The majority of Americans (65%) are losing sleep over money issues, according to a new study from CreditCards.com — up from 56% in 2007. The most common stressor is health care or insurance bills at 38%, followed by saving for retirement at 37%. "What people worry about most changed quite a bit in the past year," Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com said. "Health care has been such a hot button issue for so long, and whether it's around the election or just about the cost of maintaining your own health care, we've seen a big jump in worrying about that." (Health care was a factor for just 29% of respondents in 2016.)
In addition to health care and retirement, 34% worry the most over educational expenses, 26% about mortgage bills, and 22% due to credit-card debt. Shulz said the share of people who cited credit card debt as the most preoccupying has fallen in recent years, showing despite the fact that credit card debt is hitting record highs, it is the least of consumers' worries. They may have cause for the lack of sleep: Credit-debt surged passed the $1 trillion mark, according to Federal Reserve data released earlier this month.
Generation-Xers and their younger millennial cohort are the most likely to lose sleep over financial issues, a finding backed up by another study last year by personal-finance site ValuePenguin. That study found that 3 in 4 millennials said the need to make student loan payments every month made them worry about their financial situation. Student loan debt currently stands at $1.4 trillion. "They are the ones bearing the biggest burden right now, in terms of cost of education," Liz Weston, a personal finance columnist for NerdWallet said. "Everyone knows you need to go to college, or post-secondary training if you want to stay in the middle class now, but the cost keeps going up."
Comment: Some are beginning to question that adage, as many college graduates are now working at low-wage jobs that don't even require a degree, while struggling to pay student loan debt.
These worries come as the gap between middle and upper classes widens in the U.S. — with wages stagnant for most employees the past four years as CEOs got richer. Schulz notes the best way for consumers to ease ongoing financial anxiety is to take action. Most people in the latest study are doing just that: 82% reported taking at least one step to improve their financial situations over the past year. "Even a small move like making a budget or selling something of value can help you sleep more peacefully at night because it makes you feel more empowered," he said. After all, more people are working beyond the age of 65 and few, like this man, can afford to retire at 30.