Americans are leading double lives when it comes to money — seemingly flush with cash and confidence on the outside, but shivering with financial fears on the inside. This is the sobering conclusion from Nonfiction Research in its report, “The Secret Financial Lives of Americans and the Future of Financial Services.”

More than 2,200 consumers were surveyed for the massive 117-page report, including interviews with banking executives (and even one bank robber). Researchers concluded that the usual indicators of people’s financial status — where they live, where they vacation, what they shop for, and what you see on their social media accounts — send misleading signals. Financial marketers that aren’t careful can quickly find themselves pointed in the wrong direction.

The research also revealed that many Americans are financing the visible parts of their lives by draining their savings and running up debt. They need help, but many mainstream institutions seem to either feel it isn’t their job, or that they can’t make money by getting involved. “Staggering numbers of Americans are leading double lives when it comes to money,” the report said. “To their friends and neighbors their lives look normal, even prosperous. But privately, behind closed doors, Americans are badly in need of help with money and the emotions that surround it.”

Indeed, almost no mainstream institutions offer the kinds of services and help that people most need to straighten out their financial lives. Third-party budgeting apps are only one small part of the solution to growing financial distress among large numbers of U.S. consumers. But savvy financial marketers will look at the situation and see opportunities to ask, “Where can we step in and help?”

One way to understand how Americans wrestle with finances is to hear about the things they didn’t do specifically because they were worried about money, the report says.

Read more at The Financial Brand