Battered by a furious TikTok-paced news cycle, an endless stream of sensational news seems to stoke the public's anxieties about politics, culture, and the environment. Yet one fear has risen to the roost of American minds: money.
In a recent Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) survey, money concerns came out on top in a representative sample of over a thousand American adults, with nearly half (47%) of respondents declaring money was one of the top two things they worried about, followed closely by the “general direction of the world” (at 46%) and health concerns (42%).
Still, apprehensions about financial matters are felt by almost everyone. Approximately 88% of survey respondents harbor some level of anxiety regarding their financial situation.
There are widespread worries around money that may stem from misperceptions and a lack of confidence in money management. Yet, just how much more income do Americans need to stop tossing and turning? The survey suggests quite a lot.
Nearly half (49%) of somewhat concerned respondents said they need to at least double their income to relax about money. This proportion grew among very worried respondents, with three-quarters (75%) of those who worry, “a great deal” about finances saying they need to double their salary to relax.
These are not the first findings that show money looms large over the population's psyche. One survey from Allianz survey found that middle-class Americans are more afraid of going broke than even dying.
The overriding sentiment of not having enough creates stress. This unique obsession with financial inadequacy surfaces in the disturbing socio-psychological phenomenon Ali Katz, estate lawyer and founder of the Family Wealth Planning Institute, calls “money dysphoria.”
“It's a distorted view that we have around money that causes us to make poor decisions,” Katz told CNBC late last year.
Katz reports many of her clients refrain from managing their money because they believe they don't have enough.
“The way this plays into estate planning or investing is we don't do it. We're not rich enough to do estate planning. I'm not wealthy, I'm not rich,” Katz adds. “But it's absolutely untrue.”
Thankfully for the penny-counting nervous nellies, there has never been a better time to generate a little extra cash on the side. Thanks to the digital revolution, there are many ways to tap extra income.
The rise of the gig economy has led to a proliferation of platforms that help match workers to jobs. For instance, more than a dozen apps help find odd jobs near you, including FieldAgent, Fiverr, and DoorDash.
What's more, there are many legit ways to make a quick $100 in one day. Taking online surveys, downloading apps, reading emails all pay. Or for those who are a bit more adventurous, you can try getting paid for some “sole-searching” by becoming a foot pics creator. There are many more side hustles to try, and for those with entrepreneurial initiative, online businesses to start.
While financial pressure is building across generations, money matters earlier in life. In fact, the FINRA survey reveals money woes are gripping a larger portion of young people. 57% of respondents under age 45 cite money as the number one worry in their lives.
Teenagers today may look ahead to the struggles of Gen Z and millennials and conclude it pays to start their financial journey sooner rather than later. By working, saving, and investing earlier, they can get a head start on their peers. There are a range of businesses that hire 15-year-olds, including fast-food outlets like McDonald's, Burger King, and Pizza Hut, as well as grocers like Kroger, Publix, Giant Eagle, and others.
Beyond the food sector, theaters and amusement parks in some states also hire 15-year-olds. In the informal economy, there are plenty of cash-in-hand jobs like babysitting, lawn mowing, and dog walking available to teenagers, too.
As more Americans float along in a sea of financial anxiety, favorable winds are blowing for those savvy enough to catch them. From the burgeoning gig economy to entrepreneurial ventures, there are manifold opportunities to get ahead by tapping new sources of income and investing them wisely.
While the specter of financial stress looms large, it is also a call to action—a prompt to embrace innovation and future-forward financial management to build a more secure future.