Money is the number one stressor in Americans’ lives.
There’s no doubt Americans are living in a supercharged, super stressful world right now. Even if the stresses of the world are not necessarily weighing you down, you might have a friend or loved one who is struggling. This information and these tips for coping might benefit them.
A survey by the American Psychological Association conducted between August 2016 and January 2017 shows that, for the first time in 10 years, Americans’ overall stress levels have increased. The “Stress in America” survey typically finds that stress is caused by three main factors—money, work, and the economy. Today, younger Americans are worried about college debt, and older Americans are concerned about retirement. It appears everyone is anxious about the economic prospects of the next generation.
In a recent Gallup poll, it was apparent that, despite some signs of gains in the economy, average Americans aren’t feeling them. It showed that Americans continue to be most worried about having enough money to retire; 64% were moderately to very worried about this. Not far behind that, Americans were also concerned about their ability to pay for the following:
- Medical costs of a serious illness or accident
- The standard of living they enjoy
- Normal monthly bills
- Medical costs for typical health care
- Rent, mortgage, or other housing costs
- Minimum payments on their credit cards
- College tuition for their children
Yet another poll—this one by GoBankingRates— showed that Americans are very worried about their ability to pay off debt, including credit cards. The second-most-common response was not having enough money for an emergency. When you consider that Americans have a collective credit card balance of $729 billion, it is little wonder they are concerned about getting out of debt.
Financial professionals typically recommend having three to six months’ worth of expenses saved for emergencies, such as losing a job or paying a medical bill. However, about half of US adults don’t even have $400 saved that they could use for an unexpected expense, according to the Federal Reserve. Although experts suggest paying down high-interest debt as a priority, consumers must balance paying off their debts with accumulating their emergency funds.
This kind of stress can lead to serious problems with physical and mental health. In a new study by Payoff, researchers discovered that 23% of respondents were experiencing symptoms often associated with posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, related to their financial situations. For millennials, it was 36%. Symptoms of PTSD include reliving the event, avoiding situations that remind you of the event, feeling bad about yourself or others, and feeling keyed up. Other symptoms can include the inability to control emotions or impulsive behavior.
Among other stressors, survey respondents worried about becoming homeless or being frequently late paying bills. Some denied the severity of their debt or the reality of paying it off. The study also showed that people’s behaviors were irrational and motivated by denial and avoidance, which left them even less able to plan or manage their finances. Payoff researchers attribute some of the respondents’ troubles to stagnant incomes, no savings, high levels of debt, and financial ordeals, such as foreclosures, catastrophic illnesses, and high medical debt.
While some stress can be good for us and motivate us, prolonged stress can affect us physically, and it can even lead to depression, anxiety, obesity, and heart conditions. To better manage your stress, learn and practice some of the following skills:
This involves educating yourself about stress by talking with people who have been through it and rehearsing or preparing yourself for stress by pushing yourself to your limits. For example, run a challenging race and then implement what you learned from dealing with that when a stressful event hits you.
Find social support, find a role model, face your fears, adopt a positive attitude, find meaning and purpose, and reframe the situation.
It will not eliminate your stress, but it gives your body the physical conditioning it needs to recover from stress.
Rest Your Mind
Give your brain a chance to meditate, to shut down, and to stop thinking about the stresses in your life.
Control Your Breathing
Learning to control your breathing has been shown to reduce stress, increase alertness, and boost your immune system.
Write In A Journal
Writing down your thoughts, perspectives, feelings, and experiences can help you process the things you are thinking about or stressing over.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America recommends learning what your stress triggers are. Are they work, finances, family, school, or relationships? The organization also suggests limiting alcohol and caffeine, both of which can trigger anxiety and panic attacks; eating well-balanced meals and energy-boosting snacks; getting a full eight hours of sleep; and replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.
Although the world will continue to move fast and bring a variety of pressures and worries, we can learn ways to react differently in order to keep our bodies and minds balanced and healthy. We would be happy to discuss financial stressors you may be encountering so please contact us any time.
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The content of this letter does not constitute a tax or legal opinion. Always consult with a competent professional service provider for advice on tax or legal matters specific to your situation. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed in this content, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.
Published on October 25, 2017 by Searcy Financial Services, your Overland Park, Kansas Fee-Only Financial Planner and Investment Manager.