When it comes to financial matters, women worry more and sleep less than men, according to a new CreditCards.com poll.
A national survey commissioned by CreditCards.com to gauge how money worries affect sleep found that 56 percent of men report occasionally losing sleep over at least one financial problem. The rate jumps to 68 percent for women.
“It’s true, women worry more,” said Heather Fraser, president and CEO of Logos Financial Solutions in Miami. “We’re worriers.”
Overall, about 6 in 10 adult Americans say they lose sleep over at least one financial problem in our telephone survey of 1,000 adults in the United States. Survey respondents were given a list of financial concerns and asked which caused them to lose sleep at least occasionally: saving for retirement, education costs, paying for health care or insurance bills, paying the monthly rent or mortgage, and credit card debt. (See poll methodology.)
Today's most common money worry is saving enough for retirement. That is especially for those over the age of 30, wealthy individuals and college graduates. The second biggest sleep-depriving concern is educational expenses. That issue troubles young adults the most.
If someone is tossing and turning because of financial stress, there is probably more than one problem keeping them awake. According to the poll, the average person who is losing sleep said 2.3 money issues are stressing them out and keeping them up.
“Stress really piles on,” Fraser explained. “People want to be able to educate their kids or they want to get out of debt. People worry so much because those things might not be possible and there’s an uneasiness associated with not knowing how much you can actually do.”
The gender divide
The latest money worries poll found that women outfret men overall and in each of the five specific financial concerns they were asked about. For example, 44 percent of women said they’ve lost sleep worrying about retirement savings compared to only 35 percent of men. Women also lose sleep over health care and insurance bills quite a bit more than men: 33 percent compared to 24 percent, respectively.
The statistical gender differences in stress levels may be the result of a number of factors, one of which is how women acknowledge stress compared to men, according to Brad Klontz, co-founder of the Financial Psychology Institute and associate professor of economics and finance at Creighton University
“Women are much more in touch with the emotions they are dealing with and can report as such,” he said. “Men are more likely to have some sort of denial about the stress they are under. They are less likely to talk about it and less likely to address it.” As a result, he said, men are likely to underreport their emotions.
Biological female instincts to nurture and take care of others may result in added sleep-depriving stress, as it does for 46-year-old publicist Andrea Adams-Miller, who says health care expenses can make her toss and turn at night.
“If something comes up where someone I love or care about has an immediate need, I am very concerned if I have stockpiled savings in order to step up and assist them,” she explained. “While it may not be my responsibility, my desire to be there for them exceeds any obligation I may or may not have to assist.”
Financial stress only gets worse when there is less money available to address the problems at hand, Fraser said. Today, women earn about 84 percent of what men do, according to the Pew Research Center.
“Women overall make less money and have less wealth and money saved,” said Fraser. “For those reasons, they are often in a more unstable financial position. And I think that’s why they tend to worry more.”
Sleep loss rates stabilizing
CreditCards.com first conducted a poll to gauge how money worries affect sleep in March 2007, just before the recession kicked in, and again in June 2009, the recession's final month. The poll was later conducted in May 2015 and found Americans were sleeping better as the economy recovered post-recession.
Much of the 2016 money worries poll data echoes 2015 findings. These days, 62 percent of respondents still say they lose sleep to at least one financial worry, which is not as good as the 56 percent in 2007 pre-recession, but much better than the 69 percent reported in 2009.
As was found in 2015, concerns about health care and insurance bills, mortgage and rent bills and credit card debt cause sleep loss in less than 30 percent of U.S. adults.
Credit card debt remains the least sleep-depriving financial concern among U.S. adults, affecting the sleep of only 22 percent of poll respondents. That's both good and bad, Klontz said. Credit card debt should be more of a concern as it can be one of the most-costly types of debt, but the repayment options help keep related sleep-depriving stress under control.
“You can just pay the minimum so you have less anxiety,” he explained. “That way you are servicing the debt, but it doesn’t have to impact your daily life. You’re ‘taking care of it,’”
Consumers may also handle credit cards better these days, too. Credit card delinquency rates are historically low, hovering around 2.5 percent, which is well below the 15-year average of 3.72 percent, according to The American Bankers Association.
“I think individually people just have less debt, and they are convinced they should have less debt,” Fraser said.
Even though card balances have increased approximately $36.1 billion since CreditCards.com conducted its May 2015 money worries poll, according to the Federal Reserve, card balances are still below the $1 trillion level reached when the recession began at the end of 2007. Today, the average credit card-holding adult carries approximately $5,540 in card debt, according to CreditCards.com calculations.
Retirement is stressful for all
While the overarching percentage of adults losing sleep over money worries hasn’t worsened since last year, there is one money worry that seems to weigh heavily on consumers’ minds year after year: saving for retirement.
The cost of retiring has been the No. 1 sleep-depriving financial stressor for adults even before the recession hit, according to CreditCards.com poll data. Men and women both report losing the most sleep over retirement savings woes, but those who are approaching the average retirement age of 62 are even more stressed about this matter.
According to this year’s poll, 40 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds lose sleep over retirement savings concerns at least occasionally and that number rises to 46 percent for 50- to 64-year-olds.
“You hit a certain age and you think, ‘Oh my god!’” Fraser said. “You need a certain amount of money to live a certain way when you get older. You have to consider health care, you have to consider living expenses and all these things. And all of these middle-age people are starting to feel like they don’t have enough to retire how they want to yet.”
Once retired, though, older adults are the least sleep-deprived over what they have saved for their golden years, as only 36 percent of those older than 65 said they occasionally lose sleep over retirement savings woes, according to the poll.
“People in their 60s and beyond are probably in a better position because they’ve had more time to save,” Fraser explained. “And even though they may have been impacted by the recession’s stock market crash and housing market problems, they might have been more conservative in previous years and many have more pension plans to get them through retirement, which are not as common anymore.”
High education costs aren’t helping
Educational expenses have been the second most-common sleep depriving money worry since the recession began. Today, 30 percent of U.S. adults lose sleep over this matter, and it’s even worse for young adults. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, 45 percent have lost sleep over education cost concerns.
A large portion of the 30- to 49-year-old age group is worried, too, as 33 percent of respondents registered their fears. The high cost of education may also be affecting the retirement savings of middle-aged adults who are now finding themselves taking care of adult children who have graduated college, but have student loans and don’t have the means to support themselves yet, Fraser explained.
These days, the average student loan balance is about $35,000 for a bachelor’s degree-level education, according to Edvisors.
Tossing and turning? Address your stress
If you're losing sleep over financial stress, instead of lying awake with worry, write down your problems to move them from your mind to paper.
“The racing thoughts at night is a subconscious way of trying to bring a problem to your attention, so it’s quite likely that during your waking hours, you are pushing this issue aside or focusing on something else,” Klontz explained.
By writing down your worries, you are getting the worrisome thoughts out of your mind and committing to a plan, whether that means meeting with a financial adviser, talking with a spouse or just reviewing your budget. Whatever the stress, you won’t start sleeping better until you tackle the problem head-on.
“There is always a solution,” said Fraser. “It may not be a pleasant one and it may be hard, but there will be one. Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.”
The CreditCards.com poll was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International through telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults living in the continental United States April 14-17, 2016. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.