What is your greatest financial fear?

By Will Chen on 29 October 2007 (Updated 12 November 2007) 40 comments
Photo: madmolecule

What is your greatest financial fear? Is it getting fired, astronomical healthcare costs, losing your house, or not having an adequate emergency fund?

Share your greatest financial fears in the comments and be entered in a random drawing to win a $25 gift certificate from Amazon.com!

In honor of Halloween, Wise Bread bloggers have decided to spill their guts about their worst financial nightmares. There are no vampires or boogeymen in our stories. There is, however, plenty of crying and whimpering, so readers' discretion is advised.

This drawing is over.  Congrats to Rebecca for winning the drawing.  Thanks to everyone who participated!

Andrea Dickson

Caring for my parents when they are elderly and infirm. I want to care for my parents if they need care. I can't bare the thought of sticking either of them in an old folk's home, but I'm scared that I won't have enough savings to take time off of work to care for them.

Assuming that I don't end up an old maid like everyone is predicting, I imagine that the care of a spouse's elderly parents would be another issue that I'd have to tackle.

Carrie Kirby

Gosh, I already know I won't be able to pay my two daughters' way through college, unless they choose a state school like I did.

I guess my fear is that my kids will feel financial stress growing up. That they'll worry when we go school shopping or it's time for a field trip that we don't have the money to pay for what they need.

I hope to avoid that by careful financial planning now, and by setting expectations later. I don't want to be driven to spending excess by my kids' need to keep up with the Joneses' kids.

Julie Rains

My greatest financial fear is that I will either outlive my money or that I won't have spent enough and enjoyed myself the way I should have. It would probably be easier to have one fear rather than contradicting ones.

Paul Of The Dead Michael

I think by far my biggest fear is that I won't be able to support my family. In my younger years it didn't matter where the money came from. If I got laid off, no worries, I'd sleep over at a friend's house until I got a new job. If work was tough to come by, I could eat Ramen and egg for a week. But with a wife and two daughters to support, I have to be much more prepared for anything. Jobs can disappear in the blink of an eye, savings can dry up and in this day and age, it is very easy to be without money and a home. I hope I never experience those hard times.

Limbless Lynn Truong

Lynn Truong's picture

My biggest fear is that I'll be trapped by money -- either by having too little and not being able to use it to enjoy life at all, or by having too much then getting so addicted to consumerism and a certain lifestyle that I'd still be living paycheck to paycheck. I haven't had to work for The Man for three years now. When I had a paycheck every two weeks, I spent it all. Now that there are no paychecks, I'm still surviving. I keep thinking that I just need a little more to be happy. But I worry that that chase for "a little more" will never go away. Technically, as long as I don't have to worry about being able to afford food and being late on payments, it should be enough. I have that right now. I just want...a little more. And I'm worried that the chase will tempt be back to a job in a cubicle getting checks signed by The Man once again.

Lycanthropic Linsey Knerl

I'm sometimes worried that my husband and I will become too dependent on any employer he may have now or in the future. If we hang all our hopes on an employer health plan, life insurance, and retirement savings, he would lose them when he changed jobs. At the same time, we want to plan for our future by taking advantage of some of the perks of being employed. It is a delicate balance that keeps us very mindful of being able to do for ourselves as much as possible.

We love the idea of someday living "off the grid" of working for someone else. My biggest fear is that we may never get there.

Justin Ryan

Justin Ryan's picture

My worst financial fear is that I'll forget to share the wealth.

I like to have nice, shiny toys for me, but I also enjoy giving to others. Nothing makes me feel quite as warm and fuzzy as giving someone a gift I know they want but couldn't get, or giving to a cause that I know really needs the help. (Speaking of which, if anyone is feeling the need to give, here are a couple worthy causes.)

I have a note above my desk that says "From those to whom much is given, still more shall be required." I hope that I never forget it.

Sarah Winfrey

Sarah Winfrey's picture

I'm most afraid of being stuck in debt forever, AND of allowing debt to dictate too much of my life (once again with the contradicting desires). I want to have a family, but (at least around here) that probably means staying home with my children, since quality childcare is so expensive. I'd love to do that, but we can't make loan payments and (future) house payments and (future) car payments on one salary. So even now, I feel torn between my debt and the rest of my life.

Willaim The Bloody Chen

My greatest fear is that I will not have enough money saved up to send my kids to the best colleges and grad schools. I would like to have around three to four kids. According to the New York Times, college tuition is expected to double by 2015, which would effectively shut off higher education to half of those who would want to pursue it. By the way, don't forget to check out The Simple Dollar's Five Greatest Financial Fears.

Share your greatest financial fears in the comments and be entered in a random drawing to win a $25 gift certificate from Amazon.com!

Extra bonus points for commenters who leave a Treehouse-of-horror style nickname.

This drawing is over.  Congrats to Rebecca for winning the drawing.  Thanks to everyone who participated!

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Guest's picture
AmandaD

Being poor! But mostly being poor because of health related issues or illness. I'm watching my parents take care of my grandparents, who are out of money. I've seen how my parents have spent so much of their own money supporting my grandparents, how heartbreaking it is to have to put them on medicaid, how stressful it is to put your own family and finances first.

Guest's picture
Lisa

I'm in graduate school, and graduate students are notoriously poor (including myself). Right now it's not so bad, but it is hard to watch most of my college friends find jobs that pay well. I've still got about 5 years of school left, and sometimes I fear that at some point in the future I'll get sick of being poor and will leave grad school for a "real" job.

Guest's picture
Alison

My greatest financial fear is getting in a car accident, injuring the other party, and not having enough money to pay for the damages. Getting sick and not being able to pay for medical expenses rank up there as well..

Guest's picture

Definately medical bills. I had a baby last Feb and some complications arose near delivery. Thus it kinda went out of my planned budget. The bill came to US26,000 and I am like shocked. I am still arguing with my insurance who did not process my claims. Since then, I have FEAR of getting sick, going to hospitals (even if I am just visiting) and of anyone who belong to medical field. I feel like all they do is put your health together and rip your wallet and bank apart! But looking down at my baby girl, well....she is worth it! Felt like I bought a baby instead though!

Guest's picture
Rebecca

I'm terrified of becoming disabled in some long-term way. I don't have disability insurance (I'm a contractor) and make more then half the money we take in, so if we lost my income for a long period of time it could be huge. The medical costs can be enough to bankrupt someone but when there is no such thing as sick time or income coverage it could really put is in a hole, eat through our savings and leave us with nothing. I've read that most americans are just one serious injury away from the poor house, and no amount of insurance can take that away.

Guest's picture

Being dependant on my parents for financial support, all my financial fears are about them falling into problematic situations which would leave the family less financially sound.

I am going to go to university soon, and that means a lot of initial investments to be able to live abroad, closer to the university. What would I do if my parents are unable to support me then? It is quite nasty that going abroad would be cheaper for me than staying in the same country, so far away I would have to stop being dependant on them.

So yeah, I think that I fear of something happening to the people I depend on financially - whether it's parents, or, in the future, my boss or my clients.

rstlne's picture
rstlne

I don't think I fear getting fired or having an inadequate emergency fund any more. I already derive a significant income from non-job activity and I'm sure I can live on that if that's what I had to do. As for the emergency fund, two years' worth of expenses is just the tip of that iceberg. What I fear most now is not being able to keep up with inflation. Estimated M3 has been growing at 14% year-over-year even while real economic growth seems to have gotten very low, if not negative already. That and also the Federal Reserve's recent actions seeking to sacrifice the US Dollar in order to protect large investment banks and hedge funds give me serious cause for concern.

Guest's picture

My biggest financial fear is not being able to play my generational role because of debt. I see my role as being part of parents' retirement plan (even though they say they don't). I also see my role as being the foundation of my (yet unborn) children's financial well-being. My debt could erode my ability to fill either or both of these roles. I'd hate for my parents' sacrifices to help me be the first in my family to become a professional and have a graduate degree, only for them to spend their golden years in poverty without help from me, or for their grandchildren to have the same financial obstacles they had because I couldn't afford to give them the advantages I had. That's why I'm so adamant about repaying debt.

Guest's picture
Joann

I have no children, and my parents have passed. I think my biggest fear is how could I take care of my cats if we were homeless. I know I could take care of myself. Compared to the other fears, this is rather trivial. But I've been rich, and I've been poor, and I manage to get through either way.

Guest's picture
Ryan Ghoulish Arth

my greatest financial fear is having the knowledge, and trying so hard, and getting no further than those who never tried.

scrimping and saving to buy investment properties only to get taken by a contractor (currently experiencing). it's just business, i know, but it feels more real when everything you have is tied up in it.

and ending up in the same shape as someone who bought a new car and a tv. at least they got to enjoy the money.

Guest's picture
Guest

My greatest financial fear is losing my apartment. I'm twenty-years-old and for the past two and a half years I've supported myself. However, because I'm young and thus poor, all three of my first apartments have required cosigners. So, if I ran out of money, I would not only lose my apartment, but likely extend the length of time during which property management companies require that someone else agree to cover my rent should I default. A fact I find that is more humiliating to me than the accusation that I'm as of yet not mature enough to consume alcoholic beverages. So even though I feel like two and a half years' of responsible living and a small but adequate emergency fund ought to be enough to prove that I'm a mature and responsible adult, I fear that some catastrophic event will eat my emergency fund and force me to live on the streets wherein I would not only have lost my shelter, but the dignity that has come of living the life of an adult in a world where so many people call me a kid.

Guest's picture
chris

That would be fear of taking risks (within reason). Such, as fear of going for that better job, or fear of taking the good idea and running with it. I was raised to always go with the "sure thing," no matter how limiting it might be, because it was safe. Sure, you won't make a lot of money or get ahead, but you'll always have a little bit. I've spent most of my life watching others take financial risks and embark on new endeavours in an effort to try to get ahead and I've always been scared to do so, because of the "what if" that is attached to it.

Guest's picture
Kathryn

My biggest financial fear is being without a job for longer than my emergency reserve is planned for. The irony is that I've been in the workforce for 20 years now and never been completely unable to find work, not even for a week. But I guess I've dated guys who were chronically unemployed (including my first husband), and heard the usual sob stories from the dot.com bust, so it seems like a "real" possibility even though it's never happened to me. I'm scared I couldn't find work in my field at my level of experience and would get turned down for things I'm overqualified for.

Guest's picture
Emily

My parents are hoarders, one of whom cannot seem to discern the point at which one man's trash is REALLY trash.

There is more than one house involved in the storage scheme, as well as several storage buildings.

I already have a basic plan in line for disposing of the worst of the stuff, but I shudder to think of the disposal fees I will get stuck with.

Guest's picture

First of all, I'd be the first guy in line to rescue Andrea from old maid status!

My biggest fear is becoming stuck on the two-income treadmill. I know so many people who drive well over an hour to jobs they don't like to pay for big houses and karate lessons for their kids, one job interruption away from oblivion. If I get married my financial plan will include a lifestyle that can be sustained on one paycheck, with the second paycheck earmarked for the financial freedom fund - aka the FU fund!

A close second is a fear that I could live beneath my means, save my pennies, clip coupons, drive my car into the ground, subsist on ramen, and still get financially wrecked by a lengthy period of unemployment thanks to layoffs or illness. It almost makes me want to run out and lease a BMW 5-Series, stop making 401k contributions, vacation in Tahiti, and buy a house using an interest-only jumbo ARM.

Guest's picture
Jen

I think my biggest fear is that I will never get out of debt and have a healthy relationship with my money. I fear not being able to go and do the things I dream of because I can't get out of the cycle of debt that I have been in for the past 7 years. I want to be able to enjoy my life instead of always worrying about when the next bonus or raise at work will come.

My second biggest fear is that my younger sisters will fall into debt as well. I want them to learn from my example and overcome the bad habits that our mother taught us!

Guest's picture
sassyfras

Like one other commenter, I fear losing everything I have and being forced to live under a bridge with my husband and cats. It's not likely to happen, as we have relatively stable jobs, an emergency fund, and lots of resources we could tap if we really had to do so. I also know that others have it far worse than I. Nevertheless, despite the fact that we have a positive net worth that is steadily growing, I just can't get past the fear that it could all be gone in the blink of an eye.

Guest's picture

My greatest financial fear would be that something would happen to cause me to lose everything that I worked so hard for...like those poor folk in California losing their homes to wildfire. I live in Florida - One Hurricane could run through and change my life.

Guest's picture
Jessica

I realize catastrophic events could occur but those aren't my greatest fears, mostly because it's not like I could control something like a volcano erupting in my backyard and burying my house.

My biggest concern is that I won't ever find a job that I can support myself and my husband and potential future children on. Right now my husband makes roughly three times what I do, and is likely to continue on that path since I chose to pursue earning an advanced degree in an area that doesn't pay well. In fact, according to some article on MSN money people with my degree earn 2% less than people with just a BA. (And people wonder why I'm taking so long to finish my thesis...) I tried this "do what you love" path and I ended up burned out and not so much in love.

Anyways, it would be nice to have a job that paid well enough that I felt like I was making a more significant (financial) contribution to our household.

I also worry about not paying my student loans off fast enough, and getting a large enough savings reserve before having kids...oh this could on forever.

Guest's picture
Rachel

My current greatest financial fear is buying a house and overestimating how much house I can afford, not being able to pay my mortgage, and being forced into foreclosure.

Guest's picture
Vixen

My biggest fear is that I won't leave the country. Since age 18, my plan has been to leave the country when I finish schooling. It's an intriscal part of who I am. There is a need to help people less fortunate in developing countries.

I'm worried that when the time comes, I'll be stupid enough to stay for a man that I'm involved with. I'll never forgive myself for not going after my dreams of living abroad in South America while working on my doctoral dissertation.

Guest's picture
Val

My biggest fear is illness or injury that not only costs a lot above insurance, but also would force me to run out of disability pay. Though I have good insurance and relatively good health, anything can happen to anyone at anytime and I always fear that its going to be me. I've had a few minor precancerous scares of different types and I'm worried that I'll have to go through extensive treatment at some point.

Guest's picture
Ann

I think my greatest fear is that my husband and I would die and, despite thorough planning and preparation, our estate plan would fail to function as we had envisioned and our children would be left destitute and alone. (Think Sara Rue in A Little Princess...gggoosseebbbuummppss.)

Guest's picture

1. I'm concerned about not being prepared for a major health crisis that will prevent me from being able to work for an extended period of time. It's the number one cause of bankruptcy and I'm always concerned about this future possibility. The more I have saved up and the more comprehensive insurance coverage I have the better I'll feel.

2. I'm also concerned about being stuck with high interest payments that I can't afford or get out of. I took advantage of 0% credit card balance transfers a while back due to financial necessity (not because I was doing App-O-Ramas). I accidentally failed to pay my minimum balance on time by only 2 days. My interest rate soared and the entire balance became due immediately. After some negotiation, the credit card company ultimately agreed to waive the finance charges and reinstate my 0% promotional period. Danger was averted. Whew!

-Raymond

Guest's picture
Annie

I've had a long term medical condition for over 20 years that has involved ongoing pain. I worry that I may not be able to work and need to go on disability. There is no way disability would pay for at the rate of my current salary - and as a result, I would not be able to afford my home, my auto, my medical insurance, or reach my retirement goals.

Guest's picture

My greatest financial fear is losing my job, running out of money and losing my home. I should not be so concerned about this as I have some great family members and I am sure they would help me out.

Guest's picture
Teresa

My biggest financial fear is getting seriously hurt or hurting someone else and not being able to support myself or pay for the other person.

Guest's picture
Sherry

is never getting out from under my student loans. I have about $80,000 in student loans from law school and while lawyers generally make a lot of money, I am not a big firm lawyer and so don't make $125,000 a year. I fear that these loans will forever (or at least until I am 47) dictate what my husband and I can do, including job transitions, housing choice, whether to have children and how many... the list goes on.

Guest's picture
ncbill

I had to quit work and take care of my mom, as her illness lasted about 10 years from diagnosis to death (in hindsight, it's clear she was ill for at least 5 years prior to disgnosis)

I was not even 30 years old when she was diagnosed.

Within a couple of years, I had to leave my Fortune 500 career to take care of her (she was getting tossed out of faciities due to the psych complications of her dementia)

I was very fortunate to be able to go to work for a family member and have the flexibility to take care of mom, but as I approach 40 years of age I'm not sure how to get back to a career track position that would enable me to take better care of my own spouse and kids.

I focus on taking care of my spouse and myself so hopefully my kids won't have to take care of one of their parents when they are as young as I was.

Guest's picture
Jason

I read everyone's fears and still my greatest fear is that "I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD?'"
I am afraid that I will become so wealthy that I begin to trust in my wealth and so lose all my contentment that I only have because the LORD is my refuge.

Guest's picture
Leia with a Limp

We are in quite the spot with the IL's parents renting a house we are paying mortgage on. Each month they live in it, the value of the house is going to go down. (His mother thinks she can paint, refinish things, etc and she's really no good at it.)

So my fear is that we're going to end up spending everything to bail them out and be poor forever, no matter what we do to better our own situation.

My own parents have nil in the way of savings, so that's also a concern. We are apparently the only financially stable people on either side of the family, and we're still $30000 in credit card debt! While that should be gone in two years, it is still quite the spot for us to be in should anything happen.

Guest's picture
Rob in Bloodly Madrid

My greatest fear is getting so close to being debt free only to have something push us back again. The been done that thingy. Don't know how many times we've pushed close to be free only the sabatoge it. Hopefully this is the last time

Guest's picture
Pamela

My biggest fear (for now, anyway) related to health insurance. My husband doesn't have health insurance (for multiple reasons) and I always have that "what if" scenario in the back of my mind. What if he's in an accident or ends up with some huge health issue? How would we pay all the medical bills?

Guest's picture
Guest

Whenever I help my children, I want it to strengthen them into patriarchs or matriarchs. My biggest fear was weakening them. Fortunately they all developed a full toolbox of life skills during their early twenties.

Guest's picture
Guest

Whenever I help my children, I want it to strengthen them into patriarchs or matriarchs. My biggest fear was weakening them. Fortunately they all developed a full toolbox of life skills during their early twenties.

Guest's picture
C. N. McKinney

My biggest fear is that I will be widowed and subsequently homesless and that our two cats will starve to death as I roam the streets slowly going insane as I constantly look for scraps and cat food.

Guest's picture
momof4

My biggest money fear is being uninsured and unable to afford the asthma and allergy meds my kids need to stay healthy. I could wing just about everything else in life in an extreme situation.

Guest's picture
Linda Spilman

My greatest financial fear is letting a childhood of scarcity and poverty distort my ability to seek postive and creative solutions for my present and future financial health. When I realized it wasn't situations that created my fears concerning money but a whole belief system then my "fears" became "fear". One gigantic fear that I could identify seemed so much easier to deal with than many unknown fears. Today my relationship with money goes beyond focusing on one specific fearful event. Instead I'm working on understanding and redefining my relationship with money.

Guest's picture
Bloggrrl

That I'll be retired and still won't own my own house and land.

Guest's picture
DC

before I can find someone younger and hotter who'll sign a prenup.