There are lots of things that cause stress in life, but money matters top the list for many people. According to Northwestern Mutual’s 2016 Planning & Progress Study, the large majority of Americans (85%) report feeling financial anxiety today, and it’s only getting worse, with 36% saying their anxiety has gone up in the past three years.
Is all of that worrying really worth it? And what can you do to reduce your financial stress? Here are a few common fears and tips on moving in the right direction:
1. “I spend more than I make… I know this can’t go on forever.”
If you know you live beyond your means, the truth is that something needs to change. Take a look at your fixed and discretionary expenses and really think about what can go away or what you can do to fill the gap and bring in more income. Knowing what it really takes to live your life can set you on the path to financial security.
2. “I have a lot of debt and don’t know how long it will take to get out of it.”
This is a real concern—servicing debt can take a big chunk out of your cash flow and can hurt your chances to save or take big steps in life such as buying a car or a home. Look at your debt, evaluate whether you can over pay on the highest interest rate item and pay that down more quickly. You have to start somewhere!
3. “I am self-employed/a contractor and I don’t have any benefits.”
Just because you don’t have any benefits doesn’t mean you can’t find them yourself. Look at what it takes to get basic benefits in place and what’s important to you: health insurance, disability insurance, 401k, IRA, life insurance, etc.
4. “I know retirement is important but do I have to start saving now?”
The truth is that the earlier you start saving toward retirement, the better off you’ll be. Even small contributions add up over time so get moving and think about small changes you could make to begin building savings for your future.
5. “I just don’t know anything about money and I don’t want to open that can of worms.”
Some people are afraid that they’ll have to stop doing fun “irresponsible” things such as going out for lunch every day if they really take a serious look at their financial situation. But creating a good financial plan means finding a way to fit the most important aspects of your life within a budget—whether that’s eating out or paying down your debt. Don’t let the fear of facing the truth prevent you from getting money smart and building a roadmap to follow.
Financial planning is a life-long journey and takes continuous effort and awareness. So get started now and really think about the great financial habits you can put in place. It’s not as scary as you think!