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43% of Americans Are Financially Insecure. What to Do if You're Among Them

Katie Brockman, The Motley Fool

The average American adult earns around $47,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When you've got a seemingly endless number of bills, as well as kids to put through college and unexpected expenses around every corner, that money rarely goes as far as you'd like. As a result, nearly half (43%) of Americans consider themselves financially insecure, according to a report from market research company YouGov.

Awareness is the key to getting your finances on track.

Hand putting coin into a piggy bank.

Image source: Getty Images.

Factors influencing financial security

Nearly half of those who report feeling financially insecure earn less than $30,000 per year. But income alone isn't the only factor that influences perceptions of financial security.

For example, 48% of those who currently have student loans admitted they feel financially insecure, compared to just 38% of people who have paid off their loans, according to YouGov. Homeownership is another key factor, with 51% of those who do not own property feeling financially insecure, while only 30% who own their home outright and 38% who have a mortgage feel the same way.

Those who are financially insecure also worry about the future, with 45% saying they feel "very unconfident" about saving enough for retirement. And 80% also worry they won't be able to save enough for an emergency fund, while 17% of those who are financially insecure say they're not confident or excited about the future.

Simply earning more money, paying off debt, and saving for retirement is easier said than done -- but it's not impossible.

Small steps that can improve financial security

While you may not be able to simply find a higher-paying job or eliminate your student loans overnight, you can take small steps to gradually better your financial health. Two things to start doing now include paying down debt and saving for retirement.

If you have multiple types of debt, start by tackling the debt with the highest interest rate. High-interest debt can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest alone, especially if you only make the minimum payments. Paying more than the minimum not only pays off the debt faster, but it also saves you money in interest.

At the same time, though, you should still be putting at least a little cash aside for retirement. Even if you don't have much to save right now, if you let your money sit untouched for a few decades, it can still grow into a significant amount of savings when invested in the stock market. But if you wait until you're only a few years from retirement, it will be nearly impossible to save as much as you need.

Balancing all your financial responsibilities can be tough, especially if you don't have much spare cash in the first place. If that's the case, it might be helpful to start tracking your spending to see where you can cut back. Any little bit helps.

Even if you're on a tight budget, being strategic about how you spend your money can improve your financial health and security. It won't happen overnight, but taking baby steps is better than taking none at all.

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