Personal Finance

7 in 10 Americans have cried over money. Here's what to do if you're one of them

Key Points
  • A new survey finds that 7 in 10 Americans have shed tears over their money woes.
  • Debt is most likely to trigger emotional upset. That comes as consumer debt hit a record $4 trillion earlier this year.
  • The good news is you can reduce your financial stress by taking small steps to address your problems.
Don Bayley | iStock / 360 | Getty Images

You've heard that you shouldn't cry over spilled milk. But what about money?

A new study from found that about 7 in 10 Americans have shed tears about their finances.

Debt is the biggest source of stress, according to the survey, with 31% saying household debt caused them to shed tears, and 20% saying credit card debt made them cry.

Other sources of worry include unemployment, for 15% of those surveyed; cost of living issues, such as meeting rent or mortgage payments, 14%; and tight budgets, 14%.

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The online survey was conducted in September and included 1,004 Americans.

"Even in generally good economic times, there's an awful lot of people who have debt," said Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at CompareCards. "Anyone who's ever had debt knows that when you feel like you can't get rid of it, it can be an overwhelming feeling.

"It's understandable that it would drive people to tears," he said.

Consumer debt hit a record $4 trillion earlier this year, according to the Federal Reserve. Meanwhile, total student debt has swelled to more than $1.5 trillion.

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The survey found that millennials, who have high student loan burdens, are more susceptible to getting emotional over money. Another source of financial stress for those 20- and 30-somethings is raising children.

Other debts that stress individuals out, according to the survey, include medical debt and personal loan debt. Respondents also reported shedding tears over their credit scores, taxes, identify theft, retirement and the stock market.

Notably, men and women differed in what financial circumstances they found most upsetting. Men said they cried over student loans and credit card and car debts. Meanwhile, women were upset by rent or mortgage payments and personal loans.

But not all tears were shed because of negative events. While about 75% of respondents said they had cried tears of sorrow, 29% said they shed happy tears. That could have been prompted by a financial windfall or gift.

If you are feeling overwhelmed financially, there are some steps you can take so that your money does not get the best of your emotions:

  • Start attacking the problem. If you find yourself getting emotional, it's probably because you feel the situation is out of control, Schulz said. To change that, start addressing the issue by taking proactive steps like making a budget or selling things you don't value anymore, he suggested. "Even the smallest action, added up over time, can make a significant difference," Schulz said.
  • Try to negotiate your debt. One way to reduce your burden is to pick up the phone and ask your credit card issuer for a reduced interest rate. But many people just don't do it, according to Schulz. "People would be shocked how often people are successful," Schulz said. "Especially if you have good credit history, your chances of getting your way are better than you think."
  • Be careful who you take advice from. Credit counselors, debt repair companies and other services might have tempting offers. But if their promises sound too good to be true, they might be, Schulz said.

    "The sad truth is that there are a lot of people out there preying on people who are struggling with debt and need some hope in their lives," Schulz said. Make sure you do thorough research on any advisor or credit counselor before you work with them.