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:
- Talk to a financial advisor, Gee advises, and evaluate the real risks you face. Review your insurance policies to make sure you have the right types and amounts of coverage. According to the survey, 43% of consumers review their insurance needs less than once a year.
- Take simple steps to maintain and weatherproof your home to prevent damage. When the sun is shining, bad weather may not be at the top of your mind. But the largest number of home insurance claims are weather-related, Gee says.
- You can save yourself a lot of heartache by installing smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. Fire damage leads to the most expensive home insurance claims.
- Make an evacuation plan in case of disaster, Gee advises. Only half of households have one, according to the survey. The plan should identify a couple of routes and a meeting place for the family if you get separated.
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.