92% of consumers fear not having money to pay monthly bills: NFCC

October 21, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.  (10/22/14)--What spooks U.S. consumers more than any "Walking Dead" marathon or Halloween ghoul is an ever-present sense of the financial inability to pay their monthly bills, according to a recent poll from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC).

Ninety-two percent of the nearly 1,400 respondents said they had a fear of running out of money, led by 64% who fear they can't pay each month's bills. Retirement, unplanned expenses and children's education were concerns for 15% or less of respondents.

"The focus on immediate needs, as opposed to future ones such as retirement, reflects the uncomfortable financial situation in which many Americans live month after month," said Gail Cunningham, NFCC spokesperson. "Entering the holiday shopping season already struggling to meet existing debt obligations will only add more pressure on the family."

NFCC suggests five steps to alleviate the financial fear:

  • Track spending. Find any financial leaks by tracking household spending and come together to determine what gets spent and what gets saved in the future. "The unity that results from this type of decision-making process will likely produce a greater level of success, as everyone will be pulling in the same direction," said the NFCC;
  • Create a cash-flow calendar. Increase financial awareness by recording sources of income and bill-due dates. If there's not enough money available to meet a debt obligation on its due date, call the company to see if the date can be moved. This will prevent overdrafts, late payments and fees;
  • Begin saving. When money is tight, saving isn't a priority for many. Living on a cash basis can save up to 20% over previous spending on plastic. Put raises, bonuses, birthday money or other windfalls directly into savings, and aim for an emergency fund of one month's salary;
  • Decrease debt. Revolving debt can be expensive with interest stacking on top of interest. Write down and total the existing debt and associated interest paid each month. "The totals may be shocking, but will hopefully spur action, as ignoring the problem will only make matters worse," the counseling agency noted; and
  • Set goals. Make a list of short-term goals for the next 12 month and a separate list of long-term goals. Include dates and dollar amounts with each goal to decide which ones can be met realistically. "Goals that aren't achievable only serve to discourage and potentially derail the entire plan," the NFCC said.

"Fear and worry can impact more than a person's finances. People owe it to themselves and their family to find solutions to financial concerns before they negatively impact other areas of their life," noted Cunningham.