Tips for getting calm about your money

If you suffer from anxiety whenever you consider your financial situation, you are definitely not alone. In a recent Mind over Money survey, 77 percent of Americans reported feeling financial anxiety, and the vast majority of those surveyed are most anxious about the common concerns people encounter as they get older: having enough money to retire (68%), keeping up with the cost of living (56%), and managing debt levels (45%).Dog with head buried in the sand

Financial stress can lead to all kinds of problems, including fatigue, difficulty sleeping, poor concentration at work, and relationship issues. So, how to cope? We wouldn’t advise our go-to response, which looks a little like an ostrich with its head in the sand. Instead, here are what some experts say about how to best manage your financial anxiety.

Discard Any Feelings of Shame

One of the biggest hurdles to overcoming financial anxiety is conquering the shame associated with it. Whatever the reason — whether it’s the thought of admitting to financial mismanagement, or ignorance, or just the lack of funds — embarrassment can prevent people from getting help. Shame also perpetuates a vicious cycle of anxiety and future mismanagement, so whenever you start feeling squirmy, realize that educating yourself and getting your money organized can be a good first step toward setting you on a healthier — calmer — financial path.

Seek Professional Help

Once you’ve eliminated or lessened your feelings of shame about your finances, the next step is to get them in order. For some people, it just means gathering the essential documents and finding the right money management tools. One option is to download a free app that helps you do this, like this one offered by Intuit. If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, you can use Google Sheets to organize and track all of your financial data.

Man explaining paperwork to smiling coupleFor others, this task can seem overwhelming. That’s when it may be time to work with a financial planner. If your anxiety is rooted in the fear of the unknown, this could resolve so many issues. It’s like hiring a therapist for your bank account. Even if you aren’t in top-notch financial shape, an advisor can help you figure out what you need to do to achieve your goals, whether it’s retirement calculations, getting out of debt, or crafting a financial plan (which is always a good idea). 

Face Your Fears

You probably don’t want to hear this, but one of the first steps to resolving financial worries is to face whatever it is that’s keeping you up at night. If you are one of the many people who are concerned about retirement, then the answer is to sit down and really do the math. For others, it might mean naming worst-case scenarios and then figuring out a plan to handle those possibilities. (Here’s another reason it is a good idea to do this with a professional: sometimes contemplating financial disasters leads to catastrophic thinking. Don’t do that. The whole point is to construct solutions so that when you wake up at night in a cold sweat, you can reassure yourself that even if the worst happens you’ve already got plans in place.) This exercise may be uncomfortable, but it has the paradoxical impact of lowering anxiety, because it can help you keep things in perspective.

Create an Emergency Fund

Emergency Fund graphicA survey conducted in 2020 found that only 41% of Americans would be able to pay for an unexpected $1,000 expense out of their savings. That is scary. So develop a proper emergency fund to buffer against future financial shocks. Being prepared means less anxiety. The experts over at MoneyCrashers advise that if you don’t have an emergency fund yet, start with a goal of saving $1,000 in a high-yield account. Over time, the aim is to have at least six months’ worth of living expenses.

Take Care of Yourself

Any kind of anxiety can take its toll, mentally as well as physically. Make sure you engage in regular self-care and leisure activities, even if you feel like you “don’t deserve it.” Try to focus on the positive whenever possible; even if you were only able to look over your bills for ten minutes, those are ten minutes and several bills that you were brave enough to conquer. Acknowledge that it is hard work to face something difficult or stress-inducing.

If your anxiety becomes too much to handle alone, please seek professional help. We all need help sometimes.

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