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Americans' Financial Worries Edge Up in 2016

Americans' Financial Worries Edge Up in 2016

Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Worries slightly higher in all seven financial issues measured
  • Not having enough money for retirement still top concern (64%)
  • Six in 10 worry about unexpected medical costs

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans express slightly greater worries than they did last year about seven financial issues, with significant increases in concern about being able to pay medical costs in the event of a serious illness or accident and being able to maintain their standard of living. Americans continue to be most worried about not having enough money for retirement, with 64% saying they are "very worried" or "moderately worried" about this.

Americans' Specific Financial Worries, 2015 vs. 2016
Please tell me how concerned you are right now about each of the following financial matters, based on your current financial situation -- are you very worried, moderately worried, not too worried or not worried at all?
  2015% 2016% Change(pct. pts.)
Not being able to pay medical costs of a serious illness/accident 55 60 +5
Not being able to maintain the standard of living you enjoy 46 51 +5
Not having enough to pay your normal monthly bills 36 41 +5
Not having enough money for retirement 60 64 +4
Not being able to pay medical costs for normal healthcare 42 45 +3
Not being able to pay your rent, mortgage or other housing costs 32 34 +2
Not being able to make the minimum payments on your credit cards 20 21 +1
April 6-10, 2016

Gallup has asked Americans how concerned they are about all seven financial issues each April since 2001 as part of the annual economically focused survey. These data come from Gallup's April 6-10 Economy and Personal Finance survey.

Worries about not having enough money for retirement increased four percentage points and edge out not being able to pay for serious medical costs as the No. 1 worry. Now a majority, 51%, also worry about maintaining their standard of living.

Nearly half of Americans report being concerned about not being able to pay medical costs for their normal healthcare (45%), while about one in three worry about not being able to pay their rent, mortgage or other housing costs (34%). Americans are least concerned about not being able to make minimum payments on their credit cards (21%), though like all of the issues measured, this is up from the prior year.

Additionally, 37% of Americans report being worried about not having enough money to pay for their children's college, which is consistent with the range of 34% to 43% who have reported such worries since Gallup first asked this question in 2007.

Retirement, Unexpected Medical Costs Have Consistently Been Greatest Concerns

Since Gallup began polling Americans in 2001 about their financial concerns, a majority have continually been worried about not being able to afford retirement -- the top overall concern in each of those 16 years. Americans were less likely to worry about retirement in the early 2000s, with percentages ranging from 52% to 54%, but 60% or more have worried about retirement since 2005, including a peak of 67% in 2012.

Serious medical costs, meanwhile, have consistently ranked as the second-most-expressed concern since 2001, with majorities in all but one poll in the past decade who said they were worried about the costs. The level of worry about serious medical costs peaked in 2012, at 62%. Prior to 2005, a smaller 45% to 50% of Americans expressed such concern.


While less than half of Americans indicated concern about their ability to maintain their standard of living from 2001 to 2007, this became a majority concern by 2008 -- peaking at 58% in 2011. Concern about maintaining one's current standard of living subsided gradually each year after 2011, settling at 46% in 2015 before climbing yet again this year to 51%.

Bottom Line

Americans' elevated concerns about various future or potential costs are in sync with their lower confidence in the U.S. economy now than a year ago and the fact that their spending has not changed over the prior year.

Americans' retirement funding remains atop their lists of concerns, with majorities also skeptical of their ability to pay for treatment of serious medical issues and worried their standard of living will deteriorate in the future. Despite some signs of gains for the economy, average Americans aren't feeling them -- and are a bit more concerned than they have been in recent years.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 6-10, 2016, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,015 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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