Rising debt. Growing tax bills. College tuition. Loans.
If you sometimes feel like you’re drowning in financial stress, you’re definitely not alone. Money is a common source of stress, says a 2017 report from the American Psychological Association. Sixty-two percent of Americans say they worry about their finances, making monetary anxiety the second most common source of stress across the U.S.
In some cases, thinking about money even makes people ill. About half of millennials, or individuals born between 1981 and 1996, say that monetary woes make them depressed, and a quarter say that financial anxiety makes them feel physically ill, according to MarketWatch.
The good news is that, while money anxiety disorder is real, there are ways to deal with it. Read on to discover how you can conquer your money worries.
Recognize Stress Triggers Causing Financial Anxiety
The first step in battling financial stress lies in recognizing exactly what triggers an anxious reaction. In some cases, all things money-related bring on a cold sweat due to patterns from childhood; perhaps your parents were drowning in bills or simply experienced financial anxiety themselves, which they then communicated to you. Your own experiences contribute, as well, whether you tend to overspend, worry about losing your source of income or stress about debt and loan burdens. Given the ubiquity of social media, it’s also all too easy to look at how others present their financial situation and then compare your own unfavorably, which can lead to feelings of despair and inadequacy.
But why does money have the power to frazzle our nerves… and our self-esteem? Perhaps because we link it to survival. We tend to associate having enough money with feeling safe and secure. When that’s threatened, whether through loss of a job, a tanking stock market or a high tax bill, we tend to feel threatened and anxious.
You may think of trauma as something experienced only in the aftermath of a major event, such as serving in a war zone. However, smaller experiences — such as a foreclosure, losing a job, or even worrying about losing a job — add up over time, triggering anxiety.
Financial Anxiety Signs and Symptoms
How do you know if you’re suffering from money anxiety disorder? Common signs may include:
- Feelings of depression or despair when thinking about finances
- Falling into a cycle of overspending in an attempt to feel less anxious about money, then feeling even more stressed over the money spent
- Over-frugality; on the other end of the spectrum, money anxiety may cause so much worry about spending that basic needs and necessities are neglected (let alone the comforts that make life more pleasant)
- Working excessively in an attempt to accumulate money
- Turning control of financial decisions and responsibilities over to someone else, usually a family member, in an attempt to ignore the issue; this may lead to power struggles within families
- Lying about finances or hiding income from family members
- An inability to change financial behaviors, even when presented with strong incentives to do so
How to Cope with Money Anxiety
Though financial stress can seem overwhelming, you can take steps to mitigate the effects. Start by changing how you think about the anxiety itself: Instead of seeing the worry as a symptom, think of it as a motivator that will spur you to making positive changes. These tips can help you take charge:
Sit down with your finances regularly. Set aside a regular appointment with yourself to check in and review your finances. Think of these meetings as a way to demystify your financial situation, to explore why you feel the way you do toward money, and to take immediate actions, such as finding an accountant or installing a new money management app. If you have a spouse or partner, include them in these meetings and use the time to get to know each other’s values and goals surrounding money. This will help you work together toward common goals.
Goals: Start small. Speaking of goals, set some — but start small. Focus on realistic milestones that you can achieve in the short and long term, rather than huge, sweeping goals. For instance, a goal shouldn’t be “I want to save a million dollars by the time I retire,” but rather “I want to set aside 5 percent of each paycheck in a retirement account” or “I will pay an extra $50 toward my student loan each month.”
Revisit Your Budget. Take an in-depth look at your spending. Does it match with your monthly budget? A realistic look at where your money is going will help you identify areas where you can cut spending and redirect those funds toward savings. Given that debt is generally the biggest cause of stress, controlling spending and upping savings will help reduce anxiety.
Pay Attention to Your Reactions. While you’re making money decisions, pay attention to how you feel, both physically and mentally. If checking your account balances makes you sweat, take a step back and breathe for a minute while you calm down. Being aware of your reactions will help you control them.
Work with a Professional. If you need help getting those finances in order and getting anxiety in check, meet with a professional. They’ll help you identify your goals and where you can make any needed changes, whether you want to revamp your budget, boost your savings or explore debt relief options.
To learn more about debt relief in Ohio, contact Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer today and schedule a free consultation.