Causes of Stress: Rating The Most Stressful Financial Events

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2011-10-2014

The whole subject of finance is one of the most common causes of disagreement and discord in a family, and I’m sure there has never been a home that hasn’t been touched by stress at one point or another due to money. It’s a tough subject where issues of power, control and ego are in effect, and where the interplay between these elements has the potential to fuel explosive and problematic conditions at home.

I thought about this a bit and came up with a list of what I think are the most common financial stressors in one’s life, wondering how well anyone can really prepare for such challenges if they ever arise. There’s this saying: “Even the best laid plans can be foiled.” By the unexpected, that is. Still, we get ready and brace ourselves for what can possibly happen, and hope our financial house can withstand the storms of fate, time and life changes.

The following list is not from a formal study but rather, from my own research and observations: I’ve discovered that a measuring scale for stress actually exists, and it’s called the Holmes-Rahe scale. So I went ahead and assigned points to these events based on the scale, and provided approximate points where events were not officially represented. Please note that this list is based on the scale but I had to fill in some of the gaps.

I’ve divided the list into two sections — one that describes typical, ordinary financial stressors which most people inevitably go through, while the other describes stressors due to less likely, but impactful events which may or may not ever happen to you.

The Most Stressful Financial Events You Should Prepare For

Ordinary Life Changes That Affect Your Finances

Financial Events Financial Crisis Units
Merging assets due to a marriage 50
Losing a job 47
Retiring 45
Getting “sandwiched” and caring for children and parents (or older family members) 40
Accommodating new children in the family 39
Changing careers or job responsibilities 32
Launching a business 32
Relocating 30
Spouse leaves work or returns to work 26
Lifestyle changes, deliberate or otherwise 25
Remodeling a house 25
Troubles at work 23
Buying a house 20
Claiming insurance for medical purposes 20

Extraordinary Life Changes That Affect Your Finances

Financial Events Financial Crisis Units
Death and losing a breadwinner 100
Dividing assets during divorce 73
Going through probate 50
Enforcing a prenup when the other side isn’t interested 40
Becoming suddenly wealthy, when you need to please everyone 38
Going through bankruptcy or carrying a large debt 31
Going through foreclosure 30
Becoming a scam victim 30
Claiming insurance for disaster 30

Some surprising findings from trends based on the Holmes-Rahe scale: changes in your marital status through marriage, divorce, separation or reconciliation; changes in your state of employment such as retirement and unemployment; and changes in your financial status all end up rating higher in the stress scale than (or at least equal to) events surrounding a home foreclosure, bankruptcy filing or a personal debt crisis! Having gone through a few job searches myself, I can’t imagine it to be anywhere as close to frightening (or as stressful) as a crumbling debt situation. Could it be because the highly stressful events involve and change your existing relationships more than the less stressful events do?

The scale can give you some idea of how stressed you are. However, if you really want further quantification of your scores, you can try out the actual Holmes-Rahe test and see what your risk of serious illness happens to be!

The Most Stressful Occupations In America and CNBC provide some coverage on the most stressful jobs in America. I came up with this table based on the information I found.

Stressful Job
Time Pressure Competition Unemployment Rate
Real Estate Agent High Very High 4% to 7%
Public Relations Officer High Very High 4% to 7%
Firefighter Very High Low 0% to 4%
Corporate Executive High High 0% to 4%
Advertising Manager or Executive Moderate Very High Over 14%
Surgeon Moderate High 0% to 4%
Taxi Driver Moderate Moderate Over 14%
Traffic Cop / Highway Patrol Moderate Low 0% to 4%
Commercial Pilot Moderate Low 7% to 10%

Work stress is quite common. Aside from those occupations I’ve mentioned, what are some other stressful jobs that often make these lists? Race car driver, emergency medical technician (and other professions in this field), stock broker, photojournalist and newscaster. But what about the most stressful job of all? Well, if you are the “President of the United States”, this could very well be your fate:

Obama, Before and After
Possible before and after?

Now let’s take a look at the other side of the coin. The Jobs Rated Almanac reveals that the following five jobs are the least stressful: medical records technician, janitor, forklift operator, musical instrument repairer and florist.

Here’s an interesting question: are there people who are just naturally more prone to stress? Apparently so. You can very well be born with a certain vulnerability to stress, as the type of personality you have may play a part in the way you react to and manage high pressure situations. For instance, people with “Type A” personalities — who are driven and anxious by nature — may be more prone to stress. Certain types of jobs (such as those that deal with life/death situations) can also influence one’s stress levels. Furthermore, those who are touched by mental illness (family or self) may also be more vulnerable to stress (source: Jobs Rated Almanac).

Let’s see, how many serious bloggers out there have “Type A” personalities? If you’re the kind of person who’s highly anxious, then try various healthy activities (e.g. yoga) to help you relax. It may just help you de-stress!

How Should We Handle Stressful Financial Situations?

The best way to meet any stressful money situation head on is to prepare. Granted, it can be difficult to discuss some of these things and make mutual decisions with your partner, and sadly in many cases, it can be pretty much impossible to reach agreement over some issues. In fact, some events may be so unpalatable to imagine, that you may prefer to “not even go there” with your loved one.

Unpleasant or not, for many of the events outlined above, you can certainly work on plans to smoothen your transitions better. It is always our heartfelt hope that we can somehow stave off these occurrences and if not, wish that we can have the fortitude, maturity and resources to navigate through our situation.

Created March 15, 2007. Updated October 20, 2011. Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

sister smile March 15, 2007 at 9:10 pm

The divorce thing surprises me not at all. Why? Been there, done that, got the T-shirt and promptly burned it. I have been through sudden death of cousin, parent with cancer, other parent with cancer, parent with cancer again, parent with heart attack, and (currently) terminally ill parent. None of the things I just mentioned were easy, but my divorce was by far the single most stressful event of my entire life. I lost thirty pounds that I couldn’t afford in a month, along with handfuls of hair. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

On the other hand, the long view is that it was very much for the best, and going through that experience helped me learn to cope with other stressors much better than I once did.

Janni March 25, 2008 at 9:01 am

Stress from financial matters for single moms can sometimes be hard to deal with. A single mom is unlikely to have help from a partner or parent. And when they are feeling overwhelmed with stress from everyday life and financial hardship there isn’t anyone there to lean on or help out.

Personal Bankruptcy Options May 13, 2008 at 3:37 pm

For me…I have found that there is one thing that has influenced my financial attitude more than any other…

The amount of money I have in my savings account.

I don’t know all the reasons why. But when there’s money in the account, I’m more confident in the future. And I even sleep better.

Amy June 16, 2008 at 9:02 am

I’m not surprised by anything mentioned in this article….I think I do need a change of career. I think I see flowers in my future. 🙂

dean graziosi November 29, 2008 at 5:56 am

It’s interesting to me a forklift operator is one of the least stressful jobs out there. I think the more people & your personal lifestyle depend on your job’s income, the more stressful your life will be.

Glenn Torres June 28, 2009 at 5:35 am

Oh god! Ha ha! Just reading this list is causing me stress! It’s like a compilation of all the things one tends to worry about needlessly right before they fall asleep. I’m afraid I will be up lying awake tonight! 🙂

– Glenn

Chandler AZ September 10, 2009 at 4:07 pm

It’s great that I’m at a stage in life right now that doesn’t see much of any of these events.

Financial Samurai September 24, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Great post! Shouldn’t not having money be the #1 financial stress?

Chris December 23, 2009 at 7:20 am

Great post, when I was moving house, I found that to be one of the most stressful times I’ve ever experienced. I found that making sure I didn’t lose sleep was very helpful, because if you are sleep deprived, that can simply increase the intensity of stress.


Dan @ Anxiety Support Network January 10, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Nice post…no real huge surprises. I just got married and I’m going through the merging of finances, and I’m the one who is good with finances in our marriage. It’s tough, and definitely a major source of anxiety and stress. As the article notes, preparation is key, and anyone who gets married is wise to sit down and prepare a financial plan…of course, the trick is getting your spouse to actually sit down and do it! Great post with lots of practical information!

krantcents October 20, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Except for losing a spouse or job, I do not find finances all that stressful. I think it is because I spent 30+ years in business. My experience and age helps considerably with financial matters.

Silicon Valley Blogger October 20, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Usually, you feel stress and anxiety when something is out of your control or you feel frustration over the matter. If you have mastery of a particular thing or situation, it’s pretty much in your comfort zone and it’s unlikely that you’d be worked up about it. As I mentioned, if you’re ready / prepared for something, you’re typically less stressed when that “something” happens (since it’s expected).

Being prepared for an emergency makes a whole lot of difference. I’m actually quite surprised that a lot of people still choose to go through life without an emergency or contingency fund. Then again, it’s easy to neglect or ignore something that isn’t a matter of urgency at the moment. Being prepared (for emergencies of any sort — financial, disaster or long term planning) tends to be a lower priority to many of us who tend to be caught up in or distracted by more everyday concerns.

NYC Wedding Cakes October 23, 2011 at 5:40 pm

When I escaped debt, there was definitely a weight lifted off of my shoulders.

Yazmin October 25, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Not many surprises on the list. As a new college grad, I would add finding a job in this economy to the list. You said it well – the best way to bet stress is to prepare, but what about the things you can’t control like a slow economy? I was very lucky to have found a job right after college, but know of several classmates stressing about not being able to find one.

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