Coronavirus Crisis Financial Concerns Transcend Income Levels

79% of those who make more than $100K still worry about finances due to the pandemic
A man wears a face mask while grocery shopping

If you think a bigger paycheck would make you less vulnerable to the coronavirus crisis, think again. According to a new survey, the COVID-19 pandemic is triggering financial worries among a wide swath of consumers, no matter how much money they make.

The spike in financial uncertainty comes as some workers have faced layoffs, furloughs or reduced hours, while others have wondered whether their jobs may be in jeopardy in the months ahead. In fact, 88% of consumers say the pandemic has caused stress on their personal finances, according to the survey, conducted April 7-9 for the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), an organization that promotes financial well-being.

And, the findings show, anxiety over job security, health care bills or other money concerns is reaching across all income levels.

Income doesn’t always ease the fear

Higher-paid workers are apparently not immune to financial fears, as 79% of respondents with household incomes more than $100,000 per year said they were “at least somewhat concerned” about their finances in light of the pandemic. That percentage was identical to the 79% of respondents with household incomes of less than $50,000 per year who felt that way.

Consumers in the middle-of-the-income spectrum were only slightly less concerned. Of those in households earning between $50,000 and $100,000 per year, 73% reported some level of concern over their financial situation right now.

Though the situation surrounding COVID-19 and the resulting coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve rapidly, many consumers believe the financial consequences will be long-lasting.

Among respondents, 25% believe they will be “somewhat worried” about their financial situation a year from now and 16% believe they will be “very worried.”

On the other end of the spectrum, 11% believe they will be “very optimistic” about their finances in a year, while 24% think they will be “somewhat optimistic” by that time.

The results build on those findings from a worldwide study released earlier in April, which found that many consumers foresee long-term changes to spending patterns and the economy due to the pandemic’s fallout.

What worries people most

Not having a big enough financial cushion was among the top concerns reported in the NEFE poll. Specifically…

  • 41% of respondents were worried that they did not have enough in emergency savings.
  • 23% were concerned that they would not have enough saved for retirement in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Among those survey respondents who were currently employed, 39% said job security was one of their biggest financial worries. A host of other money-related concerns are also keeping consumers awake at night. When asked about the top five coronavirus crisis-related financial concerns that caused them the most stress…

  • 29% cited income fluctuations
  • 28% worried about paying utilities
  • 28% were concerned about paying their rent or mortgage
  • 25% cited stock market volatility
  • 23% worried about paying off credit card debt
  • 19% said they were anxious about paying health care bills
  • 17% were concerned about putting off major financial decisions

Methodology: NEFE contracted the Harris Poll to survey 2,018 adults during April 7-9, 2020. The survey was conducted online, and since it was not based on a probability sample, the results included no estimated sampling error.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.