A few months ago, our contributor Mary Wilson shared some advice on “How to be Better with Money.” These tips were simple and easy to follow – setting aside time to formulate a budget and abiding by it, revisiting it when necessary and taking into account non-budgeted expenses. You must also be prudent in purchasing goods and services by looking for the best prices and deals. This practice pays off in the long-term as it becomes habitual. Wilson also emphasized the need for saving regularly, allowing for interest to be added which may be useful for bigger purchases. Yet despite many tips available online on how to successfully manage money, it is consistently marked as a top cause of stress.
Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning & Progress Study found that 44% of participants listed finance as their top cause of stressful feelings. In 2017, 37% of Americans admitted that they felt moderate to high levels of anxiety when the thought of saving for their retirement came up, with 40% also worrying that they would outlive their retirement savings. A study by Payoff showed the seriousness of this stress with 23% of respondents suffering symptoms similar to PTSD, which would significantly impact their mood, thoughts, feelings and behavior. The number was higher among Millennials with 36% saying that they felt this level of stress. If you are feeling under pressure due to financial concerns there are ways to stop worrying about money.
Simple financial knowledge can encourage empowering feelings of security, control and freedom in individuals. The APA recommends that positively managing financial stress by identifying specific stressors is important. In terms of finances, these include the areas in which money may cause the most stress such as debts, loans, income or investments. Naming these stressors and working on these specific areas may also prevent you from letting the stress be relieved through unhealthy coping mechanisms that can affect your health. Getting to the root of the problem is key to reducing your money worries.
Knowing your tendencies
“How the Psychology of Money Affects Your Wealth” published on Today Online notes how it is also important to come to terms with your own tendencies in association with money, and whether or not you classify yourself as a “saver” or “spender.” There is nothing inherently wrong with either category; but awareness on which side of the spectrum you tend to lean towards is essential in strategizing what steps to take next. This self-acceptance can pave the way for self-improvement and in turn, goals can be set, adjustments in spending habits and behavior made and plans for the future mapped out.
Keeping an emergency fund
Finance expert Miriam Caldwell recommends setting up an emergency fund for spontaneous and sporadic expenses. Having this as a back-up plan manages stress from the onset. You know that there is money specifically set aside to cushion any unexpected need for cash. Building this fund can start at any time and with any amount. It is important, though, to start right away. In order to make the best use of emergency funds – don’t use them unless you absolutely need to.
Seek financial assistance
Some people may find tackling these matters alone very difficult; but there is no harm or shame in asking for external help when needed. Whether it is through a financial planner who can track expenses and provide investment strategies, or seeking credit counseling services that can restructure your debt and negotiate with creditors, there is a solution for every money and finance-related issue. Seeking professional help benefits everyone from students to those entering retirement. For those who want to take a more hands-on approach, consider taking financial planning classes. There are many institutions and even a number of programs by the US Chamber of Commerce that teach financial literacy through workshops, websites, lesson plans and seminars across all levels. A lot of schools and institutions now offer financial planning services that make use of modern technology and tools to make learning simpler and ensure success. Dr. Mark Lombardi, president of Maryville University, says “Student success isn’t just the best measure of a highly successful education. It’s the only measure that matters.”
Whether you decide to hire the services of a financial planner or take financial planning classes yourself, it is never too early or late to start managing or seeking help in one’s finances. There is always a solution that can be found, from ensuring that your future is protected to finding the best way to pay for expenses like student debt. Psychology and money are heavily intertwined and having a healthy relationship with both is a major factor in contributing to one’s happiness.