Money is one of the biggest sources of stress for many people. In fact, a recent study by the APA (American Psychological Association) found that 72% of Americans stated they were stressed about money at some point throughout the month. Making it the No. 1 cause of stress in America. Perhaps unsurprisingly, financial stress was particularly high in parents, with 77% reporting significant worries around money.
With the added uncertainty of what is happening in the global economy, some people are living in a constant state of fear. Redundancies are increasing. The number of available jobs are declining. The competition for jobs is getting fiercer. Salaries are getting lower. People who thought they could retire at 60 are now fearing they will be working until they die.
Of course, financial stress doesn’t feel good. But it’s the effects on your health, well-being, relationships and career that are the major concerns. Meaning, it is essential you start to manage your stress now.
Whether you’re drowning in debt. Being forced to eat into your savings. Just making ends meet. Or worried about your financial future. The fear of not having enough money is seemingly always there. Scratching away at the back of your mind, distracting you from all the joys life has to offer.
It's important to note though, it’s not your circumstances that are causing the stress. It’s your perception of your circumstances that's causing you the stress. There are families living in extreme poverty in 3rd world countries experiencing very little stress. Why? Because they have a different perception of what having no money means to them. They’re at peace with it. They have found a way to create happiness without money. So while we will be looking at practical tips to reduce your stress levels, learning how to manage your thoughts around money is also as crucial.
Be clear - the only person who can change your circumstances is you. Money is not going to suddenly fall from the sky and solve all your problems. If you want anything in your life to change, it's up to you to change it. And if you're not willing to put any of these tips into practice - nothing will ever change. So start implementing them now.
Practical Tips on How to Manage Financial Stress
1) Get absolute clarity on your financial situation
Information is power. The clearer you are on your incomings and outgoings over the last 6 months, the better educated the decisions you can make moving forward. Print off your bank statements and get clear on what your essential expenses are every month (rent, mortgage, bills, loans), your non-essential expenses and your income.
Also get clear on how much money you have for retirement and how much you need. Seeing this calculation can bring an abstract concept into reality, and relieve some of the stress.
2) Cut your expenses
Once you can see where you are spending your money, you can look at where you can reduce your expenditure. What are the essentials? Non-essentials? Where can you save money / reduce your spending? Where can you compromise e.g. buying a different brand?
3) Ask for advice and help
Most people are aware of current economic issues. Banks can help you restructure your debt. Landlords are more open to negotiating rent and payments. You could also offer to swap your time for money. For example, if your landlord needs help painting one of his properties, he might take your time off the rent. Offer to work off any money owed where possible. What have you got to lose?
You could also approach a financial planner or ask friends and family for advice. Ask them to connect you to anyone who has faced a similar situation or can give good advice. Ask for money if you have to, but make sure you put a realistic plan in place to pay the lender back.
4) Write down your options
Financial stress often comes from when we feel like we’re stuck. Like we have no options. But there are always other options to consider. Stress will impact your ability to think clearly. Go through each expenditure you have and look at the possible options to either reduce it or get rid of it completely.
For example – if you can't afford the rent, could you move to a less expensive area? Downsize? Let go of the garden or sea view? Stay with family? Sell the car to pay the rent? None of these are great options. But they are better than getting even further into financial difficulty. 37% of suicides in people from 40 - 60 are due to financial stress. This is not a direction you want to go in. Get over your ego and remember – everything is only ever temporary. You will get out of your financial situation at some point. If you have to live with your mother-in-law for a year – so be it. It’s better than getting yourself into some serious trouble and facing a worse alternative.
Get into the habit of budgeting. Build an excel spreadsheet where you have various columns e.g. “fixed expenses” (rent, bills, mortgage, loans, groceries etc.), “savings / investment” (should be 10% of your monthly salary), “fun fund”, “travel fund”, “emergency fund” as well as income. Make sure all of your fixed expenses, emergency fund and savings are covered first, and then any money outside of that you can distribute as you wish.
6) Make money in your sleep
Relying on your salary as your only source of income is risky. What if you lost your job? Look for other ways you can make money that don’t require you to be there (stocks, bonds, real estate, investments etc.) while you continue working. This will help build your wealth and give you financial security in the future.
7) Other income sources
If you don’t have any spare money to save or invest, then start to look at other potential income sources. Again, this might mean getting over your ego. Taking a part-time job, any job, might be essential. Perhaps train yourself in a new skill or start a new business venture. Not all businesses require a huge amount of capital up front. Look at potential partnerships with other professionals. You can find some great ideas for generating extra money here.
8) Look at what you can control
Often the feelings of stress come from feeling a lack of control. Start to look at the things you do have control over. Things like where you live. What you eat. What you wear. Where you shop. What you drive or what transport you use. Anything you do – you have control over. Look at the things within your control that you can change to improve your situation.
9) Let go of “I must retire by 65”
Putting this limit on your retirement can cause unnecessary stress. Let it go. In today’s current climate it might not be realistic. Get comfortable with the idea of semi-retirement. Working part-time two or three days a week to fund your retirement. And if you’re doing something that you love – which I would encourage you to do – then it won’t feel like work at all.
10) Stop comparing yourself to others
Pressure to live a certain lifestyle can often lead people into financial difficulty. Just because others are living a flashy life, it doesn't mean they are happier than you. Or better than you. Money does not make us happy. Rich people get depressed too! Stop comparing yourself to other people. Get clear on what is most important to you in life (friends, family, making a contribution, travel etc.) and invest your time and money there instead.
11) Get rid of sources of debt
Being debt-free leads to better sleep! Look at the sources of debt in your life (credit cards, car loans etc.) and just get rid of them.
12) Money is not the goal
If you continue to see money as the goal, the moment you don’t have it, or enough of it, you’re going to get stressed! Money should never be the goal. Money is the tool that will help you to achieve your goals. Get clear on what your goals are and how much money you need to achieve those goals. And be flexible with your goals. If you don’t have enough money, then shift the deadline of the goal by 6 months until you do.
13) Stressed? Seek the help of a professional
Most of the stress we experience around money is about our perception of not having enough money. What does not having any money mean to you? Does it mean you’ll lose the love and respect of your friends, family and peers? Does it create images of you living on the street? Do you currently tie your self-esteem and self-worth to how much money you earn?
The majority of these thoughts are just thoughts. In reality – they’re not real. Working with a therapist or life coach can help you understand how you are creating a large portion of your stress in your mind, simply by the meaning you are giving to money. They can give you tools and techniques to help you have a healthier relationship with money. So that you no longer view it as a source of stress, or your only source of happiness. But instead simply view it as a tool that will help you to achieve your goals. Reducing your emotional attachment to it, reducing your financial stress. Read this article for more tips on how to manage your emotions.
14) Focus on the positive things each day
When we’re stressed, we tend to interpret everything in our lives as stressful. Take 10 deep breaths and focus on what is good in your life. Are you still breathing? Yes? Are you still alive? Yes. Do you have people in your life who love you? Yes. Do you have clothes on your back? Yes. Do you get to wake up each morning and see the sunrise? Yes. Remember - some people aren’t so fortunate.
Each day focus on the positives. Keep track of your finances so you can see what progress you’re making. Seeing progress is great for motivation and having a positive outlook. Look at activities and things you can do with friends and family that don’t cost any money. Focus on exercise – it’s not only good for physical fitness but also reducing stress. Spending time with people you like and laughing are natural ways to boost your mood.
15) Make a plan and take action
Once you get clear on what you can do to reduce your financial stress – take action as quickly as possible. Making a decision is key. But it’s the action that is absolutely crucial. Nothing will change unless you take action. It might be scary but staying in your current situation or it getting worse, is scarier. Be brave, feel the fear and do it anyway.
If you'd like to share your story on overcoming financial stress, or would like to share your thoughts on the tips above, please leave your comments below!
To find out more about how to manage your financial stress, please contact me at email@example.com or visit www.zetayarwood.com
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