Sep 23, 2018

By the numbers: Americans are barely in control of their money

Felix Salmon, author of Edge

Photo: Cris Faga/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In an era of financial-services innovation, money remains one of the great stressors in our lives.

By the numbers: 5% of Americans with checking accounts rack up more than 50% of all the country's overdraft and bounced-check fees. It's a $35 billion income stream for the banks, even after Dodd-Frank. Needless to say, those 5% of Americans are precisely the people who can least afford to pay dozens of fees per year at an average cost of $35 apiece.

According to a new report from Nonfiction:

  • 41% of Americans who earn over $200,000 a year have cried because they didn’t have enough money.
  • In an age of social media, almost everybody feels status anxiety — the pressure to present to the world a false view of how effortless and carefree their lives are.
  • The result is costly embarrassment. One respondent gave up a job opportunity rather than admit that they needed help with the bus fare to get to the interview.
  • We're desperate for help with knowing if we're being paid fairly. For example, 70% of women feel that they are not paid what they deserve, but have no access to salary evaluation services.
  • We also need help with budgeting and saving.

The financial-services industry does a dreadful job of addressing these problems, and the problems are getting worse.

  • Millennials are 40% more likely to overdraw their checking accounts if they use mobile payments, according to a new financial literacy report from the TIAA Institute.
  • Mobile payment users were also more likely to make withdrawals from their retirement savings accounts and engage in high-cost borrowing activity.
  • Existing budgeting tools don't help. Millennials who use their mobile devices to track their spending are 25% more likely to overdraw their checking account.

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