Economy Greatest Source of Stress Among Americans

December 6, 2011 ( – The Principal Financial Well-Being Index shows the economy is the greatest source of stress for Americans.  

The Index found 52% of retirees and 42% of workers reported a high stress level in regard to the economy, while 30% of retirees and 34% of workers said personal finances caused high stress. Thirty percent of workers say their job causes stress, and far fewer (19% of retirees and 15% employees) report stress over physical health.

Americans over the age of 50 (51% of those 50-64 years and 59% of those 65 years and older) reported higher stress levels regarding the economy than those under 50 (30% of those 18-34 years and 40% of those 35-49 years). Overall, females (41%) were significantly more likely than males (29%) to rate their stress level related to their personal finances as high.

With the economy a main source of stress, many Americans also report concern over market volatility impacting their long-term and short-term financial well-being. Two out of five workers (41%) and one-third of retirees say they are nervous about their ability to save due to market volatility. Another quarter of workers (26%) and one-third of retirees have reduced their spending because they have lost money due to market volatility. Furthermore, 22% of workers and 18% of retirees have moved to a more conservative investment approach.

When asked to select their top financial blunder of 2011, approximately one out of five (19%) workers said they did not save enough during the year. Eight-teen percent of workers said increasing debt was their top mistake. 

Looking toward 2012, workers’ top financial-specific New Year’s resolutions were saving a set amount of money each month and paying off credit card debt— both selected by 26% of workers. Twenty-one percent of workers also said they are resolving to reduce their spending by a specific amount each month in 2012.

While Americans are hoping to right the wrongs of 2011, many have concerns about the coming year, which may impact their financial decisions. For workers, top concerns for 2012 are:

•  Economic uncertainty (62%);
•  Gas prices (58%);
•  Healthcare costs (55%); 
•  Food prices (49%); and
•  Increased taxes (45%).

The Principal Financial Well-Being Index survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Principal Financial Group between October 20 and October 31, 2011, among 1,121 employees and 533 retirees.

See the full report and past results at