Paying off mortgages, credit card debts, personal loans top holiday wish lists

Paying off mortgages, credit card debts, personal loans top holiday wish lists

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BLOOMINGTON — The holiday season is known as the most wonderful time of the year, but a new survey from Country Financial reveals it may also be one of the most stressful.

According to the survey, 70 percent of Americans (74 percent of Illinoisans) are stressed about the upcoming holiday season, with 32 percent (34 percent of Illinoisans) feeling the greatest stress around holiday finances.

Other top sources of stress include finding the right gifts (21 percent/20 percent), not having enough time to get everything done (16 percent/18 percent), family-related issues (15 percent/15 percent) and travel (4 percent/2 percent).

It turns out that Americans have reason to be stressed about finances; the survey found that on average Santa would need to leave $58,673 ($56,150 for Illinoisans) in an individual’s stocking for them to be totally debt-free this holiday season.

“The financial pressures and additional expenses around the holidays can make it a stressful time for many Americans — especially those who are already carrying a variety of debts,” said Troy Frerichs, vice president of investment services at Country Financial. “Don’t let the holidays ruin your goals of paying down debt. Take simple steps to budget and plan ahead in advance of the season. Ask yourself what your family can realistically afford this year, create a goal and stick to it.”

Despite feeling stressed about finances this holiday season, many Americans are not taking steps to budget in advance. According to the survey, nearly 40 percent of Americans and Illinoisans report not setting holiday budgets. In addition, 72 percent of Americans (75 percent of Illinoisans) are not setting aside money for holiday expenses throughout the year.

However, one in two Americans and three out of five Illinoisans say they feel significantly happier when they plan and budget for their holiday spending in advance.

When asked what would be at the top of their holiday wish list if money were no object, 49 percent of Americans and 55 percent of Illinoisans selected having one of their debts, such as their mortgage, credit card debt, personal loan debt, or student loan debt completely paid off, compared to 19 percent of Americans (17 percent of Illinoisans) who selected receiving a vacation or luxury item.

Charitable gifts and funds for an emergency account were at the bottom of America’s wish list at 6 percent and 5 percent (6 percent and 4 percent for Illinoisans), respectively.

Those who put paying off a mortgage at the top of their wish list said they would need $82,895 ($81,058 in Illinois) in order to be able pay off all of their various debts; those who chose credit card debt said they would need $41,159 ($37,619 in Illinois); those who said student loans, $50,914 ($59,117 in Illinois); and those who replied all other personal loans, $16,992 ($37,359 in Illinois).

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