For Australians in their 20s, a shortage of ready cash could be their biggest financial nightmare, while 30- and 40-somethings will be more worried about their mortgages and baby boomers stay awake worrying about their retirement funds.
The report by superannuation fund Sunsuper has found that the generations are divided as much by their financial concerns as by their use of social media and musical taste.
The study - the second of Sunsuper's six Wealth Index Reports for 2012 - included 1300 Australians from the baby boomer, Generation X and Generation Y groupings, investigating their attitudes to their finances.
Sunsuper general manager customer experience Teifi Whatley said some of the results were surprising.
"The two biggest financial nightmares for Gen Ys were not having enough money to support their family (40 per cent) and, interestingly, not having enough money to buy the things they want (15 per cent)," she said. "Gen Xs, however, were most likely to feel their biggest financial nightmare was not being able to pay the mortgage (16 per cent), whereas baby boomers thought not having enough money to retire on (34 per cent) and losing their life savings (21 per cent) was more likely to cause them bad dreams."
Where money should be kept was also a point of division, according to the study, with Generation X preferring to invest in property (24 per cent), while baby boomers went with term deposits (26 per cent) or shares (15 per cent), and Generation Y was more likely to keep cash in savings accounts (68 per cent).
Ms Whatley said the greatest divide came when the generations were asked about their financial position compared with last year.
"Of all the generations, Gen Ys were more likely to think they were better off (34 per cent) while most Gen Xs thought there was no change (41 per cent) in their financial position," she said. "Interestingly, the majority of baby boomers actually feel worse off now than this time last year (43 per cent).
"These results indicate that this generation possibly still has a lack of confidence in financial markets and the global economy post-GFC, with 19 per cent of baby boomers still concerned about a recession in Australia or overseas."
A universal concern was not having enough savings in the bank.