Sometimes the most frightening plot twist involves your finances
What could scare the living daylights out of you?
This Halloween, Americans’ biggest fear plays right into their greatest vulnerability: Their lack of savings. More than a quarter (26%) of Americans say an unplanned financial emergency is their biggest financial fear, followed by job loss (20%), fraud (11%) and poor credit (7%), according to a survey by personal-finance site NerdWallet. Financial fears? They’re complicated. For instance, 1 in 3 Americans say fraud is the scariest thing about credit cards, but being without one actually scares 81% of respondents.
It makes sense that an unplanned medical bill or some other financial emergency is scarier than a job loss. While the jobs market has improved in the years following the Great Recession and unemployment the lowest in 16 years, people still struggle to save due to a combination of low interest rates and stagnant wages, which are barely keeping up with inflation. Nearly half (49%) of millennials aged 18 to 36 have insufficient funds to cover the costs of a $500 emergency, while 34% of older adults said the same, a recent Harris Poll found.
Medical bills are often cited as the No. 1 cause of personal bankruptcies and the Republican-controlled Senate is currently working to ultimately replace Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Earlier this month, the federal government announced that it will cut billions of dollars in health-care subsidies to low-income households that were introduced under Obamacare. Some 5% of people could end up going without insurance, according to the Congressional Budget Office, as insurance companies exit the health-care market.
And the gap between the rich and poor continues to widen. White Americans have overwhelmingly benefited from the rise in incomes, according to a recent report by the Urban Institute, a nonprofit policy group based in Washington, D.C., while most other groups have been left behind. Looking at private income, such as earnings and dividends, and government benefits like Social Security, the income of families near the top increased roughly 90% from 1963 to 2016, while the income of families at the bottom rose less than 10%.