A new Gallup poll revealed this week that the cost of healthcare and below-average wages are the most pressing financial burdens on American families, with each obstacle mentioned by 14 percent of respondents.
Compared to previous years’ editions of Gallup’s “Most Important Financial Problems in the U.S.” survey, less consumers named unemployment or high gasoline and oil prices as major problems, same with the generally high cost of living. This is important, as gasoline and oil prices have gone down substantially in recent months, while the U.S. unemployment rate has continued on its downward path. This open-ended survey has been given out by Gallup for the past ten years, as the agency asks American consumers about the most important financial issue plaguing themselves and their families.
Healthcare topping the Gallup poll in 2014 marked the first time this had happened since early 2010, which was also when the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act was signed into law; this law is colloquially referred to as “Obamacare,” and has earned its equal share of plaudits and detractors.
Even then, the 14 percent of consumers who found healthcare to be the leading financial obstacle was not as high as the 16 to 19 percent who felt this way in 2007, or during the twilight of George W. Bush’s term as U.S. President.
One interesting takeaway from the recent Gallup poll was how only 6 percent of Americans surveyed consider the high cost of living or inflation to be their leading financial problem. This is down from the 13 percent recorded about three years ago.
Also, energy costs were named by just 2 percent of respondents; as mentioned earlier, oil prices have plummeted considerably, and are now at less than $50 per barrel. The percentage of consumers who said oil or gasoline prices are their family’s most telling financial problem was at a much higher 11 percent in 2012, as oil prices had spiked around that time.
According to Gallup, 17 percent of all respondents said that they do not have any money problems to worry about. This is up from the 12 percent of respondents who said last year that they are free of any financial issues, and a sign that the U.S.’ slow but steady economic recovery is being felt by a larger number of Americans, with the Great Recession now more than a half-decade past.
Financial problems tended to vary depending on income groups, as per the survey. Americans earning $75,000 per year or more said that retirement savings, college tuition, and healthcare were their biggest financial worries. Lower-income consumers, or those who earn less than $30,000 per year, said retirement savings and college expenses were not as important; these consumers also did not mention the stock market, interest rates, and controlling one’s budget as top problems.
Instead, a lack of money in general and a lack of money to pay off debts were the two financial problems that plagued lower-income Americans the most. However, healthcare seemed to be a common problem among Americans, regardless of their yearly income.