Money, Safety and Privacy Keep Us Awake at Night

Job losses. Data breaches. Terrorism. The world can be a scary place, and most people think the risks are growing, according to a new index from The Travelers Cos.

The insurance company surveyed about 1,000 consumers in April and about 1,200 business owners and managers in January for its 2016 Travelers Risk Index.

Here are the things consumers say they worry about most, and the percentages of those who worry some or “a great deal” about each.

1. Financial concerns, including job losses, money problems and the economy: 70%.

The lower your income, the more likely you’re worried. Of those with a household income below $90,000, 74% worry some or a great deal about financial risks, compared with 61% in households with an income above $90,000.

2. Personal safety, including car wrecks, crime and terrorism: 59%.

Women are more likely to worry than men, 64% versus 54%.

3. Identity theft and privacy loss: 55%.

Older people worry more than younger people: 60% of those ages 40 to 69, versus 49% of 18- to 39-year-olds.

4. Travel and transportation risks, including traffic accidents: 54%.

5. Cyber risks, including data breaches: 51%.

6. Food safety concerns: 38%.

7. Extreme weather and natural disasters: 34%.

Our shifting concerns

Overall, 56% of people believe the risks they face are growing, down from 63% in 2013, the year that Travelers launched the annual index, and down slightly from last year’s 57%.

Worries about extreme weather and natural disasters fell to No. 7 this year from No. 5 in 2015 and No. 4 in 2014 and 2013. That drop may be shaped by recent weather. Hurricane Matthew may be on the horizon, but a devastating hurricane or tropical storm hasn’t hit the U.S. since Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Anxiety may be fueled by news coverage rather than actual risk, says Patrick Gee, senior vice president of claims at Travelers Insurance. Food safety concerns rose to No. 6 from No. 7 in 2015, for instance. That might be because of well-publicized outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, such as the E. coli outbreak at Chipotle.

The sheer amount of information out there can be desensitizing, Gee says, but it could be risky to become complacent. “This is a great time to take stock about what we need to do in case the unexpected happens,” he says.

What to do

Financial concerns have topped the list of worries each year Travelers has compiled the index. Given worries about job stability and the general economy, that makes sense, Gee says.

“We believe one of the key things to address [financial concerns] is education,” he says. “The more you know, the more you can prepare.” For example:

You can’t help but worry a little about what might happen. But you can take a look at the risks mostly likely to affect you and take some steps to stay safe. Preparing puts you in a position to cope with whatever life throws at you, and taking action can help quell anxiety.

Barbara Marquand is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @barbaramarquand.

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