Have you ever felt that pit in your stomach when the bill due date rolls around and you know you just can’t pay it on time? Worry, tension, and stress about money are all signs of financial anxiety. For example, when it feels like you can’t get ahead, financial anxiety can start to rear its ugly head.
The American Psychiatric Association conducts its Stress in America survey, an annual poll to measure the level of stress and anxiety everyday Americans face. In 2018, the national anxiety score was at a 51 (on a scale from zero to 100), a five point jump from 2017 . Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they were either extremely or somewhat anxious about paying their bills or expenses.
There are a number of factors noted that can lead to financial stress.
Lack of an emergency fund may be just one reason why 43% of people globally are worried about their current financial situation. But financial anxiety could come from another area in your life.
Maybe it’s an unexpected job loss, or a high-interest rate on your credit card making it tough to tackle debt. You’re not alone. Financial anxiety doesn’t have to be something you deal with on your own. Employing a few strategies may help you go from worried and worn to calm and comforted.
What Is Financial Anxiety?
Financial anxiety is not an official disorder by any stretch, but is broadly defined as any stress or irritability felt towards money. It can stem from a variety of factors. Take a look at how you grew up. Did your parents talk about money? Was it positive or negative?
If your childhood memories about money include strained financial conversations around the dinner table, you might have a negative money outlook. This could contribute to feelings of financial anxiety as an adult.
You may experience financial anxiety from unexpected unemployment, mounting debt, a spouse who spends uncontrollably or relying on others to take care of your finances for you. Here’s the thing about money. So often we let it control us when in reality, we can take ownership and control it.
Life is going to happen, both good and bad. There will likely be situations in which you will feel financially fearful. But by having the right tools and safety nets in place, you can take the steps towards financial confidence.
Anxiety around money can range from a brief argument with your partner to constant worry about whether you will have enough money to pay your bills. The first step in solving a problem is understanding the scale of the issue.
If you’re frequently stressed about money and are living paycheck to paycheck you may be experiencing more financial anxiety than someone who manages a monthly budget carefully. If that sounds like you, here are a few tips that might help you feel on firmer financial footing.
Ways to Cope with Financial Anxiety
If you feel stuck, here are a few suggestions on how to help cope with financial anxiety. First, stick to the four money principles: pay yourself first, live within your means, protect yourself, and make money work for you. Having a clear direction for your financial life with these principles may help keep your money goals simple and focused.
Realizing that your current financial situation is probably temporary.
Remembering that much of what feels overwhelming in life, and with finances, is temporary can be a good first step.
Understanding that the emotions you are going through are very real, and most likely have been felt by people you know, can be a comfort too. Talking to your partner, a close friend, or family member about what is going on may help you let go of guilt, shame, and financial anxiety.
Taking a mental money break by practicing meditation and gratitude.
Download a free meditation app and start implementing a daily gratitude practice. Take three minutes and find a quiet place to sit with your eyes closed. Think of three things for which you are grateful.
It could be as simple as fresh brewed coffee or a friend who’s always there for you. When you start to take notice of the people and things that make life better, it can feel easier to let go of financial anxiety. This doesn’t make your money problems go away, of course, but it could help you cope with financial anxiety in a healthy way.
Making a list of your money goals and post it where you can see it.
Do you want to climb out of debt? Make a plan to pay it off. For example, you could look into refinancing your student loans or start by paying off the student loan with the highest interest rate. Each time you make a decision and act on it, write it down underneath your money goal. Visually seeing what you are doing to eliminate the debt may help you feel more in control.
Creating an action plan to help you meet your financial goals.
After you’ve evaluated your finances and set your list of money goals, you could take the time to create a plan to help you achieve them.
If your goal is to build up your emergency fund, for example, you could start by determining the minimum amount you’d like to have saved and then establish a weekly minimum amount you plan to contribute each week until you reach your goal. If your goal is to pay off debt more broadly, you could create a debt repayment plan you can stick with.
Putting your money in a better account.
If you’re experiencing financial anxiety it could be worth reevaluating your accounts. Are you happy with your current situation? If the answer is no, it may be time to look into switching accounts.
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