Anxious about money? You’re not alone.
What is money anxiety?
Exactly what it sounds like. Having anxiety. About money. We have noticed the phrase money anxiety started popping up post-GFC, and we've found that it hasn’t really gone away since. We consider money anxiety to be the feeling of constant, underlying fear of not having enough money: to cover the rent, to cover any unexpected expenses, to retire. Couple that with the helpless feeling you get when you think you should be doing more with your money, but you don’t know what... it may just be enough to keep you up at night.
So what can you do about it?
Step 1: Recognise The Signs And Triggers.
The thing about money anxiety is that once it kicks in, it makes it a whole lot harder to address the underlying cause. You can’t put together a coherent, feasible financial plan when your mind is racing and your stomach is tying itself in knots.
Our first step is to recognise it for what it is, and what triggers it. We find it surprising how de-mystifying an issue can help you feel more in control and reduce overwhelm. Pay attention to your body when you think about or have conversations about money. If you find yourself sweating, or your heart pounding, acknowledge it. Take some deep breaths, then take some time to reflect on what could be causing it. Do you feel guilty or ashamed about some aspect of your financial situation?
We find that money anxiety often sets in when we experience an unexpected setback. It could be an unexpected illness, losing your job, or having to close a business. At the time, the issue can seem insurmountable. But we find that money anxiety can pop up in more everyday situations too: discussing finances with your significant other, or even just checking your account balances.
Step 2: Arm Yourself.
Sit down, think of a plan, execute it. Problem solved.
Making a plan may be harder than it sounds. We find that not knowing what to do can be a large contributing factor to money anxiety. Luckily, we live in an age with countless resources readily available online. It’s okay to not know much about managing money. But if it’s causing you grief, we think it's time to do something about it.
We find it useful to commit to spending some time every week reading articles, watching videos, or listening to podcasts. (If you’re reading this, you’ve already started - great job!) Even if it seems overwhelming, the important thing is to make a start. Gradually, we find that the information will start to make sense, and you’ll be able to seek out more specific and relevant information.
Professional help can include an accountant and/or financial advisor. Turn up armed with a list of questions and some idea of what you want, even if you don’t know how to go about it.
We also find it useful to talk to friends and family as a resource too. Even if they can’t give financial advice, expressing concerns can make them feel less overwhelming.
For some more specific tips, check out our post on how to be smarter with money.
Note: This step can take weeks or months. Don’t rush it.
Step 3: Check in regularly.
Okay. You’ve read the blogs, listened to the podcasts, and gotten some professional advice. Hopefully, you now have a clearer idea of your goals and how to reach them. All your strategies are in place - what do you do if you still feel anxious?
Try and zoom in your perspective. We find that thinking about the huge, far away goals can be paralysing. Instead, think about the strategies you’ve got. Break them down and focus on achieving each individual segment. That way, you’ll be able to tick things off as you go.
Respect your fear. If you’re constantly worried, it might be worth looking into. But if you’ve done what you can and the money anxiety starts to take a toll on your quality of life, talk to a licensed therapist or counsellor or seek other medical assistance.
Get help to make a plan.
Break it down into manageable chunks and check-in regularly.
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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.
National Legal Aid
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.