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The impact of financial stress

January 26, 2015

By Paul Brucker

This is Part One of a two-part series for National Financial Wellness Month. 

Do you feel stress about your finances? If so, join the club. Financial issues pester more Americans than smoking and obesity combined. Today, 20% of us smoke and 30% are obese, but a full 70% of us are seriously concerned, if not seriously worried, about our finances.1

The Great Recession gave many Americans a keen sense of how financially vulnerable they are. And even in 2014, 36% of us believed the economy was still in a recession, if not a depression. And 42% of us think our borrowing is far too high compared to our income.2

Financial stress affects people at all income levels. The impact: We are less likely to make smart decisions regarding how we handle money.

Consider the harsh facts about Americans' finances:

  • 76% live paycheck to paycheck (including 30% of the people who earn more than $100,000 a year)3
  • 44% don’t have at least $2,000 set aside in emergency savings for unexpected expenses4
  • 33% don’t put money into their savings account each month, and 30% save less than $100 a month5
  • 36% of workers don’t put any money into a retirement savings plan5
  • 46% of employees spend, on average, two to three hours per week dealing with their personal finances rather than the work at hand4

A whopping 79% of us reported that personal finances keep us awake at night.6 About 75% to 90% of doctor visits are related to stress and workers point to financial problems as their chief cause of stress.7

Financial worry takes its toll both mentally and physically. Stressed people are three times more likely to have ulcers or digestive tract problems, 44% more likely to suffer migraines, at 200% higher risk of heart attack and 500% more likely to experience increased anxiety and depression.8

Fortunately, there is some relief for financial stress. Many companies offer employees financial wellness programs as an employee benefit. In fact, this is a growing trend, with 30% of American companies having 1,000+ employees now providing such programs, according to a recent Alliant financial wellness benefit survey.

Alliant Credit Union’s Financial Wellness Program is available for free to companies that offer Alliant membership as an employee benefit. And all Alliant members can take advantage of a full range of financial wellness resources, including the articles in our blog, which is focused on helping people achieve and maintain financial well-being.

Read our follow-up article: Six tips on how to cope with financial stress.