63% of Employees Say Financial Stress Has Increased During the Pandemic. Here's How to Cope

by Maurie Backman | Updated Sept. 28, 2021 - First published on May 17, 2021

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Stressed woman holding phone looks at bills.

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Has your financial stress level risen? Here are some ways to lessen it.

We all experience our share of financial stress from time to time, such as when we lose a job or get hit with an unplanned bill. But there's nothing like a global pandemic and economic crisis to drive our stress levels over the edge.

If you've experienced your share of financial stress during the pandemic, you're far from alone -- 63% of workers say their stress has increased since the coronavirus outbreak began, according to a recent PwC survey.

Interestingly, millennials were the most likely to report an uptick in stress, with 72% saying theirs got worse during the pandemic. By comparison, 68% of Gen Zers, 62% of Gen Xers, and 46% of baby boomers said the same.

But no matter your age, if your stress level has skyrocketed over the past year, it's important that you take some steps to help bring it back down. Here are a few ideas to help.

1. Boost your emergency fund

If you're in a decent spot right now financially and have some money left over after paying your bills, then building an emergency fund could really go a long way toward alleviating financial stress. At a minimum, you should aim to keep three months' worth of living expenses in your savings account. But if you can get closer to the six-month mark, you'll buy yourself a little extra peace of mind at a time when the economy is still in a shaky spot and the ongoing health crisis is far from over.

2. Create a debt payoff plan

Millions of Americans have been dealing with income loss during this past year. If you are one of those people, you may have had no choice but to resort to credit cards or a loan to cover your expenses. If your debt is starting to pile up, it's natural to be stressed about it. But a good way to combat that is to map out a plan for how to pay off that debt.

Maybe you'll stick with a budgeting method that has you tackle your credit card balances in order of highest to lowest interest rate. Or maybe you'll look at debt consolidation to help you

Manage your finances. The simple act of making a plan will help you feel empowered to manage your debt rather than let it drag you down mentally.

3. Forgive yourself for not meeting goals

Maybe you were hoping to buy a home this year, but your income took a hit and you didn't save up enough for a down payment. Don't beat yourself up for falling behind on your goals. The past 13 months have been hard on a lot of people financially.

Instead, regroup. Assess your current financial situation and create a new roadmap. Going back to our example, maybe it's now more reasonable to plan on buying a home in 2022. That's not something you should feel guilty about. Do your best to push those negative thoughts aside and focus instead on getting to where you want to be.

The fact that most workers saw their financial stress increase during the pandemic isn't surprising. But if you fall into that category, it's important to do something about it.

High levels of stress can cause your body physical harm, and at a time like this, you don't need any more mental anguish. So while you're working on the items above, also carve out some time for self care. Treat yourself to a bubble bath once a week. Take time out of your week to go for a few walks -- the fresh air will do you good. Or, indulge in something that helps you forget your worries, like a classic movie or new series to binge watch.

These are very difficult times for all of us. Be kind to yourself as you work through them.

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