Motivations and Barriers to Addressing Financial Issues


To determine the motivations for and barriers to people addressing their finances for the purposes of understanding the audience for a marketing campaign.

Early Findings

People, Millennials in particular, are typically motivated to begin addressing their finances when they graduate from college and begin paying back their student loan debt, when they have kids, or when they hit rock bottom financially. Some barriers to addressing finances are a lack of financial literacy (not knowing there is a problem in the first place), not knowing how to get help, and pride.


  • In an informal survey conducted in 2018 by Millennial Money Man, several millennials indicated that they began to pay attention to their finances when they had kids.
    • One millennial stated, "Our kids have motivated 100% of our financial goals with the exception of tithing... everything– moving back home to save for a down payment, our rate of savings, having life insurance, our retirement planning, our frugal habits– all comes from having kids as young as we did. We definitely weren't on a path to do that stuff before they showed up on the sonogram!"
    • Another said, "I'd say it was getting pregnant and not being able to support myself as well. I was making rent plus a couple hundred dollars per month (which, uh, doesn't pay for the electricity bill in Phoenix in the summertime) and I NEVER want to feel that helpless again."
  • Another motivation for millennials is when they begin paying back their student loans.
    • According to one millennial: "I had 13k in student loans when I graduated last year, and I think if I didn’t have this debt, I wouldn’t be near as in-tune with my finances. Having that debt made me research everything!"
    • Another one stated, "As much as I hate my student loan debt I don't think I would be working at my finances so aggressively without the “motivation” of paying them off. I say motivation, but it was more necessity if I wasn't aggressive I wouldn't have been able to do anything (buy a house etc) for a VERY long time."
    • A third said, "Paying off all of my student loans and realizing the amount of interest paid made me really start to scrutinize where my money goes."
  • Hitting rock bottom financially and going through the 2008 recession really made an impact on some millennials in terms of paying attention to their finances as well.
    • One millennial said, "The recession hands down changed my relationship with money. I graduated college in 2007 with a degree in a “recession proof” field (nursing) only to get laid off in 2009 when the hospital shut down a bunch of units."
    • Nathan, who grew up during the recession, said, "Money was a major issue for my family growing up. Parents divorced and I know it was a huge factor. I got advice from a FI uncle and went from there. I never want money to control my life."
    • Sara stated, "Honestly, we were comfortable with our debt and the lifestyle we were living until we hit rock bottom. My husband wanted to leave his corporate management job and we had to make drastic changes to get to that point. When we finally made the decision to change we had $83k in consumer debt plus a home mortgage."
  • Growing up poor was a motivation for Camilo Maldonado (age/generation unknown), and he never learned how to manage money, but when he went to college, he had to start tracking every penny as he began handling his own finances.
  • Todd Kunsman (age/generation unknown) didn't begin to care about his finances until he was "stuck in an apartment he could barely afford, had a high car payment and two student loans." Then, he lost his job right before Christmas and was scraping by with just a few dollars in his account at the end of each week.
  • Logan Allec, (age/generation unknown), had a panic attack when he began thinking about his future just out of college, when he had $35,000 in student loan debt and everything he was earning was going to rent and the minimum payment on his loan.
  • As people get older, running out of money after they retire is a main motivator for getting finances in order. In fact, 48% of CPA clients in a recent study expressed this reason for worrying about their finances.
  • Additionally, 22% begin to worry about being a financial burden on their family and 21% worry about not leaving an inheritance to their kids.


  • One barrier to people dealing with their finances is that there is that they do not know where to begin, especially if they are overwhelmed with debt.
  • Many people do not address their financial issues simply because they don't want to admit they have problems, or they have too much pride to admit they need help.
  • A basic lack of financial literacy is a major barrier to addressing financial issues because people do not understand how their behaviors and/or lack of attention to loans, credit cards, and other financial vehicles are impacting their financial future.

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