We all have our share of stress in life. For some of us, it's our jobs. For others, it's relationship woes. But for 56% of Americans, it's money issues, according to a new Bankrate survey. Here are the top financial matters U.S. adults are losing sleep over -- and what to do about them.
1. Everyday expenses
The greatest point of financial stress for Americans today is paying for everyday expenses. If that's a concern for you, start following a budget. Having one in place will help you better track your spending and avoid wasting money on things you don't need. Just as importantly, mapping out your expenses will help you identify which ones you can most easily cut back on so that if you're currently overspending, you can break that unhealthy cycle.
2. Saving enough for retirement
Many people worry they're not setting enough money aside for retirement, but the truth is that if you're relatively young, you don't need to part with a huge chunk of your paycheck. Rather, you just need to fund an IRA or 401(k) consistently and invest your savings aggressively. A stock-heavy portfolio, for example, will likely give you a 7% average yearly return over a lengthy savings window. If you're able to set aside $250 a month for retirement purposes over 40 years, and snag that 7% return, you'll wind up with roughly $600,000 for your golden years.
3. Healthcare and insurance costs
It's not surprising that many Americans worry about affording healthcare, but if you budget for it accordingly, you'll have less to stress about. But more so than that, make sure to have emergency savings on hand so that you're equipped to tackle medical bills than come in higher than expected. At the same time, read up on your insurance plan's policies so that you understand what coverage you're entitled to. Following certain rules (like getting referrals before seeing specialists) could spell the difference between whopping bills and modest copayments.
4. Paying off credit card debt
Many Americans carry credit card debt, but the more of your monthly income those debt payments eat up, the more anxious you're apt to be. That's why you need a plan to eliminate that debt. You can start by reviewing your various credit card balances, ordering them by highest to lowest interest rate, and then attacking them in that order. Another option? Look at a balance transfer. This will allow you to move higher-interest debt onto a credit card with a lower interest rate, thereby making it easier for you to pay it off.
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5. Swinging mortgage or rent payments
Housing is the typical American's greatest monthly expense. To avoid having it become a source of stress, keeping your housing costs to 30% of your income or less. If you rent, that 30% covers your monthly rent payment and insurance. If you own, that figure covers your mortgage payment, insurance, and property taxes. If you're already spending more than 30% of your earnings on a place to live, consider moving to a cheaper neighborhood or downsizing to a smaller place that's less costly.
6. Education expenses
Many Americans with children are aware of the student debt crisis, and don't want their kids racking up mountains of loans on the road to getting a degree. If you're worried about affording college, start saving for it when your kids are young -- ideally, as soon as they're born. An efficient way to save is in a 529 plan. The money you invest in a 529 gets to grow tax-free provided it's used for qualified education purposes, and some states offer tax incentives for funding such an account.
7. Stock market volatility
Many people worry about putting money into stocks because the market has a tendency to move dramatically, for better and for worse. If you're losing sleep over your investments, remember that despite numerous instances of decline, the stock market has historically proven itself able to recover. Therefore, if you take a long-term approach to investing, you're more likely than not to come out ahead.
If money concerns have been keeping you awake at night, don't let that unhealthy cycle continue. Make a plan to address the specific worries you have, whether alone or with the help of a financial advisor. Your physical and financial health depend on it.
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