New MassMutual Study Finds Widespread Worry Among Middle Americans About Politics, Personal Finances

Anxiety, stomach aches and insomnia; financial concerns adversely impact health, personal relationships and work life, study finds

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., June 26, 2017 – Middle America is fraught with worry about a range of issues, particularly the direction of the country and personal finances, the latter which often adversely impacts people’s health, personal relationships and on-the-job performance, according to a new study by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. (MassMutual).

“Our research shows that middle-income earners express widespread worry about a range of issues, particularly politics and their personal finances,” said Teresa Hassara, leader of Workplace Solutions at MassMutual. “Though nearly half (48 percent) report an improved sense of financial security during the past year, just as many (48 percent) say they worry about their household’s financial situation at least once a week, and 23 percent of those who earn less than $45,000 annually worry about money every day.”

Overall, 37 percent of the study’s respondents report feeling “not very” or “not at all” financially secure, while the majority (54 percent) describe themselves as “somewhat secure,” according to the MassMutual Middle America Financial Security Study1. The internet-based research was conducted on behalf of MassMutual by Greenwald & Associates and polled 1,010 working Americans ages 25-65 who had annual household incomes of between $35,000 and $150,000 and participated in making household financial decisions.

Political Distress

Worries about politics and the direction of the country eclipse even concerns about household finances, the health and well-being of parents and children, personal health, and careers, the study found. Two-thirds (66 percent) expressed concerns about the direction of the country, women (73 percent) more so than men (60 percent), and nearly half (47 percent) are troubled by potential changes to the healthcare system. Those who expressed being “very” or “somewhat worried” were equally divided across the income spectrum, with people with household incomes of $45,000 to $75,000 (69 percent) expressing the greatest anxiety.

Stress, Anxiety, Insomnia

Concerns about finances, however, had the most tangible, negative repercussions for many people’s health and personal relationships:

Do worries about money negatively impact any of the following aspects of your life? (Worries at least once a week)

Total

$35k-$44k

$45k-$74k

$75k-$150k

Your mental health/stress level

57%

52%

59%

56%

Your social life and ability to do things with friends

40

43

48

34

Your diet or ability to eat healthy

34

46

33

33

Your marriage or romantic relationship

27

25

30

26

The frequency or quality of your family’s medical or dental care

22

26

24

19

Your ability to perform at your job

13

15

12

14

Those who worry about money at least once a week say their troubles cause a variety of health issues, including anxiety (51 percent), headaches (38 percent), insomnia or difficulty sleeping (35 percent), nausea or stomach issues (20 percent), and clenched jaw or grinding teeth (19 percent). Some income levels reported more problems than others and women reported experiencing more headaches (45 percent vs. 32 percent) and insomnia (44 percent vs. 27 percent) than men.

Money worries accompany many Middle Americans to work.  Four in 10 respondents (40 percent) said they worry about money at least once a week while at work, the study found. Half (51 percent) of Americans who are less affluent – those earning less than $45,000 – reported bringing their financial concerns to work at least once a week and 20 percent said daily.

“Financial issues are not only a significant problem for many people personally, they may have a big impact on employers who may face increasing costs for health care, disability leave and lost productivity,” Hassara said. “There is an overwhelming need for more education about personal financial issues and resources to help workers better manage their financial lives.”
 

Biggest Worries, Fears

Those surveyed indicated concerns about a wide range of financial issues, including lack of preparation for retirement, struggling to make ends meet, and potential changes in the healthcare system. Many expressed a need for more education about retirement savings and personal financial management. Eight in 10 respondents earning less than $45,000 annually “strongly agreed” or “somewhat agreed” with the statement that they are behind on preparing for retirement compared with 54 percent of those earning $75,000 to $150,000 annually. One in four admitted to a spending problem.

 

Do you agree or disagree with the following? (Strongly or somewhat agree)

Total

$35k-$44k

$45k-$74k

$75k-$150k

Behind on preparing for retirement

63%

84%

73%

54%

Wish employer offered more resources to help me prioritize my finances

52

62

57

47

Wish employer did more to educate me on saving for retirement

51

55

51

49

Unsure about whom to go for financial advice or guidance

48

54

54

43

Worried that changes to healthcare system could lead to loss of health insurance

47

44

53

45

Struggle making ends meet

35

50

44

28

Spending to enjoy myself now is more important than saving for future

27

35

32

23

Spending is a problem

26

43

29

21

 


Overall, what do Middle Americans most “fear”? Survey respondents ranked their top “fears” as an illness to themselves or a family member (67 percent), a financial emergency or major expense (65 percent), a downturn in the stock market (43 percent), a terrorist attack (38 percent), a natural disaster (32 percent), or a burglary or home invasion (32 percent). Percentages represent being “very afraid” or “somewhat afraid”.

Debt and Savings

Debt is the biggest single financial issue facing Middle America. Overall, 22 percent of respondents cited debt as their top financial problem with more millennials and Generation Xers saying the same, the study found. As Middle Americans age, respondents reported, healthcare costs rise in importance, becoming the No. 1 concern for baby boomers.

“MassMutual’s study shows that employers may have opportunities to play a bigger role in helping their employees strengthen their finances, including deploying more educational resources on retirement savings and money management, benefits to help employees manage both short- and long-term financial challenges, and promoting the link between financial wellness and overall wellness,” Hassara pointed out. “MassMutual is ramping up its workplace solutions to help both employers and employees address these growing issues.”

About MassMutual

MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners.  MassMutual offers a wide range of financial products and services, including life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, annuities, retirement plans and other employee benefits.  For more information, visit www.massmutual.com

1 2017 MassMutual Middle America Financial Security Study