The Top 6 Money Stresses (and How to Stop Freaking Out About Them)
Guys, a new study reports that money stress can actually make us look up to 10 years older than we actually are. That’s why we’re zeroing in on the top six money worries—and how to nip them in the bud.
You Have a Ton of Debt
Bills, bills, bills—whether you’re working to pay off your credit cards or your mortgage, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The best approach: Look at the big picture and make a list of exactly how much you owe. (It never hurts to request a copy of your credit report.) From there, you can come up with a strategy to start knocking down debts. (For example, maybe you can consolidate them with a no-fee credit card like Chase Slate or try the snowball approach and pay off the smallest debt first.)
You Don’t Know How Much to Keep in Emergency Savings
Sure, it’s for a rainy day, but how do you know if you’ll have set enough cash aside when said rainy day comes along (say, a leaky roof or unexpected car repair)? A good rule of thumb: Aim to have three to six months’ worth of basic living expenses (housing, food, health care, utilities, transportation). If it feels insurmountable, remember: A few small lifestyle tweaks can add up to serious cash.
You’re Nervous About Retirement
Gah, your golden years. Even if they feel forever and a day away, figuring out what percentage of your paycheck to allocate to your 401(k) can prove a challenge. Online calculators—like this one from Bankrate—are there to do the math for you, but here’s the thing: What’s most important is that you’re contributing something each month, even if it’s as little as 1 percent. (One exception: If your company offers a match, do your best to maximize it.)
You’re Worried About the Cost of Child Care - and College
The sooner you start planning for these things, the better. As for child care, factor yearly costs (say, $15,000 for day care) into your annual spending budget and then look for ways to offset the expense (say, canceling your gym membership). Then find out if your company allows you to put money—up to $5,000—into a flexible spending account to pay for that child care tax-free. As for college? You have 18 years to set aside funds. Your best bet is to set up a 529 plan ASAP
You Can’t Compete With Your Wealthier Friends
The dinner bill shalt not be divided evenly. Yes, it’s easy to fret about friends with money. But try to remember that keeping up with the Joneses isn’t required. It’s OK to be direct about what you can and can’t afford—or take the bull by the horns and suggest ways to hang out together that don’t break the bank. (Hello, book club.)
You’ll Never Be Able to Afford a House
Never say never. But if being a home owner is important to you, you may have to take a hard and fast look at your income, current mortgage rates and where you’re aiming to buy. If you’re able to exhibit flexibility—even shifting from one neighborhood to the next in the same town—you might be able to get that approval sooner than you think. And don’t forget, discussing your options with a real estate agent or mortgage broker is free.