Determinants of Financial Worry and Rumination

January 2020 – Ernst-Jan de Bruijn and Gerrit Antonides – Journal of Economic Psychology

Significant parts of populations in developed countries frequently worry and ruminate about their finances. Financial worry and rumination can have serious psychological consequences, resulting in lower psychological well-being, mental-health problems, and impaired cognitive functioning. The literature lacks studies investigating the socio-demographic antecedents of and the financial processes underlying financial worry and rumination.

The purpose of our study was to investigate the socio-demographic and financial antecedents of financial worry and rumination (FWR) and the financial factors mediating these relationships. We collected online self-administered survey data from a sample of the Dutch population (N = 1040). Using confirmatory factor analysis, we found that a bifactor model, including a strong and reliable general factor, provided the best explanation of the structure underlying FWR.

We developed a parallel mediation model and investigated its structural relationships using structural equation modeling. After controlling for multiple hypotheses testing, our results show that income, past positive changes in one’s finances, and age are negatively related to FWR. We found no support for education level and only weak support for expected changes in one’s finances as antecedents. Furthermore, the explained variance in FWR substantially improved after adding the mediators of making ends meet, financial buffer, and perceived debts. Among these mediators, making ends meet played a key role explaining respectively half and two-thirds of the total effects of income and past changes in one’s finances on FWR. These results were robust under several specifications and were generalizable to the Dutch population. We discuss the implications of our results for future research and government policy.

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