When that show you've streamed ten episodes of asks if you're still watching, just click yes: you and your finances know you're not getting to sleep at any decent hour tonight.
According to a report by CreditCards.com, 65% of Americans are losing sleep because of their financial situation. The most common -- and likely most topical -- worry are the health care or insurance bills bedeviling 38% of you. Another 37% are kept awake by worrying that you aren't saving enough for retirement, 34% are sweating tuition costs, 26% are concerned about the mortgage and the rent and 22% are fretting about card debt.
That doesn't mean you're doing nothing about it. Roughly 82% have taken at least one step to improve their financial situation over the past year. The most common solution was to reduce expenses, followed by selling something, signing up for a new credit card and taking on a second job.
"People lose sleep when things feel out of control," said Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com's senior industry analyst. "Take back some of that control by taking action. Even small moves like making a budget, selling something of value or trimming expenses can make you feel empowered and help you sleep more peacefully at night."
It isn't easy to sleep on a pile of debt. In February, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York announced that total household debt increased by $226 billion (or 1.8%) to $12.58 trillion during the fourth quarter of 2016. That's the largest quarterly increase in total household debt since the fourth quarter of 2013 and $460 billion in debt more than U.S. consumers had amassed a year earlier. It also put debt just 0.8% below its peak of $12.68 trillion in the third quarter of 2008.
Almost every form of debt increased from the same time in 2015. Mortgage debt is up $231 billion to $8.48 trillion. Student loan debt increased $78 billion to $1.31 trillion. Auto loan debt is up $93 billion to $1.16 trillion. Credit card debt climbed by $46 billion to $779 billion. Even all of those figures may be low.
"Debt held by Americans is approaching its previous peak, yet its composition today is vastly different as the growth in balances has been driven by non-housing debt," says Wilbert van der Klaauw, senior vice president at the New York Fed. "Since reaching a trough in mid-2013, the rebound in household debt has been led by student debt and auto debt, with only sluggish growth in mortgage debt."
According to the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C., revolving debt of all kinds exceeded $1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016 for the first time since 2008 and returned to that mark again in February. That said, credit card delinquency rates were around 10% the last time revolving debt hit the $1 billion mark in 2008. At the end of last year, only 7% of credit card debt was past due.
"Credit card debt is rising quickly, but delinquencies are still really low," says Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com's senior industry analyst. "Many Americans are doing a good job of controlling their debts, but eventually with big debts and rising interest rates, it's likely that something will have to give. I expect delinquencies to start rising more quickly in 2017."
About 12% of U.S. adults with debt expect to die in debt, down from 21% about a year ago, according to a new CreditCards.com report. Yet just 4% of those between ages 18 and 29 feel they'll die in debt, compared to 28% of those 65 and older who feel the same.
Though 24% of American adults tell CreditCards.com they are currently debt-free, up from 14% in 2014, those of you who are in debt thanks to credit cards, car loans, student loans, mortgages, etc., are in deep trouble. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, student loan debt ($1.28 trillion, up $76 billion) and auto loan debt ($1.14 billion, up $90 billion) have ballooned within the last year. It also doesn't help that credit card debt has also soared ($747 billion, up $33 billion).
"While it's good to see Americans feeling better about their debt, I'm worried that some people are getting carried away," Schulz says. "For example, credit card debt has been rising steadily for more than five years and is close to $1 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve. It seems like a lot of people are forgetting the painful lessons of the Great Recession."
Financial site NerdWallet just completed its annual survey of household debt and found that the average household with credit card debt has a balance of $16,061.That household pays a total of $1,292 in credit card (assuming an interest rate of 18.76%) interest per year on $7,941 in debt -- which is just $523 less than WalletHub considers unsustainable for a median household income of little less than $52,000.
Though mortgage debt is the heaviest and typically paid off over the longest period of time, revolving credit card debt can follow you to the grave. Households that bring in more than $157,479 per year pay almost four times more in credit card interest than households that make less than $21,432. However, when a household making $150,000 a year has $10,036 in credit card debt, that's less than 7% of its income. Unfortunately, when a person who makes $20,000 a year owes $3,611 in credit card debt, that's 18% of their annual income. Meanwhile, households led by self-employed individuals spend $1,631 in credit card interest annually, while heads of household who work for someone else pay only $1,211 to finance their credit card debt each year.
None of that debt is helping households that are already being squeezed by other costs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the consumer price indexes for medical costs increased by 57% and food and beverage prices by 36% between 2003 and 2016. During that same span, NerdWallet found that median household income has only grown 28%, from $43,318 to $56,578 in 2003 and 2016, respectively. As a result, according to NerdWallet's projections based on data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, total debt in the U.S. will hit $12.5 trillion by the end of 2016. That surpasses the total debt of $12.37 trillion in December 2007, just before the recession, and suggests that credit card debt is being used to mask a whole lot of other financial shortfalls.
"Taking on debt to cover the gap between income and expenses is a short-term fix with costly long-term results," NerdWallet's McQuay says. "Instead of taking on debt, try to increase your income by finding freelance work or a part-time job you can do on the side, or cut back on expenses where you reasonably can, before adding to your credit card's balance."
All of that debt is affecting your other plans as well. Prudential Investments found that although 80% of people they surveyed before the end of the year considered retirement their to priority, the average grade they give themselves for the retirement preparation is a "C." A very honest 12% give themselves a failing grade.
"Understanding the hurdles keeping people from a secure financial future is critical to helping them meet their goals," says Stuart Parker, president of Prudential Investments. "This research reinforces the need for people to seek advice and the need for the investment community to give advisors the best tools and solutions available."
A whopping 74% of you think you should be doing more to prepare for retirement, while 40% don't know what to do to prepare. Though 24% of workers think they'll need $1 million or more to retire, 54% have less than $150,000 saved in employer-sponsored plans. It doesn't help that 20% of workers don't believe they'll ever be able to retire, while 35% say they'll never be able to save enough, so it doesn't matter when they start saving. That kind of retirement nihilism is leading to all sorts of bad decisions, with 57% of Americans saying they would use savings to cover a financial emergency.
That's not helpful when 51% of all retirees retired earlier than expected, with 50% retiring five or more years earlier than expected. If you're among the 2% of that group who retired early because they were tired of working, congratulations. However, if you're among the 52% who retired because of your health problems or those of a loved one or the 30% who were either laid off or bought out, it's can be scary out there. Among those of you who haven't retired he, 57% say healthcare costs could bite into retirement savings, another 57% say changes to Social Security might alter their plans and 45% say the potential for dealing with an illness or disability has them worried about their savings.
None of that has scared you into saving, though. According to a recent study of 1,000 U.S. workers by financial services firm Edward Jones, 45% of non-retired U.S. workers aren't saving for retirement at all. Of that group, only 36% plan to do so in the future and almost 10% say they aren't planning to save for retirement at all. While 58% of respondents 18 to 34 years old have not yet started saving, 90% say they have or plan to start saving for retirement before they turn or turned 30. However, as a testament to the power of procrastination, 26% of 35- to 44-year-olds say they plan to start saving in their 40s.
"When it comes to retirement savings, there's a big difference between planning to save and actually doing so," said Scott Thoma, principal and investment strategist for Edward Jones. "While intentions to save for retirement are legitimate, individuals tend to satisfy more immediate, short-term spending goals and push off their long-term saving goals. This behavior can be incredibly detrimental for individual investors, particularly as they enter the critical savings periods of their 30s and 40s when they have (and unfortunately waste) a tremendously valuable asset -- time."
This is not only a terrible approach to retirement planning, but it's one that has U.S. workers worrying themselves into some bad habits. When the U.K.-based deVere Group asked new clients between ages 50 and 65 what their top financial worry is, 52% said that they were concerned that they would have to "downsize" their lifestyles at some point in their retirement. Another 19% said the worried about having to work longer than they had planned to, while 15% feared not having enough funds to help children, grandchildren and/or elderly parents.
"Whatever situation you're in, it's never too late to start growing, maximizing and safeguarding your retirement income -- there are always things that can be done," says Nigel Green, founder and chief executive of deVere Group. "But the time to act is now as the longer you put off planning for your retirement, the harder it becomes."
Considering all the expenses retirees will be facing, you'd think there would be more urgency behind retirement planning. The Voya study found that 61% of workers were significantly concerned about their inability to pay for healthcare expenses in retirement. Meanwhile, 58% were also significantly concerned that they would end up with fewer Social Security benefits than expected. That's not great news, when 45% of retirees plan to rely on Social Security as a major source of their income in retirement and 66% of workers planned to start taking Social Security at age 66 or younger — well short of when full benefit payouts begin at age 70.
So how do you put away more? Well, you can start by moving credit card debt to cards with 0% interest and paying them off. Once you do that, use the savings to pay down other debt and build an emergency fund. When you're ready to address retirement, the advisors at T. Rowe Price, saving 15% of your earnings -- including employer contributions -- starting at age 30 can earn you upwards of $1.7 million by the time you retire. Now, that assumes 7% annual returns on your investments, a $50,000 starting salary at age 30, a 3% annual salary increase, a 4% annual withdrawal rate beginning at age 65 and 3% annual inflation. It also assumes that you wouldn't forfeit about $570,000 by saving just 10% a year.
But what if you aren't that young and haven't really put away a whole lot for retirement. Don't worry. For folks who begin socking away 15% at age 45, that still adds up to $457,000 based on those same variables. That's helpful, since a recent Google survey study conducted by GOBankingRates indicates that 33% of U.S. workers say they have no retirement savings. Another 23% who have less than $10,000 saved. According to GOBankingRates survey responses, J.P. Morgan Asset Management checkpoints and Census Bureau data on median incomes by age range, a 30-year-old making the median $54,243 should have about $16,273 saved. However, roughly 67% of workers that age are well behind that goal.
Considering that 75% of workers over 40 are behind on their retirement savings, according to GoBankingRates, they can use any help they can get. Even throwing 15% of income into to 401(k) and IRA accounts, paying down debt and use the catch-up provisions that allow for bigger contributions to retirement plans by people over 50, can help investors salvage their retirement. That's going to help the 58% of workers 18 to 34 who have not even started a retirement fund, which GOBankingRates and J.P. Morgan says should happen by age 24.
However, advisors at Voya Financial found that 74% of Americans have never calculated their monthly retirement income needs. Meanwhile, 51% of retirees have never tried to determine if their current savings will be enough to last through retirement - though 39% assume what they have will not last 20 years. A full 13% of current retirees don't know how much savings they have in the bank in the first place.
HSBC says that 72% percent of pre-retirees ages 45 and older would like to retire in the next five years, however 37% won't hit that mark, largely (77%) because they don't have the cash to do so. DeVere Group, meanwhile, found that 78% of workers from all over the world underestimate how much they'll need to save for retirement.
"They know that saving for their retirement is now, without question, a personal responsibility for each and every one of us," says Nigel Green, chief executive of DeVere Group. "However, what is alarming is that the vast majority do not know just how much they will need to save. This black hole in the detail -- not knowing how much they will need in something as fundamental as funding their retirement -- is extremely concerning indeed."
There are other variables at play as well. HSBC found that 67% workers are unable to predict how much they are likely to spend on healthcare in retirement, including 63% of those living in households with an annual income over $79,999. UBS, which only surveys investors with at least $1 million in investable assets, found that only 50% in investors have factored healthcare costs into their overall financial plan, and only 23% have saved for their future care. About 88% of wealthy investors say factoring in health care costs is harder because people are living longer, while 76% note that the price of modern healthcare is significantly higher than it was for previous generations.
"The life expectancy factor is the trickiest one, because there is no way to confidently predict how long we will live, and we actually tend to underestimate our own longevity," says Mike Lynch, vice president of strategic markets for Hartford Funds. "While in the past, life expectancy was shorter, today we are living longer, healthier and more actively than previous generations before us. That's the good news and the bad news, because our retirement dollars may need to last longer and work harder than we realize."
The best advice anyone can offer is to start now. Don't worry if you didn't start saving early on: just get to saving. Edward Jones noted that 90% of its study's youngest respondents said they planned to or began saving in their 30s or earlier. However, only 64% of respondents ages 35 to 44 actually began saving in their 30s. Roughly 22% of all respondents say they began saving between the ages of 40 and 50.
Kids only make those plans for complicated. About 40% of workers in single-person households indicated that they are not currently saving, according to Edward Jones, compared to 51% in a household three or more. Similarly, 58% of those without children have already started saving, compared to 49% with children.
"Parents are recognizing the need to save earlier in order to account for additional costs, like education," Thoma says. "We cannot emphasize enough the importance of saving for retirement early and often - it leads to higher future income in retirement, with less stress and uncertainty while working to achieve those goals."
Editors' pick: Originally published May 9.