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We're most scared of dealing with emergencies, losing our jobs, and outliving our savings.

2 minute read

On this spooky Friday the 13th, let’s face our deepest, darkest fears.

Or at least, the ones about money.

Last year, Northwestern Mutual released a big study covering everything from the costs of living single to Americans’ financial anxiety. Take a look at this infographic and see if any of these sound familiar, then read on for help overcoming them…

Financial fears infographic

There are a whole lot of things on this list — and many more common ones that aren’t shown here — but we can address almost all the big boos in a couple broad categories.

Dealing with emergencies

More than a third of Americans worry about facing unplanned emergency expenses. That’s reasonable: Stuff is gonna happen to you sooner or later, even if you don’t cross any black cats or bust a mirror. The solution is to start an emergency fund.

This is cash you tuck away in a savings account, ideally about three months’ worth of living expenses. That’s hopefully enough to weather a medical expense (top fear No. 2), a car accident, temporarily cover fraud on your account (16 percent worry about identity theft), or soften the blow of a job loss (which 17 percent fear).

You may have other financial priorities, but this should be near the top — because it can save you from taking on extra debt or getting stuck between a rock and a hard place. It also offers enormous peace of mind. An emergency fund isn’t a silver bullet, but it’s the next best thing.

Building for retirement

Many of the other big fears are about the unknown later in life — will I die penniless (21 percent)? Will I have enough to retire (32 percent)?

As with building an emergency fund, facing this fear down means setting priorities. It’s OK to start small, but start now. Talk to your employer about the company retirement plan. In the best-case scenario, you can immediately start making contributions to a 401(k) that your employer will match up to a certain amount. That’s literally free money you need to take advantage of.

More likely, you may need to work at the company for a certain length of time before you can get any matching or before you can contribute at all. In this case, you might want to seek out other retirement planning options you can work on by yourself for now, like an IRA.

If you can live comfortably on your current income, consider donating any raises you get to your future self by pouring the extra cash into retirement. If you’re struggling to get by, most likely you need to create or revisit your budget.

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About the Author

Brandon Ballenger

Brandon Ballenger

Having more than $10,000 in student loan debt has a way of piquing your interest in personal finance. And because my degree was in English and public communication, I get to share that interest with you. My wide-ranging stories on money and business have run on Business Insider, the Christian Science Monitor, Reader's Digest, the front pages of and Yahoo! Finance, Money Talks News, and the South Florida Business Journal. In my free time, I like to jump off skyscrapers and play video games.

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