Money anxiety isn't just for the broke

By Bryna Howes 06 August 2019 3 min read

A survey undertaken by the Australian Psychological Society between 2010 and 2015 found financial issues were rated as the top cause of stress for Australians. (All five years!)

Another survey, undertaken in 2017 by CoreData and Financial Mindfulness, found that nearly one in three Australians feels financially stressed; the stress takes its toll on mental and physical health; and the problem affects all socio-economic groups.

Meanwhile, in 2018, the National Australia Bank’s latest Consumer Behaviour Survey found the cost of living was the leading cause of anxiety.

So, what can we surmise from these studies?

  • Money makes many of us stressed. (No surprise there!)
  • But money can make anyone stressed — anxiety isn’t just for the broke.
  • And if you’re stressed about money, you’re not alone.

Money makes us stressed

It stands to reason money causes stress. Why, though? Why does money have power over us?

The simple answer is that money usually represents security. Stability. Safety.

If we have money, we can usually get ourselves out of tricky situations. We can usually keep a roof over our heads. We can usually get emergency dental surgery. Ultimately, with money, we can provide ourselves with the basic necessities that make up a decent human life.

The complicated answer is that our relationship with money is deep-rooted.

We usually start learning about money — and therefore, forming our earliest behaviours — from our family. In our formative years, we hear the way the people around us talk about money. We see if it stresses them out. We learn what money means to them. We see how they handle it.

And that’s likely why financial stress can impact anyone and everyone, no matter their socio-economic status. Which leads us to...

Money anxiety can affect everyone

Look around you the next time you walk down a busy street.

Maybe there’s someone walking by who grew up in a wealthy family. We’re talking pools and fancy cars and mansion life. And maybe you don’t feel so bad for them, because of that.

But imagine, now, this person is struggling internally. Maybe they feel they have to replicate the wealth of their parents. Or maybe they have been cut off by their parents and they’re actually struggling to get by. Or maybe they feel guilty or embarrassed by their money.

Look again at the people around you.

Maybe you see two friends walk by. One of them is a teacher who lives fairly modestly and feels pretty happy with her lot in life. The other is an investment banker who makes a good amount of money but finds that she is always trying to keep up with her colleagues.

Then, you see a man sitting by a set of stairs wearing a suit. He once was living in the suburbs with his family of four. He had a local construction business that made a decent living. But then he and his wife divorced and business slowed down. And now he’s unemployed. And he’s working hard to find a job, but every day he feels a little more despondent.

You catch our drift. We’re all surrounded by people who have their own money “stuff” going on, even if it doesn’t appear that way. We look at our wealthy friends and assume that money has bought them happiness and a Porsche. We look at our poor friends and wonder why they’re not completely f-reak-ing out. We look at ourselves and we panic on the inside.

And we remember, money anxiety can impact anyone. Which leads us to…

If you’re stressed about money, you’re not alone

Because it is often ingrained in us to avoid talking about money, we often don’t realise just how many of us are feeling the same way.

But as you can see from the aforementioned survey results, we’re oh-so-far from alone.

Which is why one of our philosophies here at Spaceship is to be open and transparent about money. Talk about it! Get out there and ask questions. Start conversations.

By doing so, you’ll hopefully discover how supported you are and you’ll find a network of friends and family who understand your struggles and will help you through the tough times.

You’ve got this.


If you’re struggling financially, we’ve outlined some debt counselling resources in Australia. You can also click here for access to an up-to-date list of resources, courtesy of ASIC.

National Debt Helpline

Phone: 1800 007 007: The National Debt Helpline is available from 9.30am to 4.30pm, Monday through Friday. Calls from mobile phones may incur a fee from the mobile phone carrier.

You can also visit the National Debt Helpline website for information and resources.

If you’re facing legal action over your debts, you may be able to receive free legal advice from a community legal centre. Visit National Legal Aid for more information.

Lifeline Crisis Support

Phone: 13 11 14: If you need urgent crisis support, call Lifeline’s 24/7 hotline.

Words by
Bryna Howes Right Chevron

Bryna Howes is the Head of Content at Spaceship. She's equally obsessive about cinnamon donuts and scouring the web for great reads.

Money anxiety isn't just for the broke