In a national survey of over 1,500 United States residents commissioned by Discover Personal Loans®, only 30 percent of people reported having no anxiety surrounding their finances in 2021—leaving a massive percentage of people with that pit-in-their-stomach feeling.*
Why does that matter? "Money can seriously affect a person’s stress levels, which can ultimately lead to both mental and physical health issues," says Carrie Casden, president of Summit Financial Management and certified money coach. The negative effects of stress have been well-documented, but with so many people experiencing stress induced by their financial situations, there's got to be a way to combat it... right?
According to Matt Lattman, vice president, Discover Personal Loans, the best way to tackle financial stress is head on. "Money is stressful, and whether you're dealing with an unexpected expense or planning for retirement, it can often feel easier to avoid thinking about it," he says. "But by spending time practicing things like making a budget or keeping tabs on your credit scores and account balances, you'll be ready for the challenges as they come—and being ready for challenges empowers people."
If being financially empowered sounds like something you'd like to sign up for, keep reading for a few nuggets of intel from these financial experts on how to get started.
Keep reading for more expert-backed tips for dealing with financial stress.
Explore your options
Knowledge is power, so understanding all the methods at your disposal for boosting your financial wellness is a key first step toward alleviating financial stress.
Lattman has a few tips for getting the ball rolling: Check out credible personal finance websites (like the Discover Personal Loans Resource Center) or book an appointment with a financial advisor or debt counselor. From any of those resources, you can glean guidance on negotiating your cell phone bill (did you know that was a thing?), setting up a payment plan for medical expenses, or discontinuing subscriptions you don't use (like gym memberships or streaming services).
Or, if you're looking for ways to pay for an unexpected expense or consolidate high-interest debt like credit card debt, you could look into getting a personal loan (no, loans aren't just for college and homes).
"Personal loans, like those available through Discover, offer funds in one lump-sum that can be used to pay off higher-interest loans directly, or to pay for an unexpected expense that your savings can’t cover," Lattman says. "Because a personal loan often has a lower interest rate than credit cards (at least after any 'promotional' period), this solution could help alleviate anxiety because it might save you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars in interest."
Set financial intentions + goals
You might automatically associate "financial goals" with "saving for retirement," which is certainly a good one, but both Lattman and Casden agree that financial goal-setting doesn't have to be such a pie-in-the-sky exercise.
"You may already have long-term goals in mind, like saving $1M for retirement or setting aside $250 a month to build an emergency fund," Lattman says. "Short-term goals are important too—maybe having enough for an extra dinner out each month, being able to pay down some debt earlier, or increasing the percent you add to your 401K." Once you have these intentions established, you can regularly reference them to keep your finances (and peace of mind) on track.
"Make sure every financial action you take every day is in alignment with your financial plan and represents your core values as a person."
Casden takes that intention-setting a step further by turning it into a mindfulness exercise: "Make a list of your values and create a financial plan surrounding those values," she says. "Make sure every financial action you take every day is in alignment with your financial plan and represents your core values as a person."
When you know your financial decisions are aligned with your values, you can feel good about the fact that you're directing your money where you want it to go. That will help you feel more in control of your finances, and in turn, help reduce stress.
Start a financial wellness ritual
Just like your weekly yoga practice or face mask session, allotting dedicated time to go over your financial situation—nitty gritty spending details included—definitely counts as self care.
Hear us out: It might not sound like your ideal afternoon, but sitting down and crunching the numbers will allow you to create a budget that works for you and your lifestyle. And once you know exactly where your money is going, you can rest (aka the opposite of stress) in the fact that you have enough to go around.
Casden recommends breaking down your monthly expenses as granularly as possible, with your fixed expenses (like recurring bills and necessities) at the top and your discretionary expenses (or your "fun money") at the bottom. "This will help you determine if you have a 'spend too much' issue or 'need to make more' issue, as they are two very different things that often get misconstrued," she says.
Once you've got your budget set, you can pencil in these stress-less check-ins on a regular basis (weekly or biweekly, up to you!) to make sure you're on track. "Whatever you do, schedule it, repeat it, and choose something that is true to you and what you know you can do," Lattman says. Financial wellness, coming your way.
*ABOUT SURVEY: All figures are from an online customer survey conducted September 13 to September 27, 2021. A total of 619 Discover personal loan debt consolidation customers were interviewed about their most recent Discover personal loan. All results @ a 95% confidence level. Respondents opened their personal loan between January and July 2021 for the purpose of consolidating debt. Agree includes respondents who ‘Somewhat Agree’ and ‘Strongly Agree’.
Top image: Emma Kim/Getty Images
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