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eMoney 2020 Financial Wellness Survey Results: COVID-19 Increases Financial Stress

Celeste Revelli February 11, 2021

eMoney financial wellness survey
Updated on: February 24, 2023

Financial professionals have a unique opportunity to implement financial wellness programs that positively impact people’s futures now more than ever due to the impacts of COVID-19. This is one of the findings that came to light in a survey1 conducted by eMoney in late 2020.

When asked how COVID-19 has affected their overall well-being, responses indicated that Americans already stressed about their financial wellness are feeling even more pressure.

Key Findings: Financial Wellness Survey

When a group of US adults was asked what caused them the most stress, the number one answer was their finances, followed by work and relationships. The impact of this financial stress was also found to be far-reaching, affecting respondents’ overall mental, physical, and relational2 health.

In terms of seeking help, people tend to reach out to a variety of sources for support. However, financial professionals were low on the list. The survey indicated some distinct barriers for financial professionals to overcome to connect with these potential clients.

COVID-19 and Stress: Your Health Is at Stake Even Without Contracting the Virus

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched our lives in ways we never could have imagined prior to living through it. To learn more about its impact on overall well-being, our survey gathered data on five types of health: financial, physical, mental, spiritual, and relational.

Survey respondents most frequently cited financial wellness as a source of stress, followed by mental and physical health in a close heat for second. Relational and spiritual health rounded out the bottom of the list.

The fact that people’s fears for their financial wellness outpaced their concerns over physical health during a worldwide healthcare crisis is alarming. It supports the understanding that Americans were already stressed about their financial wellness before the onset of the pandemic—which only made things worse. It also supports the idea that all five types of health are deeply.

Survey Results:

  • Since the onset of COVID-19, Americans surveyed felt varying degrees of stress related to the following five factors of their health:
    • 68% feel stress related to financial health
    • 50% feel stress related to physical health
    • 49% feel stress related to mental health
    • 41% feel stress related to relational health
    • 41% feel stress related to spiritual health

COVID’s Impact on Financial Wellness: A Deeper Dive

When asked about their primary sources of stress, survey respondents most often cited their financial situation. They also said the current pandemic has made their financial situation worse.

This increased financial stress has negatively impacted the mental, physical, and relational health of many respondents further confirming that financial wellness impacts all aspects of our lives.

When asked specifically about their personal finances, most indicated that they are focused on paying their day-to-day bills. Other areas of focus included paying off debts, building an emergency fund, and saving for a large purchase.

Survey Results:

  • Respondents indicated that the most stress in their lives is caused by:
    • Finances—40%
    • Work—33%
    • Relationships—13%
  • COVID-19’s impact on respondents’ financial situation:
    • Worse—62%
    • No impact—26%
    • Better—12%
  • Those surveyed are feeling increased financial stress related to overall health in the following ways:
    • 51% feel stress related to mental health
    • 41% feel stress related to physical health
    • 39% feel stress related to relational health
  • The survey indicates people are most focused on these aspects of their financial lives:
    • Paying day-to-day bills—32%*
    • Paying off debt—30%*
    • Saving/building up emergency fund—30%*
    • Saving for a large purchase (e.g. a home renovation, car, or a vacation)—29%*
    • Saving up for children’s educational expenses—28%*
    • Budgeting—26%*
    • Health care expenses—25%*
    • Retirement—24%*

Voicing Concerns: Talking About Finances and Seeking Assistance

The good news is many of the people feeling health impacts because of their financial worries have sought advice. Survey respondents indicate they have reached out to family, friends, employers, therapists, and medical professionals for assistance.

However, of those who reached out, just over a quarter did so to a financial professional. This hesitancy could stem from the range of emotions these conversations trigger including stress, confusion, and embarrassment.

Further, nearly a third of respondents said not being able to find reliable and sound financial advice, and a lack of financial education constituted the biggest barriers to achieving financial wellness.

Survey Results:

  • People are less likely to reach out to financial professionals to talk about their financial worries, they are reaching out to others:
    • Family/friends—47%*
    • Employer—42%*
    • Therapist or medical doctor—42%*
    • Financial advisor—28%*
  • Talking to other people about their finances made survey respondents feel:
    • Comfortable—24%
    • Stressed—21%
    • Confused—18%
    • Embarrassed—15%
    • Indifferent—9%
  • Respondents indicated that their biggest barriers to financial wellness are:
    • Getting or finding reliable/good/sound financial advice—34%*
    • Lack of understanding or financial education—32%*
    • Not understanding the impact of my decisions—28%*
    • Anxiety/fear—27%*
    • Lack of time or focus—27%*
    • Not having a view of all my finances in one place—27%*
    • Lack of desire—23%*

Achieving Financial Wellness: It’s All in the Planning

The definition of financial wellness can vary from person to person. When asked what financial wellness means to them, the top responses were split pretty evenly between “having a comprehensive, personalized financial plan” and “a feeling of financial security” based on income and expenses.

These two definitions combined provide a powerful statement on what people are searching for and how they can achieve it. Getting started with even the most basic financial plan provides a roadmap for reaching financial security.

But what’s the best way to reach people who want to improve their financial wellness? According to survey results, access through their employer would be a great place to start.

Nearly half of all respondents said they would take advantage of an employer-offered financial wellness program and that they would prefer it if that guidance encompassed more than just retirement benefits.

Survey Results:

  • What does financial wellness mean to survey respondents?
    • A feeling of financial security as a result of income and manageable expenses—39%*
    • Having a comprehensive financial plan personalized for me that maps out my finances, both short- and long-term—37%*
    • Feeling safe and secure when making large purchases or financial decisions—34%*
    • An understanding of where my finances are today and how to save for tomorrow—33%*
    • Feeling that my financial situation aligns with my life goals—32%*
    • Little to no debt—31%*
    • A positive opinion and mentality towards my finances—30%*
    • A solid investment portfolio—22%*
  • Respondents indicated they would describe someone with financial wellness as:
    • Secure—28%
    • Disciplined—25%
    • Competent—21%
    • Successful—18%
    • Confident—6%
  • Would you take advantage of a financial wellness benefit from your employer?
    • Yes—47%
    • No—29%
  • Would you like your employer to offer insight into your entire financial picture and not just retirement?
    • Yes—49%
    • No—31%

Creating Personalized Financial Planning Experiences to Improve Financial Wellness

Based on the feedback of survey respondents, it’s clear that worry over finances is widespread and the ongoing pandemic is only making things worse. The negative impact of this stress on overall health is widespread. Simply put, financial wellness matters.

The fact that people feel they don’t have access to financial advice points to a real opportunity for financial advisors. Tearing down the barriers to provide that access is the first step in reaching people who say they would welcome the chance to create a plan.

In the broadest sense, what the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us is that having a sound financial plan in place during these turbulent times has been a source of comfort to those who have them. Having the best tools at your disposal ensures your ability to support clients on their journey to financial wellness.

DISCLAIMER: The eMoney Advisor Blog is meant as an educational and informative resource for financial professionals and individuals alike. It is not meant to be, and should not be taken as financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. Those seeking professional advice may do so by consulting with a professional advisor. eMoney Advisor will not be liable for any actions you may take based on the content of this blog.

The views and opinions expressed by this blog post guest are solely those of the guest and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of eMoney Advisor, LLC. eMoney Advisor is not responsible for the content, views or opinions presented by our guest, nor may eMoney Advisor be held liable for any actions taken by you based on the content, views or opinions of the guest.


eMoney Advisor surveyed 2,000 nationally representative respondents from 12/09/2020 to 12/11/2020.

2 Relational health refers to the healthy, nurturing, and supportive relationships you have with those around you.

*Multiple answer choices were allowed therefore the total will sum to more than 100%.

Image of Celeste Revelli
About the Author

Celeste Revelli is currently Director of Digital Planning at Fidelity Investments, where she works on digital financial planning experiences for Fidelity advisors and clients. Starting her career as a registered advisor for a few years, Celeste has been in the financial services industry since 2009. She worked at eMoney Advisor for almost 11 years, where she led advanced planning support escalation, product research support, and eMoney’s financial wellness and financial education strategy as Director of Financial Planning. Celeste received her bachelor’s degree in communications and marketing from Loyola University Maryland and her certificate in financial planning from Boston University. She is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and is currently pursuing her MBA specializing in financial psychology and behavioral finance from Creighton University. Celeste dedicates time to serving her community in the areas of pro bono financial planning and financial literacy, and she also serves the industry through her support of next generation planners, diversity and inclusion efforts, and exam and technology committees for the CFP Board. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and son.

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