Anxiety around money can be one of the greatest life stresses we experience. It is a particularly challenging time for many of us as we contend with the uncertainty around jobs, the economy, and our savings and investing. In fact, a study by Ascent found that 60 percent of Americans are worried about money right now, as we are still in the process of understanding how the pandemic will affect the world.
1. Separate emotions and finances
First, don’t panic. That might be easier to say than do. But one of the first steps to managing financial anxiety is separating the times you’re feeling emotional about money from the times you actually take action on it. Feeling super stressed? It’s not the time to crack open your budget and problem solve. Call a friend. Make a coffee. Take a walk. Put some distance between financial problem solving and a really emotional state.
2. Review your budget
Get action-oriented and find out where you can trim your spending. In times of financial stress, reviewing an entire month of expenses can be overwhelming. Apps like Truebill and Bobby can hunt down subscriptions and recurring expenses in your spending so you can easily decide what needs cutting. Pulling back on those extras can help bring some peace of mind.
3. Consider refinancing opportunities
Refinancing your debt might be an option to help shrink monthly payments, but it’s important to know how this will affect your total amount repaid. (Sometimes a refinance can extend the amount of time you might be paying back an overall debt.) It can help, however, give some monthly relief to your budget, so it can be worth checking in with your banks and creditors on options to lower your rates and payments.
4. Revisit your short- and long-term savings plans
Long-term savings should be just that: long term. When you’re investing for distant goals like retirement, it’s important to allow yourself the decades of both time value of money and ability to weather various financial ups and downs. That type of investing is money that ideally we should not need access to for years, and shouldn’t be part of an emergency financial plan if at all possible. Rainy day recovery funds should be pulled from short-term savings and kept in savings product options that are much more liquid and easily accessible in difficult financial times.
5. Know your financial fundamentals
Times of financial challenge are a good stretch to revisit the basics. Information really is power, and again, part of separating action from emotion is to arm yourself with good financial knowledge. This means not ignoring bills, notifications, or balance updates, however challenging they may feel. It also means getting clear on rates you’re paying on debt, how your bills are timed, and what your options are to adjust your income and expenses in the short term.
6. Dedicate time for financial discussions
Financial stress can feel like it takes over our lives and is present in every moment. Especially when we’re in a partnership, it can be easy to let financial worries permeate all aspects of household discussions. Another important way to mitigate consistent financial stress is to set specific times and boundaries where you’ll actively work with your partner to work toward financial solutions. Plan a date and time to discuss money, set a timer, and start your discussion with the one or two goals you’re hoping to achieve.
7. Focus on future opportunities
Our instinct in uncertain times is to hustle to the spending side of our personal financial statements, but our financial stability is two halves of a coin. And, there are opportunities to improve our financial situation by the money we bring in as well. Is there a possibility to negotiate spot bonuses for extra work you’re doing? Anything you could consider reselling? Is it time to revisit starting a business? Innovating our income opportunities can be challenging when times are tough, but sometimes, necessity spurs some new creative paths in our lives.
8. Translate your stress to specific actions
Our emotion is a useful financial tool if it spurs us to action. When you feel financial stress sneak up, put pen to paper. What exactly are you worried about? What’s the next immediate thing you could do to bring clarity to your finances? Who do you need to reach out to for help in this action? Talking yourself through a structured set of questions that could lead you to a positive next step instead of worrying in circles can help turn a cycle of stress into solutions.
9. Plan through a worst case scenario
It might seem scary, but calling out a worst case scenario and knowing what steps you’d take in that situation can be empowering. Are you worried about losing your job? OK. Say you lost your job. What’s next? How would you start looking for a new role? Would you need to move? How could you balance through savings and current income? Which expenses could be cut quickly and which would take some time? Think of it as your own personal business continuity plan.
10. Be vocal and ask for suggestions
Various degrees of financial stress have struck all of us in our lives. Hanging on to the anxiety privately and keeping it to ourselves can add to the challenge. Find a trusted friend or family member you can share some of your struggle with. Being more open about our financial challenges creates space for our loved ones to share some solutions or even just the support necessary to navigate stress around money.