Most people, regardless of income, feel financial stress at one time or another. The impact of the pandemic has increased that anxiety for many as they experienced reduced work or unemployment.
A survey released earlier this year by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found that 69 percent of those ages 18 and older have financial worries.
Spending some time focusing on your financial wellness can go a long way toward alleviating individual concerns — and serve as a valuable investment in achieving future financial goals.
Here are some suggestions for how to help reduce stress about money and take control of your finances.
EXAMINE YOUR SITUATION AND SET REALISTIC GOALS
Start by assessing your net worth, which is calculated by taking the value of your assets and subtracting your liabilities. Write down everything that you own that’s considered an asset (i.e., cash, investments, your home) and subtract everything you have as a debt (i.e., student loans, credit card debt, mortgage). Your income doesn’t factor into this equation at all.
Your net worth is a personal measure of your financial situation. If your net worth is low, strive to build it through saving and investing, a little at a time. Focus on maximizing the amount you save and minimizing the amount you spend.
Determine what you can reasonably achieve and then dedicate yourself to following through every month. Make yourself a promise, such as: “Each month I will spend less and put the difference toward my debt so my balance declines by at least $100.”
And be realistic. Excessive ambition may ruin your chances of success. Make sure you can keep up. You’ll be better keeping your ambition in check, managing slower, steadier growth over a period of months.
IDENTIFY YOUR BIGGEST MONEY CHALLENGES AND ADDRESS THEM
Whether it’s making your monthly bill payments, reducing student loan debt or making bad purchasing and investing decisions, it’s important to focus on the main sources of your financial anxiety.
That way you can prioritize problems that you can control. Recognizing a problem doesn’t fix it, but it does direct your stress to a specific concern that you can address, rather than allowing general money worries to fester.
If you aren’t actively managing a budget, contributing to a savings plan or paying off debt — it’s time to do so. The No. 1 mistake people make is avoidance. But that only makes the situation worse. There’s no magic wand to fix a financial problem, only consistent action can achieve that.
No one is born a financial expert. If that confusing payment plan or medical bill is one of the reasons you’re stressed, take some time to understand it. Read through those documents, do research to learn what you should expect.
TCU’s array of free materials including financial education articles and podcasts, consumer guides and savings and borrowing calculators can also guide you toward money-managing success.
Everyone’s financial situation is different, so it is up to you to select the proper mix of resources according to your needs. Be proactive by learning about money-managing strategies to build your financial wellness.
Your mindset can help keep you motivated. Rather than getting bogged down with feelings of overwhelming debt, imagine the decrease in stress you’ll feel as your debt load gets smaller and smaller. It’s important to believe you can do it.
Debt is one of the main reasons people have financial stress. Whether your debt is the result of overspending or unfortunate circumstances such as medical problems or unemployment, it’s easy to get in over your head. Feeling discouraged is normal, but it shouldn’t be a permanent state of affairs.
Keep the focus on yourself and your goals — not what friends and relatives seem to be achieving, whose situations you can never really know. Keep in mind all the things you’ll be able to do once you no longer have student loans or credit card bills hanging over your head. Knowing you’ll be able to buy a house or start a family once you’re free of debt can be a powerful motivator.
And remember, slow, steady and deliberate wins the race.
Jeff Sobieralski is TCU’s Director of Financial Wellness and Wellbeing. With 15 years of experience in retail banking, Sobieralski uses his expert knowledge to help members understand and use various financial skills, including personal financial management, budgeting and investing.
This article is for educational purposes only and doesn’t constitute tax, legal or accounting advice. No material here is a recommendation. Please consult with an attorney or tax professional for guidance.