Stress is a reality of 21st century living. You’re stressed at work; you’re stressed about the kids and the house and your marriage—and you’re stressed about money. You know all about those late nights when sleep won’t come. Financial stress can ruin an otherwise lovely life. But there is hope. Financial stress is often viewed as something only more money can solve. This is absolutely false. You can relieve your financial stress by taking back control with this simple four-step plan.
Step 1: Stop the denial.
Even if you are hyperaware of your financial problems, it doesn’t mean you are willing to openly admit you are financial mess. Which of course, is pretty silly, but it’s a common issue. No one really wants to admit they are having financial problems. For many, the stigma of being a financial wreck is too embarrassing to embrace. But you have to. Bottling up all the anxiety of financial problems only hurts you in the end. Admitting you have a financial problem is the first step to move beyond the stress.
Step 2: Start communicating.
Stress has the profound ability to make us mean. Ever lashed out at your partner because you are feeling stressed about money? Of course you have. But when you are able to admit you are stressed about money, you can start communicating more openly with your spouse. Sure, it will be awkward and difficult, but once you open up, you feel some of that built up stress fade away. Sharing the burden is much better than carrying it alone. This also gives you the opportunity to work together as a team on a solution. If you are single or you manage your finances on your own, the stress can often be just as heavy—but there is no one to share the burden with. If this is the case for you, it’s time to recruit an accountability partner.
Step 3: Re-evaluate goals.
When was the last time you listed out your financial goals? A year ago? Five years ago? Never? If you are stressed about money, it likely stems from having outdated or nonexistent financial goals. Your goals help you move forward, but they also give you “wins” that motivate you. A goal isn’t a fantasy. It’s the deep evaluation of where you are currently in your financial life, plus the determination of your financial priorities. When you know where you are and where you want to be, you can set goals to help you get there.
For example, let’s say your current situation has you living paycheck to paycheck and your number one financial priority is to be able to buy a house. Without setting realistic goals, you won’t be able to reach the financial life you want. Your stress level will peak when your only goal is miles away from where you currently are. Set smaller financial goals to break up the distance between where you are and where you want to be. Realistic expectations will go a long way to lower stress levels.
Step 4: Take action.
The absolute best way to alleviate financial stress is to take action. You MUST take action on the things that are stressing you out. Are you flat broke? Sell something. Are you stressed about your debt load? Stop spending money, or get a part-time job to help you pay off your debt. Are you stressed that you can’t afford your house? Sell it. Staring a problem in the face for years without action is absolutely miserable.
Feeling like you are spending too much? Set a short-term goal to curb spending. Action isn’t about huge steps. Action is movement. When you take action to alleviate stress, you’re creating movement. Take action. If you spend $400 a month dining out and you feel like that’s too much, then aim to spend only $50/week for the next four weeks to cut your spending in half. Action alleviates stress.
As harsh as it sounds, financial stress is your fault. You’ve allowed external forces to impact your behavior and attitude. Take back control by admitting you’re stressed, talking it out with your partner, make a plan, and then take action. A stress-free, forward-moving financial life is well within in your reach.
Peter Dunn, aka Pete the Planner, is an award-winning financial mind who has authored five books, hosts the popular Pete the Planner radio show and travels around the country offering financial education. His signature wit will have you laughing as you learn. For more from Peter, visit www.petetheplanner.com.