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‘Tis the season for witches, ghosts, and all things spooky. But, the most frightening thing of all is the skeleton or skeletons in the closets of Americans nationwide—their financial health.

While it’s no secret that Americans are suffering financially, what is lurking in the shadows is gravely unnerving. A recent study from Nonfiction Research unveils these haunting realities in a report titled, “The Secret Financial Lives of Americans and the Future of Financial Services.” Over the duration of the five year study, researchers surveyed close to 2,200 respondents ranging from banking executives to a bank robber.

Beware, the conclusions may cause goosebumps.

The study found that Americans are living double lives when it comes to money—putting on masks around friends and family, and even more so on social media. On the internet, everyone is jet-setting, sipping rosé, and #livingtheirbestlife, but in reality, these same Americans are desperately fighting financial demons. The truth is, 71% of Americans are stressed by the thought of money and 44% couldn’t survive a $400 emergency without using credit.

“Staggering numbers of Americans are leading double lives when it comes to money,” the report said. “To their friends and neighbors their lives look normal, even prosperous. But privately, behind closed doors, Americans are badly in need of help with money and the emotions that surround it.”

Pop culture has created a distorted expectation of the American dream that is turning up the pressure for millennials, in particular, to live a life well beyond their means. Focused on keeping up with the Kardashians, 28% of millennials admit to intentionally making themselves look wealthier on social media.

This pressure is leading to unhealthy financial standards across the board. Credit card debt is at a record high and almost twice as many Americans have credit cards (76%) as have retirement accounts (47%). Speaking of monsters, the new retirement reality is comparable to Michael Myers in the 2018 rendition of Halloween. Seriously, 33% of non-retired Americans have absolutely nothing saved for retirement. Bone-chilling.

Further, 52% of Americans confess that they have, at some point, shed tears due to their financial circumstance. This feeling is not reserved for people in the middle- or even lower-income brackets, as 41% of those tears come from Americans with an annual income of $200,000 and up. And the spooky stats don’t stop there. Here are a few more that will keep you up at night:

  • 37% of Americans have gone to sleep hungry because they didn’t have money

  • 12% have stolen something

  • 5% admit to having taken half-eaten food out of a garbage can

  • ~20 million Americans have a shopping habit that jeopardizes their relationships or careers

  • American credit card debt hit an all-time high of $1.02 trillion in January 2018

  • Over half of Americans (54%) have delayed medical care in the last 12 months because they couldn’t afford it

  • The average retirement age is 64 for men and about 62 for women

  • Women have 26% less saved for retirement than their male colleagues

Americans’ financial health may leave you feeling morbid but the good news is, these same Americans are open to financial guidance and some are seeking help. At least 39% of Americans admit to wanting additional help in planning financially. However, only 21% have access to a financial advisor.
Of those with access, 64% feel unsatisfied in terms of meeting their holistic financial needs. The gap between what is currently provided via financial services versus the help needed by Americans to improve their financial wellness is monstrous.
This report is a Katrina-level warning for the financial services industry that modernization must come — not just in the form of technology, but through customer-centric services.”
Nonfiction Research suggests these must-have characteristics as a necessity for those providing help to Americas’ financially ill:
  • A culture around customer service — including the desire to actually provide customer service

  • The automation of much of this work with state of the art, customer-centric software

  • A trend toward demystifying finance rather than excessively profiting

  • A mindset that allows customer service and coaching to be the heart of the business

The power of technology paired with the unbiased personal guidance of financial advisors and a real desire to improve Americans’ financial wellness could be the nail in the coffin of this American Horror Story, and the cure for the financial pandemic.

At Questis we see the light at the end of the tunnel and have brewed up the perfect potion for financial success: a configurable, scalable, and secure financial wellness technology platform that gives advisors and plan sponsors the opportunity to scale their roles as well as provide their participants with the tools and technology to guide them to a healthy financial life. Our mission is to power positive financial outcomes for everyone and alas, cure this national pandemic. Created by advisors, for advisors…for the world.

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