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News Release

Stress Test: Americans, Especially Women and Younger People, Stressed by Finances

April 12, 2015

Survey respondents report financial planning most helpful in reducing stress

Americans, particularly women and younger people, overwhelmingly experience stress when it comes to thinking about and managing their finances, according to a survey released today by Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board). Nearly nine in 10 of those surveyed (86%) feel stress when it comes to their finances, with women (89%) and younger respondents between the ages of 18-44 (91%) more likely to feel any stress about their finances. Older Americans are the least likely age group to report financial stress, with only 78 percent of respondents age 65 or older reporting financial stress.

The survey, conducted on behalf of CFP Board by ORC International, found that Americans clearly recognize ways for successfully managing their financial stress, with financial planning the top solution. More than a quarter of respondents report that having a financial plan will help most in reducing their stress (27%), with younger respondents (ages 18-44) particularly confident in the value of having a plan (35%). Other preferred solutions for decreasing the level of financial stress include having more knowledge in certain finance areas (22%), more knowledge about their own finances (14%) and more time to focus on their finances (12%).

“Whether you are navigating the financial implications of living on your own for the first time or preparing to enter retirement, almost everyone – at every stage of life – experiences financial stress,” says Eleanor Blayney, CFP
®, Consumer Advocate for CFP Board. “But as long as that financial stress does not paralyze us, it is not necessarily a bad thing. The resulting awareness should empower us to take control of our financial fate.”

According to CFP Board’s survey, while the majority of Americans experience some level of financial stress, the reasons and occasions for their stress vary, as well as the ways in which they manage it:

  • Debt (23%) and everyday expenses (21%) are the leading causes of financial stress, followed by health expenses (14%) and retirement (13%).
    • Respondents age 65 or older are more likely to stress about health expenses (22%), whereas younger respondents (ages 18-24) stress about high education costs (23%).
  • More than half of Americans (53%) experience stress about their finances at certain times, including at the end of the month when bills are due (24%), around the holiday season (15%), and during tax preparation season (11%). A quarter (25%) feel stressed about finances all of the time.

  • While the majority of respondents say they get stressed about their finances, very few (13%) believe their stress definitely hinders their ability to make decisions about their money, while roughly a quarter (28%) say that it sometimes does
    • Younger respondents (ages 18-44) are more likely to say that their stress either definitely hinders their ability to make decisions about their money (20%), or it sometimes does (38%).

  • About half (48%) indicate that they tighten spending as a result of financial stress, while a third (34%) admit to monitoring their accounts more frequently
    •  Younger respondents (ages 18-44) are more likely to do doing anything to take their minds off of the stress (21%), including go shopping or watching TV to distract themselves.  

The survey findings are particularly interesting in light of previous national research conducted by CFP Board and the Consumer Federation of America. According to the 2012 Household Financial Planning Survey, having a financial plan leads to greater confidence and lower debt. Those who have prepared a personal financial plan are more likely to feel on pace to meet all of their financial goals, such as saving for retirement or for emergencies.

“A written financial plan ensures a stress-free tomorrow by managing your short- and long-term financial anxieties, and keeping your focus on what is needed to achieve your goals and dreams,” said Blayney. “Contacting a Certified Financial Planner™ professional can be a helpful first step in refocusing the immediate financial stresses of today to develop a financial plan that puts you in control of your overall financial life.”

Consumers can learn more about creating a financial plan and finding and working with a Certified Financial Planner™ professional at

About the Survey Methodology

ORC International administered the online survey to a representative sample of 1,008 adults 18 years of age and older, from March 30 - April 1, 2015. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls. The data have been weighted to reflect the demographic composition of the 18+ population.  Because the sample is based on those who initially self-selected for participation, no estimates of sampling error can be calculated. A complete report of survey findings can be found at