Neal Gabler’s astonishing piece for The Atlantic, “The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans,” should be required reading for everyone.

Gabler’s brave and honest account of the struggles to make ends meet and the accompanying shame that financial peril leads to is one of the reasons we at Payoff are so committed to changing a system that leaves so many people unable to prepare for or pay for an emergency in their lives. Our relationship with money is making us ill and it needs to be changed. This is why we’re looking for solutions to financial stress.

Gabler reports that the Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency and 47 percent reported they would either be required to borrow the money or sell something. This is a remarkable percentage. It means that nearly half of us have no security and our lives are close to the edge in ways that lead to profound worry and chronic anxiety.

“Financial stress is so destructive that it’s shortening lives and filling many others with fear, depression and shame,” says Payoff’s founder and CEO Scott Saunders. “People tell me they feel like they’re living a life sentence, rather than living a life, because their money worries stand in the way of every step. We can only change this once we begin to really talk about it and I am grateful to Mr. Gabler for such an honest account of his own experience. We need more of this kind of candor in order to really improve our relationship with money and live better.”

“Financial stress is so destructive that it’s shortening lives and filling many others with fear, depression and shame.”

We at Payoff have had a front-row seat to this crisis of financial anxiety, as we’ve conducted a yearlong study into the effects of Acute Financial Stress. Our findings tell us that 23% of Americans and 36% of millennials are experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) where their finances are concerned. These are numbers that meet the criteria for an epidemic.

Payoff’s Chief Science Officer Dr. Galen Buckwalter has spent many years studying PTSD and stress. He has effectively trained Marines and humanitarian workers in advance of deployment in an effort to mitigate the damage to the psyche from trauma. His team has done groundbreaking research on Acute Financial Stress and is currently studying remedies that bring relief to those suffering.

The significance of this research quantifying the ways financial stress is impacting us is why we’re committed to finding solutions that turn this tide. We are now invested in understanding how this is negatively impacting our health — the effects of stress at this level are damaging our brains, bodies and even our longevity.

“It is only when we recognize the existence of … financial stress that we can move in a coordinated way to treat and prevent this devastating condition.”

Dr. Buckwalter writes, “Since we first released our findings that identified Acute Financial Stress, or Financial PTSD, I have been inundated with calls and emails from mental health professionals across the country. Some have described their own battle with Acute Financial Stress but all have written to comment on the need to bring this profound condition to light. It is only when we recognize the existence of the negative effects of financial stress that we can move in a coordinated way to treat and prevent this devastating condition.”

To learn more about solutions to financial stress, including the impact of financial stress and how to manage it, read our article here.

Participation Pays Off: Have your finances ever made you feel stressed or ashamed?

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