Americans are worried about money — and it's keeping them up at night. In a new Bankrate/YouGov poll of 2,500 U.S. adults, over half, 56%, said they've lost sleep over their finances.
In all, Bankrate found, 78% of Americans are losing sleep over some kind of worry, whether it's their relationships, their work, or the state of politics. But it's clear that the pandemic has amplified money concerns. When the company conducted a similar poll in 2018, a little more than a third of people (36%) said they'd lost sleep over money. Now the figure is more than half.
"The pandemic threw a lot at all of us. Even if you kept your job and income, you still are stressed due to the changes you've gone through working remotely, handling children that are learning remotely, and illness or fear of illness for those you care about," says Dorothy E. Bossung, a certified financial planner and executive vice president of Lowery Asset Consulting. "I can definitely see these stressors spilling over to into the area of money, as it's a very personal area for all of us."
The good news is that there are ways to address these concerns and get a better night's rest. Here are the four major money issues that poll respondents told Bankrate are keeping them awake at night and tips for addressing each of them.
Simply keeping up with daily expenses was the biggest money worry named by respondents in Bankrate's poll, with about 1 in 3 (32%) saying it's affecting their sleep.
The pandemic is undoubtedly a factor. In late May, TransUnion's 2021 Q2 Consumer Pulse Study found that 32% of U.S. adults had experienced a decrease in household income due to Covid. About 1 in 4 respondents, 27%, said they expected to be unable to pay at least one of their current bills or loans in full.
On top of that, the cost of housing is increasing for both renters and aspiring homeowners, and the prices of essentials like diapers, coffee, and used cars have skyrocketed. "Shrinkflation" is rampant, with manufacturers of everything from cereal to ice cream offering less product at the same price.
All these changes are a reminder that "stuff can pop out of nowhere and upset your plans," says Bossung. "You need to have an emergency fund, and you have to find a way to pay down your debt and control your expenses if you have the debt. That is definitely easier said than done, but this should have been a wake-up call."
If you're struggling to keep up with the basics, consider what non-essentials you can cut, whether it's a subscription to a streaming service or an impulse buy at Target. Think about picking up a side hustle or selling belongings you don't need to make extra cash. In 2019, Bankrate found that 45% of working Americans had a side gig in addition to their main income stream, including 43% of full-time workers.
"Identify fixed and necessary expenses and make sure they are always paid," says Erika Safran, a certified financial planner and principal at Safran Wealth Advisors. "Pay [at least] the minimum on your loans and don't skip mortgage payments. Identify variable expenses which can be reduced, though not eliminated, and find ways to reduce them."
Saving enough to retire was another top reason for insomnia, with a quarter of people in Bankrate's poll saying it keeps them awake at night.
Under ideal circumstances, experts recommend socking away at least 10 times your annual salary saved for retirement by the time you hit 67. To hit that goal, you should aim to put at least 15% of your monthly income in a 401(k) or IRA. (Check out Grow's retirement calculator to get a better understanding of what you need.)
But saving for retirement is a situation where even a little bit of money goes a long way. Thanks to compound interest, savers who start early can see big returns on small investments down the line. "Add the minimum during lean years, but never stop contributing," says Safran. "When financial circumstances change, you can reevaluate and increase your retirement contributions."
More than 1 in 5 Americans (22%) surveyed say that healthcare and insurance bills are causing them to lose sleep. That's not surprising, since 6 in 10 Americans have fallen into debt because of medical bills, according to a March report from LendingTree. Those in the red owe an average of between $5,000 and $10,000.
The pandemic has worsened an already bad situation. Data from Credit Karma provided to Grow shows that medical debt among the website's more than 100 million U.S. members surged by $2.8 billion from the end of May 2020 to March 2021.
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
Many people don't realize they can negotiate their medical bills and potentially save thousands. Jenifer Bosco, an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, suggests asking for a rate that's more in line with what the provider would accept from Medicare. "The hospital might not give them Medicare rates, but maybe they would do Medicare plus a certain percentage or something like that," Bosco previously told Grow.
Be sure to ask for itemized versions of your medical bills, too. Errors are common, and comparing the bill with your explanation of benefits from your insurance company can ensure you're not being asked to pay more than you actually owe.
About 1 in 5 people surveyed said they've lost sleep over their inability to pay off credit-card debt. Just over half, 51% of those surveyed, were pessimistic about their ability to get out of the red.
Lingering credit debt can impact your ability to get a loan, buy a house, and tackle other important goals, so it makes sense to pay it down in full and on time. It's "important to make this a priority, because the interest rates are so high," says Ted Rossman, an analyst at CreditCards.com. The average rate is 16.22%, about five times higher than what many people pay on other loans, including mortgages and cars.
Rossman recommends paying your credit card bill immediately after you get paid. If you can't afford it, try a 0% balance transfer card, which lets you transfer your existing debt to a new one with an initial 0% APR period. "Getting a 0% balance transfer card and being disciplined about paying it back could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest," he says.
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