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What Is Your Biggest Financial Concern Today?

This article was written by in Personal Finance. 11 comments.

I am preparing for a possible media appearance on a program broadcast across the world.

I’ve been reading a number of news stories as well as comments from readers in order to get a sense of what Americans are concerned about today. One of the biggest issues seems to be the so-called fiscal cliff. I’ve avoided writing about this topic as the discussions seem to be overly partisan, and when that happens, common sense seems to disappear. For a while, the tenor of the debate seemed to be that if politicians in Congress could not strike a deal, the world would end.

The fiscal cliff.

It now looks like the federal government is closer to reaching a deal regarding tax law changes and spending reductions before the deadline. Even if they didn’t, and the automatic elimination of the Bush-era tax cuts and spending cuts were to go into effect on January 1, everyone seems to forget that Congress and the President can continue to negotiate, and any changes can be put in place retroactively. The danger is that the stock market would crash and force the country into another recession.

If you’re in a place in your life where you’re investing for the future at least a decade away, investing in stock index funds right now is probably a good idea. The stock market stagnates or worse when there’s uncertainty, and there has been a lot of uncertainty with a government that has difficulty working together.

A month ago, I said it was time to go all in, when the market seemed to be reacting negatively from the election and the uncertainty that comes with a Democratic President butting heads with Republicans in Congress. Since that date, November 12, the S&P 500 index is up 4.85%. I don’t pretend to think that kind of progress will continue, nor do I think I can come anywhere close to predicting the market, but uncertainty and negativity create good environments for increasing the chances for a well-balanced stock portfolio to do well in the long term.

Paying off holiday debt.

Big concerns right now are the holidays and the consumer spending associated with ensuring families are happy with their gifts and their experiences. The National Retail Federation releases figures on how people are spending, and the organization’s figures show increases over last year’s spending. Keep in mind the NRF exists, among its other purposes, to handle public relations for the retail industry, focusing on results that favor the industry and downplaying those that don’t. Regardless of the organization’s motives, if spending is up, credit cards will see higher balances. While there have been some improvements in the employment sector, salaries may not have risen enough to cover increased spending.

A concern for consumers will be how to handle leftover credit card balances when the dust settles after the holidays. Last week, I appeared on a HuffPost Live segment with a panel of experts to discuss holiday spending, debt, and credit.

The costs of healthcare.

Another concern I’ve been seeing expressed by the public is the cost of healthcare. I can’t remember a time when this was not a concern, though. I have my own healthcare annoyances to deal with. I currently have health insurance from COBRA, having been an employee of the company that purchased my business. The company changed its insurance company a few months ago, and the doctor I had been seeing is no longer “in-network.”

Looking back, I could have saved myself some trouble by switching healthcare providers and finding a new doctor who is “in-network.” I didn’t, and I decided to maintain a relationship with the same doctor I’ve had. Billing has become a complete mess, with the doctor’s small office unable to get the insurance company to pay claims. Somehow, I’ve been placed in the middle, trying to get some answers between the insurance company and the doctor.

Besides the time I’ve spent on the phone trying to help my doctor’s office deal with the insurance, the cost of coverage through COBRA is painful to my bank account. Individual health insurance is not cheap, either. Health insurance is a prized benefit when you can get it from your employer, but costs to the consumer don’t seem to be slowing down. Depending on your political leanings, you’ll blame the government or the insurance industry — very few blame the doctors and other healthcare providers — but regardless of the blame, the costs are still increasing at a pace never to be matched by cost of living increases.

What are your biggest financial concerns, considering the election, which is now behind us, and the start of the new year?

Published or updated December 18, 2012.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

My biggest financial concern would have to be the state of the economy and economic growth. Without growth I am afraid our debt is unsustainable and something needs to be seriously done.

I also wonder where social security will be in 40 years when I retire but I instead pretend it won’t exist because there is no way to accurately predict what the program will provide when I retire.

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avatar 2 Luke Landes

When you say “our debt,” do you mean the the federal government’s debt, the mass of household/consumer debt for the whole country, or your own family’s debt?

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avatar 3 Anonymous

In my opinion, the US is in a long, slow-growth environment – perhaps 1-2% growth. The government doesn’t want to admit this, so it is borrowing and spending money from the future to make growth appear more robust today, and the fed is helping them by keeping borrowing costs low. The effect of this is distorting the US treasury market by not allowing the debt to be priced properly. What happens ten years from now after the government has borrowed another 7-8 trillion dollars, rates rise and government struggles to service its debt? Monetize the debt which leads to crazy inflation? That’s my long-term horror story. Perhaps the gold bugs are right.
The “fiscal cliff” is a side-show, so the politicians can mug for the cameras and the business media has something to talk about.
As for healthcare, in 2030 nursing home costs are projected to cost $190K/year. I’m not budgeting for it; instead, I’m shooting for winning the lottery or becoming indigent at that stage of my life.

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avatar 4 Luke Landes

So that’s an interesting outlook on the economy. But is this what you are concerned about for your family’s finances today? How does slow long-term growth affect you right now?

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avatar 5 Anonymous

I’m a contractor and can be cut loose from my job at any time, buy my finances are in good shape so I should be able to weather most storms. Still, job insecurity, stagnant wages, and declining or non-existent benefits are my short term worries, and a slow economy only makes it worse.

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avatar 6 Anonymous

For me the biggest concern is when will we as a society finally take hold of the fact that we are spending ourselves into oblivion.

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avatar 7 Anonymous

For my family, we are focused on the cost of kids’ college, rising health insurance costs, and very low rates of return on interest bearing accounts. Long-term, I think that there is a real possibility that food and fuel prices (due to inflation and policies) will sky-rocket, forcing us to make some very real and very difficult choices.

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avatar 8 wylerassociate

I am focused on paying off debt, hoping that economic growth continues in 2013 and that as an investor, the proposed taxes for dividends and investments aren’t too severe.

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avatar 9 Ceecee

My biggest concern is one you mentioned—-the cost of my individual health insurance. It is the one thing that I feel I must have but have no control over the premiums. The second would be finding a safe way to get a little better return on the funds in my retirement account. It seems to go nowhere lately, and I know it needs to grow more than it has in the last few years.

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avatar 10 TakeitEZ

My family’s long term savings. I am 39 and my wife is 35 and we still have no significant savings.

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avatar 11 lynn

The government has a way of inciting mass emotion, then doing what they want. I learned quite a while ago not to pay much attention to the inciting, just the final outcome. I sleep better that way. Which keeps health issues at bay.

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