It is okay to feel not okay about money sometimes. While most Americans feel good about their money a portion of the time, most people often feel negative emotions about their financial situation, according to a 2018 Northwestern Mutual study. Take a moment to let that sink in: Having financial stress is normal to most people.
So, how do others deal with it? The first step to dealing with financial stress and navigating money anxiety is to take the time to understand what is causing you to feel this way and why it makes you feel like that.
Defining Financial Stress and How to Navigate Money Anxiety
People at all income levels and all ages feel some level of financial stress at some point. But figuring out why you’re stressed about money and how to navigate those anxieties can be difficult to work through. The most important thing you can do when you are stressed about money is to identify exactly what you’re feeling. Some of the emotions you may be feeling about money can include:
Understanding exactly what you’re feeling is the first step to taking control of the financial stress you’re feeling. This may take some time and effort to uncover (It’s not easy to think about negative emotions!). Consider taking an evening with your partner or a trusted friend to discuss what’s bugging you about your finances. You may find that simply talking about your emotions can help, or that the discomfort you’re feeling is shared among the people in your life.
You may not be able to control everything that’s causing you stress. But once you know what you’re dealing with, it’s easier to take some action on the things you can control.
How to Deal with Money Stress & Anxiety
Pinpoint the sources of your financial stress
Take a look at your finances. Pull out your budget, your savings plan, your bills, statements—everything. What is really eating at you? Are there just one or two pain points that are making you feel this way? It’s also okay to feel overwhelmed—there might be several pain points that are causing you to feel financial stress.
If you can successfully figure out the sources of stress in your finances, you’ll be able to focus on the problem items that you can control. Instead of being stressed about your money in general, you’re stressed about these specific items in your finances.
By the way, just knowing the problem doesn’t fix the problem. But, knowing the problem makes managing your money in the meantime (while you figure out how to fix the problem) more bearable.
Create the budget, savings plan or debt payoff plan you need
If you aren’t actively managing a budget, contributing to a savings plan, or paying off debt it’s time to create the plans to do so. If you are keeping track of your money, now is the time to evaluate if your financial documents truly capture your financial situation.
Make sure to focus on resetting any of the problem areas that are causing you money anxiety. If something isn’t working, take the time to figure out how you could potentially fix it. Changing your financial habits is hard, but so is what you’re feeling right now.
Prepare for the worst possible outcome
Sometimes our biggest fears are what we can’t anticipate. If you are worried about what could happen (Your car breaks down, there’s a medical emergency or damage to your home that you’re not covered for), make plans to prepare for them.
If you don’t have an emergency fund, start one (Even if all you can do right now is $50 here or there). If you’re not enrolled, contact your employer to see what kind of savings plans they offer, or ask if you could enhance the savings you’re contributing to now. Consider negotiating with your insurance companies so they cover anything that’s worrying you.
It’s not easy to just start putting money away, but taking even just a little action on these scenarios can help to alleviate the stress you are feeling about them.
No one is born a financial expert. If that confusing insurance policy, retirement plan or medical bill is one of the reasons you’re stressed, take some time to understand it. Read through those documents, do research on what normal policies, plans or bills are supposed to look like. Become an expert in the thing that is keeping you up at night.
Remember that more money = just as many problems
So many of us are led to believe that people with more money than us are less stressed about their financial situation. A certain amount of money can help us secure relatively comfortable and safe lives, but more money does not remove the stress that comes with it. The reasons why you’re stressed just change. But, when you understand your financial habits, you’ll understand how those habits affect your finances, at any income level.
Remember what is important
Remember that money is a means to an end to help you live a certain life. Having more money can 100% help solve some problems, but if you don’t deal with the real reason you’re feeling financial stress, no amount of money can cure it.
Take a moment to really think about why you want more money or a certain lifestyle.
It’s probably because of something or someone important, right? When you go back to your basic wants and needs, you may remember that some of the things you’re worried about don’t really matter in the big picture.
The Big Picture About Financial Stress and Dealing with Money Anxiety
To recap, financial stress can happen to anyone. Your most valuable tactics to navigate money anxiety are to identify what you’re feeling, understand the pain points in your finances and how they contribute to your overall financial situation.
Ways you could deal with money worries include:
- Create the budget, savings or debt payoff plan you need to take action
- Prepare for the worst (But expect that everything is going to be fine)
- Educate yourself on financial topics you need a refresher on
- Redefine what it means to have money stress
- Remember what’s important to you at the end of the day