No matter what your background is, your financial concerns have likely evolved over time as a result of the changing economy, your personal health, where you're living, how much you make and save, or family changes.
To get a grip on what concerns American adults of all ages, GOBankingRates surveyed more than 2,500 people across the country and asked them about their biggest money fear. The survey found that the most commonly feared money problem for Americans is never being able to retire (22%), followed by always living paycheck to paycheck (20%), and living in debt forever (18%).
"It wasn't too surprising that our survey found never being able to retire is Americans' biggest money fear, because another recent GOBankingRates' survey found that 55% of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement," Cameron Huddleston, the life and money columnist at GOBankingRates, told Refinery29. "Given that such a high percentage of people have so little set aside, what's surprising is that the percentage wasn't higher."
The caveat, she adds, is that their fears might center on more immediate concerns, such as the other worries on this survey. Respectively, after paycheck-to-paycheck living and living in debt forever, Americans' money fears ranked as follows: losing one's job, losing everything in the stock market, never being able to afford a home, and lastly — always having a low credit score. Naturally, there was some variance by age, gender, and location.
Never being able to retire was a top fear for people living in the West, while living paycheck-to-paycheck tied for first among Americans in the South and Midwest. Living in debt forever was the top fear for those in the North.
In terms of gender, working forever was the most common fear for men, while living paycheck-to-paycheck ranked highest among women. The greatest fear disparity by gender had to do with investing: 14% of men, compared to 9% of women, said that losing all of their money in the stock market was their biggest fear. That likely has to do with gender-based trends among investors.
Last year, 52% of Americans said they invested in the stock market (a record low, according to Gallup). So, although women are slightly better investors, more men invest overall, and do so more aggressively — sometimes leading to financial gains that benefit them before retirement, but also incurring greater risk. In short, men likely have more money to lose on the markets.
"It's somewhat troubling that a greater percentage of women than men are worried about living paycheck-to-paycheck, but it doesn't necessarily mean that women are struggling more to get by," Huddleston explained. "What it could mean is that women — who often handle the household budget and purchasing decisions — might be more in touch with the reality of their financial situation than men."
She suggests that women who worry about their cash flow do an audit of their finances to figure out where their money is going. Track all of your expenditures for a month (perhaps starts with a Money Diary) and judge how much of your income is going toward unnecessary things, or expenses that may be worsening your financial situation.