Survey: Millennials Experience Daily Financial Stress, The Majority Ignore It to Cope

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Finances are a leading cause of stress that can deteriorate mental and physical health if left unchecked. Stress and finances are unavoidable parts of life, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t experienced money troubles themselves. 

In 2019, 59 percent of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck, and a majority expected to continue the cycle into 2020. This was well before the current recession that broke unemployment records and prompted two rounds of stimulus relief packages through Congress. 

This is certainly a cause for financial difficulties for millions of Americans, but the stress can be managed. Budgeting has helped 86 percent of people get and stay out of debt, and 97 percent of people believe everyone should have a budget. But are Americans budgeting to find their financial footing?

We surveyed 1,500 Americans to see how often they feel financial stress and how they cope. We learned:

  • 20% of Americans experience daily financial stress
  • 31% turn to their budget to alleviate stress
  • A majority of Millennials choose to ignore their financial stress

Read on to learn more about our study, or jump to our infographic to learn how to manage regular stress.

Nearly a Quarter of Millennials Experience Daily Financial Stress

Our survey found that 66 percent of Americans experience financial stress several times a year. Millennials fall in line with the average as 34 percent don’t feel stress more than once a year. However, the stress Millennials feel tends to be much more overwhelming. Nearly a quarter of those ages 25–34 experience financial stress every day — the largest representation of any age group. 

Charts showing how often Americans feel financial stress and highlighting that those age 24–35 feel the most stress

While 23 percent deal with daily stress, 47 percent of Millennials feel it at least once a month. Millennials are the most likely to experience daily financial stress, but they’re also the least likely to be overwhelmed by finances as a whole. A majority don’t worry more than once a year. 

This could be caused by both their career and life stages. Those ages 25–34 earn an average $44,064 a year. This is around $13,344 more than the average 20–24 year old makes, which is a pretty comfortable living for younger Millennials. However, most Americans are getting married, becoming parents, and buying homes between the ages of 25 and 34. These growing responsibilities can make that $44,000 feel tight, especially when compared to those 35–45 who make $10,000 more than Millennials with similar responsibilities and debt totals.

28% Americans Are Ignoring Their Stress

A majority of Americans feel financial difficulty and decide, at some point, that it’s time to revisit their budget. In a close second, 28 percent of Americans decide it’s best to just ignore their financial problems. A majority of these Americans are men, of whom 34 percent choose to let their troubles go. 

The next most popular, and far healthier, solution is to chat through troubles with a friend or family member. Women are just as likely to talk through their problems (21 percent) as they are to ignore them (22 percent). 

Graph showing that 31% of Americans budget when they feel financial stress, while 28% ignore their stress.

Why are Americans ignoring their money troubles? It may be because checking finances can increase stress — at least at first. Many of us know we have debt and interest payments, but 65 percent of Americans don’t know how much they spent last month. Another third wish they spent less, even if they don’t know how much they spent. 

Facing your debt and potential poor spending habits is hard to do. It may feel like you’re having to accept your financial failures, but you’re only failing when you don’t try to repair the situation. Looking at your spending and financial situation is the first step to improving your financial well-being. 

Tips to Deal With Financial Stress

Financial stress is inevitable, and although it can feel catastrophic, there are things you can do to cope with it. It looks different for everyone, but nobody is immune and it’s okay if you don’t know how to manage your situation at first. That’s why there are experts online and in-person to help you learn. So we reached out to some experts to provide some stress-relieving advice. 

86% of people have gotten out of debt through budgeting.

Speak With Someone

Facing your debt can be intimidating and overwhelming. Getting started is one of the largest barriers to controlling your finances, but you don’t have to do it alone. Experts advise that you talk to someone and share your concerns and stress to find the support you need.

“Of all the life lessons about money I’ve learned, the most important realization was that talking about money with your friends and family can be a huge first step in relieving stress,” offers Alyssa Davies, from Zolo and Mixed Up Money, of her personal own debt repayment difficulties.

“I realized I could feel so much relief after a tough conversation with friends and family…I told them the truth, and they were all accepting, and they helped me stay in the right mindset and lane while I focused on getting financially stable.”

Identify What Causes Your Stress

Wealth strategist Brian Halbert advises that most people have a misunderstanding of what their financial burden is, believing that they’re making too little when the problem lies with their debt. 

In reality, they [people with financial stress] have too high of a debt to income ratio…During stressful times, those people who can identify key areas and focus to eradicate ‘holes’ will succeed.” 

Revisit Your Budget

Budgets are working documents, meaning that they’re not something to be built and left alone. Keeping an eye on how you’re doing at least monthly, though weekly is better, can keep you ahead of financial storms.

Sometimes we might feel as if money is just flying out of our pockets and don’t know how and where it went,” shares Eduardo Litonjua, founder of Passive Income Tree. “Track your spending habits for at least a month as it will show you where you overspend or where you can save.”

Speak With a Professional

If you’re not maintaining your finances already, or feel extreme stress, then it may be time to loop in a professional. Sean Messier of Credit Card Insider recommends you seek out help from a fiduciary. 

“These professionals are required to work explicitly with your best interests in mind…If you’re not sure you can afford a financial advisor, do some research to see if your community offers any nonprofit financial assistance groups. Pro bono financial assistance may be more accessible than you’d think, and if you’re struggling, it could be invaluable.”

Remind Yourself It Does Get Better

Easier said than done, but your financial situation is temporary. You will change jobs, you will pay off debt, and your purchasing habits will change throughout your life. Remind yourself that it can and will get better with a little work to maintain the motivation to reach your financial goals. 

A majority of Americans are trying to cope with financial stress the best they know how. With a large portion of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, and the state of financial literacy education, it can be hard to face your bank account and spending habits. It’s why we recommend knowing your credit score, building a budget, and tracking your spending to stay on top of your finances. For more wellness and stress-relieving advice, check out our infographic below. 

Sources: Stress | CDC | Prevention | Health | Harvard | Credit Wise

 

Methodology

This study consisted of two survey questions conducted using Google Surveys. The sample consisted of no less than 1,500 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. This survey ran during September 2020. 

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