Casually poll friends at your weeknight book club or peruse any online personal finance forum, and you’ll find out that financial anxiety affects people of every age and income. But you knew that already, because you’ve been there too—from unease about your savings to wondering if you should have really bought that matcha latte this morning.
So why is everyone you know (including you) anxious about their money situation? Carrie Friedman, a lifestyle coach who focuses on finances and works with individuals, families, and small-business owners to align their spending-and-saving habits with their values, has a theory. “Financial anxiety is common because Americans aren’t taught the ABCs of personal finance,” she posits.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Whether you’re worried about retirement, affording your next vacation, or being able to (ever?) send in your last student-loan repayment, we want to help you break down how to start the path toward financial wellness. Because yes: Your financial reality is part of your overall wellness, too.
Scroll down to find out how to tackle financial anxiety and feel empowered in any stage of your financial journey.
Step 1: Pinpoint the cause of your financial worry
If you haven’t learned how to make good financial decisions, you have no roadmap to avoid mistakes. Without a roadmap or arsenal of financial tips and tricks, it’s easier than ever to fall into debt. Once you’re in debt, that stomach-sinking feeling can affect every aspect of your daily life from your relationships with friends and family to your self-esteem.
But if you’re dealing with financial stress, you have the power to turn things around. “I suffered from wrenching financial anxiety,” says Friedman, who chronically overspent and ultimately sought out a financial coach to help steer her in the right direction. “My life changed dramatically over time because I was honest, open-minded and willing to take suggestions.”
While working with a money coach helped Friedman, the biggest change—which can benefit anyone—was facing her financial reality head-on. After that, she says, “For the first time in my life, I had a healthy and sustainable relationship with money.”
Begin the journey to financial wellness by building a clear picture of where you stand financially and how those finances fit into your everyday decisions and lifestyle. Once you have a sense of which area of your finances is causing the most anxiety, come up with a plan with actionable steps to address it.
Step 2: Reset your outlook
Small rituals like planning out your weekly goals on Sunday nights can help you set positive intentions. When you’re feeling overwhelmed about your finances or battling money insecurity (hey, we’ve all been there), you can take the same route to reboot your mindset.
“The most empowering thing you can do to reduce financial anxiety, no matter what you have in the bank, is to picture your life feeling in control, peaceful, and confident about money,” Friedman says.
Think of it like decorating a mental vision board. “Visualize how you’re spending your time, the people you’re surrounded by, and what your home looks like,” she says. “Imagine this happy, healthy life every day for five minutes in order to see it.”
With this small daily ritual, you can feel more in control of your finances and remind yourself that you’re on the right path. “In order to see it, first you have to believe it,” Friedman says. “No matter what your situation, you’re not alone and recovery is possible.”
Step 3: Make a plan
There are small (read: not panic-inducing) ways you can make changes to your financial routine to feel financially empowered. Friedman suggests three strategies: tracking your money, practicing debit-only spending, commit to changing your mindset with positive visualization, and reading inspiring books to expand your financial knowledge. Each one of those strategies keeps the ball in your court.
If you’re one of those people who can go weeks (or months) without checking their bank statements, the simple task of tracking what money comes and goes—with old-school pen-and-paper or by downloading a budgeting app—can do wonders for your confidence.
Here’s why: “You’ll be able to access emotional and financial security by going into each month knowing how much money you’ll have in your checking account at the end of the month if you spend, save, and earn, according to this plan,” Friedman says. That said, committing to a huge change like growing your savings or paying down debt isn’t easy—which is why seeking out support from friends who are on the same journey can help.
Then get ready for mega positivity. “When someone takes control of their financial situation, it’s common for them to experience better self care, increased confidence, higher levels of consciousness, and perhaps most importantly, improved relationships,” Friedman says.
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