losing everything in the stock market
Investing in stocks can be scary, especially when the market is turbulent, as it has been lately. Eight percent of men said that the possibility of losing everything they’d invested was their biggest financial fear.
How to fight this fear: Educating yourself about how the stock market works will make investing less scary. Diversifying your portfolio, rebalancing as needed, paying attention to costs, and focusing on your goals (not market “noise”) will help make investing a less stressful experience, according to MarketWatch columnist Chuck Jaffe.
5. Being a victim of identity theft
Men and women were equally concerned about identity theft – 14% named it their top worry — but the fear was far more pronounced among older people. Identity theft was the biggest financial fear among adults older than 65. Fewer than 10% of people younger than 34 named it as their number one worry.
How to fight this fear: Whatever your age, take steps to protect your identity both online and in the real world, such as making sure your passwords are secure, being smart about how you use ATMs, and watching out for weird charges on your credit cards. The Federal Trade Commission has more tips on how to protect your identity.
4. Being unemployed
Getting fired or laid off was the worry most on the mind of 17% of respondents. More men than women were worried about job loss, perhaps because they’re still more likely to be their family’s primary breadwinner if they’re married with kids.
How to fight this fear: Having a healthy emergency fund, keeping your skills up to date, maintaining a strong professional network, and even having a side gig can all help you bounce back faster after a job loss.
“A lot of experts now recommend that everyone keep nine months to one year of income in an emergency account in case of job loss,” Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, told Bankrate.
3. Living in debt forever
Seventeen percent of men said never being able to pay off all their debt was their biggest financial worry. Considering that the typical American household has $204,992 in credit card, student loan, and mortgage debt, according to NerdWallet statistics, that’s not an entirely irrational fear.
How to fight this fear: Worrying about debt won’t make it go away. You need a get-out-of-debt plan. We suggest reading this Cheat Sheet interview with Beverly Harzog, author of The Debt Escape Plan, for some ideas about how you can eliminate your debt and get on with your life.
2. Living paycheck to paycheck
Eighteen percent of men named never being able to do more than just scrape by as their biggest financial fear. Living paycheck-to-paycheck was the biggest fear among millennials. Surprisingly, it was also the most common worry among those earning more than $150,000 per year – a sign that money stress doesn’t necessarily evaporate as your income goes up.
How to fight this fear: Poor budgeting and planning are the real cause of this fear, Derek Gabrielson, a chartered retirement planning counselor with Strategic Wealth Partners, told GoBankingRates. Watching your spending and having a financial plan will help you get out of the paycheck-to-paycheck trap and start building wealth.
1. Never being able to retire
Eighteen percent of guys said they worried about having to keep working until they died, though those younger than 44 were much less worried about retirement than those in their 50s and early 60s.
How to fight this fear: While worries about retirement may not emerge until you hit the mid-century mark, you can keep them in check by starting to think about your post-working life when you’re still young. Save when you’re in your 20s and 30s – even a little bit — and you’re less likely to feel panic when you’re closing in on 65.