Chuck Jaffe: How to be less stressed about money

What we lack in money, we apparently make up for in stress.

Despite a long bull market, an improving economy, heightened consumer confidence and more encouraging news, concerns about money and finances remain the most significant source of stress in people’s daily lives, according to the latest edition of the annual “Stress in America” survey, released this week by the American Psychological Association.

Also see: The #1 reason so many Americans are so stressed out

Money issues have been the biggest stressor for Americans since 2008, the second year of the study and the epicenter of the last financial crisis, and while stress levels, in general, are down throughout the country, that relief really hasn’t been extended to people living in lower-income households. You can’t call them the “have-nots” when it comes to stress, because they have plenty of it.

“What we have seen consistently is that money tops the list of things that stress out Americans, regardless of age group,” said Dr. Katherine Nordal, executive director for professional practice for the American Psychological Association. “We’ve had ups and downs in the market, and other aspects of the economy — and, wow, the gas prices are really great right now — but the real reality is that many Americans still feel very, very crunched. “

Nordal noted that since 2007, wages have grown at a rate that has lagged behind inflation, “so even though we see some better things in the marketplace like lower gas prices, many families are still feeling very, very stretched.”

Among the study’s key findings:

— Nearly two-thirds of Americans reported that money is a “somewhat or very significant” source of stress, but that number rises to roughly three-quarters of the population of parents and people aged 18 to 49. Some 72% of Americans reported feeling stressed about money at least some of the time during the past month, with 22% saying the stress was extreme.

— More than one-quarter of adults reportedly feel stressed about money most or all of the time, which perhaps isn’t surprising since more than half of adults report having “just enough” or not enough money to pay their monthly bills.

— Nearly 60% of adults said their stress level remained the same in the last year, but 29% said their tension level was up.

— Women report higher stress levels than men and are more likely to feel stress about money most or all of the time. Roughly half of women say that paying for essentials is a somewhat or very significant source of stress, compared with 38% of men.

— Financial concerns create other worries, notably about health. Health concerns were the fourth-biggest stressor (behind money, work/job concerns and family responsibilities), but nearly 20% of Americans said that financial concerns caused them either to miss or consider skipping visits to the doctor when they needed health care.

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