One of the biggest stressors that people face in their lives is money. Financial issues can cause stress for a variety of reasons. Maybe you cannot afford the major purchases you want, or you’re living paycheck to paycheck, just barely making ends meet. Maybe a sudden, unexpected expense has overwhelmed your emergency savings. No matter the problem, worrying won’t solve much, so the energy expended with this stress is wasted.
On the other hand, if you can figure out how to address your financial problems practically and get a better handle on them, you can lift the anxiety and start to feel more relieved. The trick is spending less time caught up in anxiety, and more time focusing on practical solutions. Some other tips for handling financial stress constructively include:
While tracking progress toward a goal won’t immediately resolve a financial issue, doing this can significantly reduce the daily anxiety you feel. Remember that anxiety stems in part from not knowing or being unsure about something. Tracking progress allows you to see how far you have come, which can also remind you that there is an end in sight. That fact alone often helps people feel much better about their money woes.
When facing long-term issues, tracking progress becomes even more important as it can help you stay focused on your end goal. For example, imagine having a credit score in the 500s. Getting that score to the mid-700s will take a lot of work and a significant amount of time. However, seeing progress toward the goal reminds you that what you’re doing is actually working. You can celebrate milestones along the way, such as breaking 600 and again when the score increases above 650.
Rework your budget.
One of the issues that can cause the most financial stress is a budget that is not properly balanced. If you haven’t made a budget, this is one of the first things you should do if you’re stressed about money. If you already have a budget, it might be time to revisit it.
The purpose of a budget is to help you understand exactly where your money goes, and give you a framework to guide your spending. In other words, a budget can relieve anxiety by taking away much of the guesswork of spending. When it’s time to revisit your budget, start by reviewing your bills and expenditures to make sure these numbers are accurate. This could take time—for example, you may need to track your grocery expenses for a month to see how much you’re really spending. Once you have accurate numbers, look for ways to reduce spending, especially if you find that you’re spending more than you earn. All of this can help create a more focused plan for paying off debt.
Hire an advisor.
The idea of hiring an advisor in times of financial stress may seem ridiculous since it means spending more money. However, these professionals can help you get on the right track to meet your financial goals. In addition, having an experienced professional on the line can help you feel more secure and confident.
A large number of advisors will meet with a new client for free the first time as a way of getting to know them and providing some basic financial advice. Come to this first appointment with an understanding of your personal goals, and discuss them with the advisor to see if they are a good fit. Hiring someone who’s not on the same page as you might only lead to more stress, so make sure you discuss your challenges, budget, and goals in depth.
Spend time learning.
Many people become stressed about their finances when they feel like they have no power over what is happening. The best way to feel more empowered is to gain more knowledge. As you learn, you may begin to see new avenues out of your situation that you had not considered. At the very least, you will feel more prepared to deal with issues that arise in the future.
Luckily, there are plenty of resources available. The internet is an obvious place to turn; sites like Bankrate.com, WiseBread.com, and Kiplinger.com are all good options for personal finance education. Investopedia has an excellent, easy-to-use dictionary that clearly explains financial terms. Likewise, NerdWallet is a top resource for comparing specific financial products like credit cards, mortgages, banks, and investment accounts. Podcasts are also a great option for self-directed financial learning, especially if you prefer listening over reading. Highly regarded personal finance podcasts include this list from US News & World Report.
If you’d rather take a class, community colleges often have excellent, low-cost finance courses on retirement planning, investing, basic personal finance, and other topics. Another option is a massive online open course, which can be accessed for free at home. Financial advisors can also point you to great resources.
With social media so popular nowadays, we are constantly comparing ourselves to other people. Naturally, seeing friends with fancy cars or large houses can make you feel like you’re doing something wrong or missing out, which can increase stress. This phenomenon is called “fear of missing out” or FOMO.
Obviously, this comparison is not healthy. It can be difficult to stop, but to keep FOMO at bay, remember that appearances on the Internet can be deceiving. While your high school classmate may have a six-bedroom mansion or a new car every year, they could also have massive debt and zero retirement savings. They may not even feel real satisfaction in their possessions, either. Social media rarely reveals the full picture of someone’s life.
Rather than compare yourself to someone else, try your best to focus on your life, your financial goals, and what you’re doing to achieve them. If comparisons are truly bothering you, it may be time to take a break from social media.