I’ve been thinking about thinking.
Sometimes we maintain intense focus on a task for a great deal of time; engaging thoughts put us “in the zone” and we lose track of time.
Daydreaming is another state of mind, of looser thought. One might feel guilty about such meandering mental indulgence, but some say “It’s Healthy to Let Your Mind Wander,” because it sparks creativity, fosters innovation, and contributes to well-being.
Daily circumstances and responsibilities influence thought, too. Such thoughts might be detrimental. According to Scientific American, “Financial Worries Can Impair One’s Ability to Make Sound Decisions.”
Indeed, “New work by a team of psychologists and economists supports the notion that humans have limited bandwidth for decision-making. And the capacity to make choices can take a hit once that cognitive load becomes too heavy.”
“Poverty triggers intrusive thoughts that pop up into our daily lives” and poor choices can have dire impact, notes the author.
Another article illuminates “The Dark Link between Financial Stress and Depression.” And U.S. News & World Report says “Financial Worries Linked to Rising Suicide Rate Among Baby Boomers.”
Financial circumstances and thoughts affect how consumers make choices, function during the day, and feel about themselves and the future.
Do you know how money weighs on your members’ minds?
‘I don’t want to share my worries—that’s for me to know.’ --Nicholas Hoult, actor
First, a thoughtful check in.
“Money Tops Americans’ List of Stressors,” says HealthDay. Survey results show fiscal worries a “significant source of stress” for 64% of adults in 2014. Three of four say they are stressed all the time about money, and one in four “experienced extreme stress over money during the past month.”
Money equates to security, and concerns about it lead to stress.
Americans are generally “more optimistic about the state of their own finances and the economy” than they have been for years, says Pew Research. But only half feel financially secure.
“Many of those polled say they are barely breaking even or spending more than they make each month,” and 57% are unprepared for financial emergency.
And, “record numbers” indicate achieving financial stability is more important than growing income.
Financial worries remain despite a recovering economy, according to new survey findings at pwc.com in the Employee Financial Wellness Survey. Improving cash flow and debt management are a plus for consumers, and along with better housing circumstances, a more positive environment exists for consumers.
However, improved fiscal areas are “still precarious” and “many continue to struggle with meeting day to day expenses.” Increasing inflation or another economic slip still present risk.
Further, savings funds are neglected, long-term planning to meet financial goals slumps, and further challenges include evolutions in retirement funding and rising health care costs.
Top financial concerns for consumers:
Gallup reports “America’s Money Worries Unchanged from 2014.” A survey tracks seven areas of financial concern for Americans and finds 50% are “worried about multiple common financial challenges.”
The most prevalent worry is shortfall in retirement funding (60% of respondents). Inability to pay for medical costs plagues thought for 55%, and 46% are concerned they will not be able to maintain their current standard of living.
There are four groups ranked by level of worry; about 25% are “high worriers,” affected by six or seven of the listed concerns. Around 27% think of three to five issues, 25% worry about one or two, and 25% are not worried.
“Adults in households earning less than $30,000 a year are fraught with financial anxiety.”
‘What worries you, masters you.’ --John Locke, philosopher
Now, exploration of how financial worries can manifest.
“Survey Finds Most Employees Stressed and Distracted by Financial Worries,” according to 401khelpcenter.com, reporting on a State Street Global Advisors study. Biggest identified stressors include student loans, mortgage responsibilities, health care expenses, and retirement saving woes.
Sixty percent of workers “are emotionally stressed and distracted by their financial situations,” and 37% say work productivity has suffered as a result. Almost half live paycheck to paycheck, and 25% have missed work due to financial stress.
“By providing employees with access to resources and tools that enable them to improve their financial lives and alleviate daily financial stress, plan sponsors can refocus their employees’ attention and actions toward retirement savings and security,” says a spokesman.
Kids, too, are affected. “Experiencing family stress—specifically family disruption and financial stress—repeatedly throughout childhood was associated with obesity by the time adolescent girls turned 18,” according to HealthDay.
“Developing strategies to help with family stressors during childhood may help children maintain healthy weight into adulthood,” the article notes.
“Millennials Delay Marriage Due to Financial Security Worries,” according to wtop.com. Millennials’ marriage reticence may stem from their observations of parental financial struggles during the recession. One-third say their reluctance stems from “a lack of financial security,” a circumstance for only one-fifth of consumers over age 35.
It is speculated that by the time millennials reach their 40s and 50s, one-fourth of them will have never married.
Moms have issues, too, according to NerdWallet, as emotions run high for families.
“The choice to go back to work for additional family income was the top source of marital tension surrounding the birth of children. About 31% of expectant mothers and 30% of experienced mothers said the desire to stay at home or return to work was the No. 1 reason they fought with their spouse.”
Childcare is expensive—“higher than in-state college tuition and fees in 31 states”—and should a woman choose to stay at home, typical family earnings dip by 30% after two to three years out of the labor force.
The choice for parents often comes down to paying for daycare now or college later.
“Nearly 44% of mothers with teenagers now wish they’d been advised to start saving for college immediately after their children were born.”
‘Thinking will not overcome fear but action will.’ --W. Clement Stone, author
Consumers know what keeps them up at night, and the most popular financial resolution for 2015 was to save money for 37.4% of respondents of a GOBankingRates survey cited at The Huffington Post. The source also quotes a Fidelity survey which indicates saving is a top priority for 55%.
“The memory of the recession is still fresh,” notes the article. “Many still struggle with damaged credit and the emotional toll of bankruptcy, job loss and foreclosure.”
Think about it: What can you do to help members think happier financial thoughts?