Many of us toss and turn the night before an important event. But a Bankrate survey found that’s not all that’s keeping us up at night. Thirty-six percent of people overall said they’re not getting enough Zzzzs because they’re worried about their finances. But money worries hit “older millennials” (ages 28-37) the hardest. Forty-three percent admit to losing sleep because they’re worried about paying off debt, saving for retirement and covering big expenses, like housing and health care.
“When there are so many very important priorities—and limited resources—it’s easy to see why this age group would acutely feel some financial stress,” says Certified Financial Planner Natalie Colley, analyst at Francis Financial.
Take it from someone who’s lost at least a few winks over issues like paying off debt while saving for the future: It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But facing those money stressors head on, and making a plan to address them, can go a long way toward a better future—and a better night’s sleep.
In the Bankrate survey, 24 percent of older millennials said paying off credit card debt was a top money concern. Not to pile on, but it really is a wealth destroyer. As of September 2018, variable interest rates exceed 17 percent—making it particularly difficult to get ahead if you’re only making minimum monthly payments.
The good news is paying off credit card debt is entirely possible. (I’m proof! I’ve paid off $15,500 of credit card debt, and whittled down my student loans from $45,000 to just $3,000.) The first step is to stop adding to it, of course. Then decide on the best pay-down strategy for you. While you’re at it, start building up an emergency fund (aim for $1,000 to start) with small, regular deposits so that you don’t need to pull out the plastic next time an unexpected expense pops up.
Seventeen percent of all millennials (ages 18-37) have lost sleep over student loans. According to the Federal Reserve, the average monthly loan payment is between $200 and $300, but plenty of borrowers find themselves shelling out hundreds more. If you’re struggling, know that there may be options available to you that can lessen your burden, from forgiveness to refinancing to deferment and forbearance.
An easy place to start is by calling your lenders, Colley says: “They want you to succeed in paying back your loans and will often work with you if you have been paying on time and consistently. If they can’t do anything directly, they can likely point you in the right direction.”
If your rent or mortgage is eating up a large chunk of your budget, look for ways to scale back other expenses, like your utilities and food bills. Airbnbing an extra bedroom or finding a roommate to split costs with can also go a long way toward lowering your housing costs.
Americans spent a whopping $9,400 on health care in 2016, or more than 15 percent of the median household income. Luckily, if you’re worried about your ability to cover a planned (or unplanned) medical expense, like 13 percent of all Bankrate survey respondents, there are steps you can take to protect your financial and mental health.
If you don’t have health insurance, sign up for coverage ASAP. (Obamacare enrollment for 2019 starts on November 1, 2018 and runs through December 15.) Doing so can help prevent an accident or illness from turning into a financial catastrophe. If you’re already enrolled in a plan, look into a flexible spending account (FSA) or healthcare savings account (HSA). Both allow you to save and spend pre-tax money on eligible expenses.
Fear of having enough to live comfortably in retirement weighs heavy on 18 percent of all Bankrate survey respondents—for good reason. According to one analysis, nearly 66 percent of working millennials between 21 and 32 have nothing saved for retirement. While retirement may feel far away, investing early is key.
“The power of time to grow your wealth is my most [strongly] held belief when it comes to personal finance,” says Colley. “Saving early in retirement accounts will give you vastly more options and freedom down the road.”
That’s true even if you start small, like contributing 1 or 2 percent of your income to retirement accounts, like a 401(k) or Individual Retirement Account. Then once or twice a year, and when you get a raise, notch up your contribution rate by 1 percent. You probably won’t even notice the difference in your paycheck.