More people are concerned about saving for retirement, paying medical bills and keeping up their standard of living than are worried about making their minimum credit card payments.
That's one conclusion of a recent Gallup telephone poll that asked a random and demographically weighted sample of 1,077 adults about their financial concerns.
The poll found that:
• 66 percent of the respondents were worried about not having enough money for retirement.
• 60 percent were worried about not being able to pay medical costs related to a serious illness or accident.
• 58 percent were worried about not being able to maintain their standard of living.
Those three concerns have topped the list since Gallup began the poll a decade ago, but the degree of worry about each issue has intensified somewhat due to the economic recession, according to an article on the company's website.
Only 24 percent of the respondents said they were worried about not being able to make the minimum payments on their credit cards. That might seem like a high proportion as a raw number, but it's actually much lower than the other categories and might be misleading due to the way the question about credit card payments was worded.
Rather than asking, "How worried are you about not being able to make the minimum payments on your credit cards?" the survey might have asked, "How worried are you about paying off your credit cards?"
Of course, the minimum payment could serve as a proxy for the total debt since anyone struggling to pay the minimum is probably in no position to pay the total. Nonetheless, the total might be much more worrying to many more people than the minimum.
If the question had focused on the larger context, the results and the picture of consumers' relative financial fears might have looked quite a bit different.
Follow me on Twitter: @marciegeff