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The Money Anxiety Disorder Myth

By Dan Geller

Stressed about money?  You are perfectly normal.  Seven of ten people reported being stressed about money in a study by the American Psychological Association, which shows that stress and anxiety over money a normative condition.

A 2015 study by the American Psychological Association (APA) confirms that anxiety over money is the leading cause of stress among the majority of Americans, and that the level of money anxiety fluctuates with the state of the economy.  Moreover, the study shows that people are stressed about money more than they are stressed about their work, family and their health.

According to the APA study "Even though aspects of the U.S. economy continue to improve, some Americans are squeezed by sharp increases in health care costs and the cost of living. This year's Stress in America™ survey shows that stress about money and finances is prevalent nationwide. In fact, regardless of the economic climate, money has consistently topped Americans' list of stressors since the first Stress in America survey in 2007."

Money anxiety is a survival instinct that warns us a financial danger. It is the same instinct that told our ancestors to run when they faced a tiger in the woods. In modern society, our survival instincts are centered on money, which enables us to obtain life's necessities such as food, shelter and clothing.

The findings of the APY study also validate the theory that financial stress is common and widespread among Americans and that the level of money anxiety fluctuates with the economy.  The Money Anxiety Index, which I developed, measures the level of people's stress and anxiety over money and functions as a barometer of the economy. 

The APA study shows that in 2007, which was the first year of this study, 74 percent of Americans cited money as the leading cause of stress.  The number of Americans reporting money anxiety as their leading cause of stress peaked in 2010 at 76 percent in the aftermath of the Great Recession, and gradually declined to 64 percent in 2014 as the economy improved. The findings of the APA study mirror the fluctuation in the Money Anxiety Index.  In 2007, the Money Anxiety Index stood at 62.3; climbing up to 96.2 in 2010 and gradually declining to 67.3 at the end of 2014 due to improved economy.  

I believe that money anxiety should be viewed as behavioral economics phenomenon more so than a psychological condition because of the strong link between the economy and the level of financial stress and anxiety. Understanding money anxiety is a crucial component to lessening its negative affect on our lives.

Dr. Dan Geller is a behavioral economist and the author of Money Anxiety.  He pioneered the research on the link between money anxiety and financial behavior. Based on his research, Dr. Geller developed the Money Anxiety Index, which predicts economic trends.  The Money Anxiety Index predicted the arrival of the Great Recession 14 months prior to the official start of the recession in December 2007. Dr. Geller has appeared on national TV and radio, such as CNBC and Fox, national and financial publications and delivered the keynote address in national conferences such as American Banker's Banking Analytics Symposium.  Dr. Geller earned his Doctoral degree from Touro University, and has published numerous peer-reviewed articles in scientific publications. For more information visit Permission granted for use on

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