Canadian Markets closed

Stop losing sleep over money: Here are 4 quick ways to improve your finances

Emmie Martin

The future is daunting — and it's keeping us up at night.

Sixty-five percent of Americans say they lose sleep to worrying about their finances, according to a recent survey of over 1,000 adults by CreditCards.com.

This lack of shut-eye stems primarily from concerns over health care or insurance bills, as cited by 38 percent of respondents. That's a nine percent increase from 2016, and though this is CreditCards.com's fifth survey of this nature, it's the first time health care concerns have topped the list.


"Health care hasn't been such a big source of insomnia since 2009 (35 percent), when newly inaugurated President Barack Obama rolled out his landmark health care reform bill," the report explains. "The recent debate in Washington about overhauling the health care system again likely exacerbated a financial worry that bugs consumers even in times of political calm."

Other financial issues cause stress as well: 37 percent of respondents are concerned about saving enough for retirement, 34 percent worry about student loan debt and 25 percent lie awake riddled with the fear that they won't be able to pay their mortgages.

"This survey shows that despite the booming stock market and low unemployment, an awful lot of Americans are really, really worried about their finances, and what they worry about is changing," Matt Shulz, CreditCards.com's senior industry analyst, tells CNBC.

"Retirement savings had long been Americans' biggest financial boogeyman, but now, health care is what is keeping the most people awake at night."


What's more, these are the highest numbers reported since before the financial crisis. "Financial insomnia affected only 56 percent of people in 2007, but that number surged to 69 percent in 2009," the report says. Though 2017's 65 percent is down from the peak of the Great Recession, it's a significant number.

Luckily, an even more significant number has been inspired to act. Eighty-two percent of respondents losing sleep report taking at least one step to improve their finances, chiefly by reducing expenses, selling unused items or taking on a second job.

"The most important thing you can do if your debts feel out of control is to take some sort of action, even if it's small," Shulz says. "Moves like making a budget or selling something of value may not seem significant, but they can make you feel more empowered and that can help you sleep more soundly at night."


Want to go a step further? Here are four easy steps that will help improve your finances for the long term:

Contribute to a retirement savings account

If you aren't already taking advantage of your employer's 401(k) plan, sign up. Financial experts typically recommend contributing at least 10 percent of your salary, but start with however much you can. If you don't have a retirement savings plan at work , you can contribute to other tax-advantaged accounts designed specifically for retirement, such as a traditional IRA, Roth IRA or myRA .

If you're already using a retirement savings plan, spend a few minutes setting it to auto-increase by a certain percentage every year. That way, you'll eventually work your way up to 10 percent and barely notice the gradual dip in your paycheck.

Pay yourself first

Start building out your savings account by paying yourself first. It's the single most effective way to get rich, according to self-made millionaire David Bach. "You should be saving the equivalent of one hour's worth of income each day," he says .

Say you earn $50,000 a year. That's about $1,000 a week, or $25 an hour for a 40-hour week, so you should aim to save $25 a day. Take that $750 a month and invest it somewhere where it will grow, such as a tax-advantaged retirement account.


Automate everything

The easiest way to stay on top of your finances is to set up everything once, and let it run on auto-pilot from there. That means establishing automatic monthly contributions to your savings and investment accounts, putting as many bills as possible on auto-pay and configuring your 401(k) to auto-increase.

Not only will you save and invest, hands-free, but you won't even miss the money because you'll never see it.

Start investing

The earlier you start investing, the better. Thanks to the power of compound interest , in which any interest earned accrues interest on itself, a little money invested now can amount to more than a lot of money invested later.

You don't need to be rich to get started, either. Apps such as Acorns invest your spare change, and robo-advisors , such as Wealthfront and Betterment, manage any amount of cash with low annual fees.

Don't miss: Americans owe $1 trillion in credit card debt—here are 2 proven strategies for paying it off