Whether The Root Of All Evil Or Not, Money Is The Root Of Much Anxiety

If people had a nickel for each sort of economic anxiety they suffer, they wouldn’t be so anxious. A survey conducted for Time gives a detailed look at the factors that keep Americans fretting.

The fear of losing one’s job is not as common as you might suppose. Six percent of employed respondents said they’re “very worried” about losing their jobs, with another 12 percent “somewhat worried.” People’s professed faith in their own job security is not reflected in their outlook on the labor market as a whole, though. When respondents (employed or otherwise) were asked whether this would be a good or bad time to be looking for a new job, “bad” outpointed “good” by 56 percent to 35 percent. If workers don’t fret about losing their jobs, they are fearful the jobs will become less remunerative: 26 percent said they’re very worried (and 27 percent somewhat so) that they’ll have “to pay more out-of-pocket for benefits, such as health care”; 8 percent are very worried (and 14 percent somewhat so) about losing some benefits altogether.

While inflation has been relatively tame, apart from prices for gasoline and other petroleum products, consumers have become more aware of the cost of living as a moving target. And many are worried that it’s moving out of their reach. One of the poll’s questions asked: “Do you feel that your family income over the past 12 months has kept up with the cost of living, or have you slipped behind?” The “kept up” vote was a slim majority, at 56 percent, vs. 42 percent saying they’d “slipped behind.” And that’s despite the fact that people think (correctly or not) that they’ve been frugal. Forty-two percent claimed they’ve been “cutting back” on their spending in the past 12 months, vs. 14 percent who’ve been “spending more.” Similarly, those saying their credit-card and other debts are higher now than 12 months ago (20 percent) are outnumbered by those saying these debts are lower (27 percent). On the whole, people have been better at staying atop current expenses than at saving for the future. Just 16 percent said they’ve been unable to keep up with credit-card payments during the past 12 months; 13 percent have been unable to keep up with “your other payments, such as mortgage, rent or loans.” But 47 percent said they’ve been unable to “save and invest enough money for retirement and other needs.”

Looking at the economy as a whole, people were far more likely to call it “poor” (23 percent) than “excellent” (5 percent). Still, anxiety can’t entirely squelch Americans’ optimism. Forty-four percent believe the economy will be better a year from now, vs. 9 percent expecting it to be worse.