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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Study Reveals the Extent to Which Americans Turn to Alcohol When Making Big Financial Decisions 

Alcohol And Big Financial Decisions
Jon McDonald

Written by: Jon McDonald

Jon McDonald
Jon McDonald

Jon McDonald brings more than 15 years of journalism expertise to Informing financial consumers about emerging trends and companies making an impact in the industry, Jon is most knowledgeable in the areas of budgeting, credit card rewards, and responsible credit use; he strives to bring that experience to readers worldwide. Jon has a passion for writing and editing, and his articles have appeared in publications produced by The New York Times.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro
Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience to the CardRates team. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Florida. Today, Lillian edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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Reviewed by: Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker
Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker has more than a decade of experience as a finance contributor and editor, and has specialized in the credit card industry since 2015. Her credit card commentary is featured on national media outlets that include CNBC, MarketWatch, Investopedia, and Reader's Digest, among many others. She has worked closely with the world’s largest banks and financial institutions, up-and-coming fintech companies, and press and news outlets to curate comprehensive content and media. Ashley holds a bachelor's degree in multimedia journalism from Florida Atlantic University.

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We deploy a step-by-step methodology to each piece of research we publish to ensure our studies offer complete coverage and meet our rigorous editorial standards.

Navigating significant financial decisions such as buying a home, consolidating credit card debt, or even declaring bankruptcy are among the most challenging and impactful choices people face in their lives. These decisions carry substantial emotional and financial weight, making it crucial to approach them with a clear and rational mindset.

But many Americans, when confronted with these difficult financial choices, often resort to avoidance strategies rather than addressing them directly. Alarmingly, one such strategy includes turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

A recent survey of 3,000 Americans conducted by revealed that a whopping 21% (1 in 5) admit to turning to alcohol when faced with major financial decisions.

1 in 5 Use Alcohol to Make Major Financial Decisions

Survey results reveal that Arizona residents are the most likely to use alcohol to help them make big decisions, with 38% admitting to this behavior. Conversely, only 9% of Utah residents reported using alcohol in this context.

Here is a graphic showing the breakdown across each state:

New Hampshire20%
New Jersey20%
New Mexico31%
New York24%
North Carolina12%
North Dakota20%
Rhode Island10%
South Carolina29%
South Dakota23%
West Virginia20%

Reasons Americans Are Turning to Alcohol

The survey also explored which financial decisions most commonly lead to alcohol consumption:

  • Filing for bankruptcy: 32%
  • Taking out a loan (personal, auto, mortgage, etc.): 15%
  • Dealing with credit card debt: 13%
  • Retirement planning: 11%
  • Divorce: 10%
  • Changing jobs/careers: 8%
  • Making a large purchase (home, car, etc.): 6%
  • Investing a large sum of money: 5%
1 in 3 turn to alcohol during bankruptcy graphic
Drinking alcohol to reduce financial stress graphic
Regretting financial decisions after alcohol graphic

“All of the listed financial events that people approach while drinking alcohol are inherently stressful,” said Erica Sandberg, Consumer Finance Expert at “A few of them, though, such as going through the bankruptcy process, ending a marriage, and confronting high consumer debt, are especially difficult life events.”

“Drinking to relax can make sense at the time, but it’s best to make such choices while you are fully aware of what you are doing,” Sandberg continued. “And in general, that means being sober. This way, you can intellectualize the issues and approach them rationally rather than emotionally or while impaired.” 

Main Takeaways

Over half (51%) of respondents noted that reducing stress levels associated with their financial situations was the primary reason for drinking. Interestingly, 25% admitted that they would drink alcohol to toast success in recent financial decisions they had made. 

Additionally, 12.5% reported drinking specifically to help them make a financial decision, while 9% drank as an avoidance technique before making a decision. Unsurprisingly, 41% of respondents regretted making some financial decisions while inebriated.

Finally, almost two-thirds of respondents acknowledged that drinking alcohol impairs their ability to make sound financial decisions, much like it affects their ability to do other activities such as driving. However, a concerning 18% of respondents said they believed that alcohol improved their decision-making abilities.


An online panel survey of 3,000 Americans was conducted in June 2024. Internal data sources were used to obtain population data sets. We used a two-step process to ensure representativeness through stratified sampling and post-stratification weighting.