If you’re someone who feels a little anxious when it comes to your personal finances, you’re not alone. You may be surprised to learn that, in fact, fifty percent of Americans have less than one month’s income saved for a rainy day and fifty-six percent of people have no idea their credit score is the most important factor for applying for a mortgage, car loan and new credit card. One in four people have almost nothing saved for retirement, with about twenty-six percent of workers reporting their household has less than $1,000 saved according to a new report from Employee Benefit Research Institute. Knowing that many Americans are faced with money concerns that can leave anyone feeling uncertain or uncomfortable about the financial future, here’s eight steps to overcoming your financial anxieties:
1. Admit There’s a Problem One of the best ways to tackle your anxiety is to first acknowledge that you actually have it and work to determine why. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, don’t have an emergency fund, or you’re not able to put any money aside for retirement – those could be the underlying causes of your stress and anxiety. There is no shame in admitting there is an issue, and sticking your head in the sand won’t alleviate the pain. Things happen and life moves quickly. The point is not to dwell on past missteps, but instead to pinpoint the issue and focus on what to do from here.
2. Think About Your Money Scripts What is your core belief about money? How does money make you feel and what role does it play in your life? Maybe you’re someone who has always avoided money. Maybe you never think there is enough money and are constantly in the pursuit of more. There are four primary “money scripts” that have been identified by financial psychologist Bradly Klontz. He categorizes them in the following way:
- Money Avoidance: Thinking money is inherently bad and a source of anxiety.
- Money Worship: Thinking happiness is contingent on having enough money (and there can never be too much money).
- Money Status: When you believe your self-worth is interchangeable with net-worth.
- Money Vigilance: When you see yourself as a steward of your money that must be carefully handled and intentionally directed.
Which money script(s) do you most identify with? Getting honest with yourself and how you relate to money can help you overcome any anxieties you may have around your finances.
3. Talk to Someone I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Most people would rather share the number of people they’ve been intimate with then tell you the balance of their bank account. Talking about money is important. When you talk about money, whether it’s a question, concern or an overall feeling – you learn things you didn’t know before. I recommend having safe money talks with people you trust. A financial planner, therapist, a trusted friend or family member are all wonderful options when it comes to having money conversations. If you don’t talk to someone, you may never really face what it is that has you troubled about finances. Related article: How to Stop Having Money Arguments, For Good
4. Don’t Keep Money Secrets Do you hide receipts from your spouse or keep a credit card or bank about he doesn’t know about? Money secrets can range from little white lies about small purchases to large secrets regarding unmentioned credit card debt. In 2011, the National Endowment for Financial Education discovered that 31% of Americans admitted lying to their partners about their finances. 67% of respondents said the secrets – when revealed – led to arguments, 42% said it damaged trust, and 16% said it even led to divorce. Results of a new survey in 2015 revealed the percentage of those who admitted they had financially deceived their partners rose to 33%. Let’s agree right now that it’s a good idea to be open and honest with your spouse about money. Financial infidelity is a real thing and it can drive a major wedge in your very important relationship, only heightening your anxiety around finances. Instead, be transparent about your finances and share in the responsibility of overcoming any hurdles to reach shared goals for the life you’re building together.
5. Create Goals One of the best ways to conquer your financial anxiety is to create goals that put you in the driver’s seat of your financial life. If you always feel like you’re reacting (instead of being proactive) with your money situation, you’re letting your finances control you and that can be a major source of anxiety. Creating and achieving your money goals can alleviate so much of the stress you feel about finances, because it means that you know where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow. Having specific money goals then creates the framework by which you can take the right steps to reach them. Related Article: How to Set Money Goals You Can Actually Reach
6. Set a Plan and Increase Your Knowledge You can’t know what you don’t know and feeling like you may be operating in the dark on certain matters can cause angst. One way to combat that feeling of uncertainty or worry is by intentionally growing your knowledge in the money areas that affect you the most. Increasing your financial knowledge doesn’t mean you need to become a finance expert. It just means that you learn more about the financial matters that help you make informed choices when it comes to your money. Related article: How to Take the Reins of Your Financial Literacy
7. Stop Comparing Comparison really is the thief of all joy; the breeder of discontentment. When you look to the lives of others, rarely do you see the entire financial picture. What you see is what people want you to see and looks can be deceiving. Instead, try as best as you can to stay focused on your money journey, where you’re headed and how you’re going to get there. It truly doesn’t matter what anyone else is earning, buying or doing and at what stage in their life they’re doing so. All that really matters is that you’re making the smartest choices you can with your money so that it supports the life you want to live and the future you want to have.
8. Do the Work Taking control of your finances is the secret to overcome any of your money anxiety. It can be fun, but you also need to be prepared to do the work – because it takes effort. You’ll need to be willing to devote a few hours or an afternoon to dig into your money situation. Take the time to find out what kind of life you want and how to put your money where your heart is. Take steps to overcome debt and establish good spending and saving habits. Make the decision to invest in your future and protect what’s most important to you. At the end of the day, it’s your financial life and you can take control any time. You have what it takes to overcome any money issues or hang ups that are causing you anxiety. Start here. Start today. There is no reason to wait another minute to start feeling more comfortable when it comes to your personal finances.