"Some people are stressed because they don’t have enough money to cover their expenses, while others are stressed because of their lack of financial education," says Carrie Casden, president of Summit Financial Management and certified money coach. "Additionally, couples can be stressed when they have different patterns and behaviors around money."
No matter where your source of money stress comes from, there are small steps you can take to help alleviate it. And while they might not immediately change your bank account balance, they can get you started on a path toward financial wellness.
"It’s crucial to stay focused on your goals so you don’t feel like you’re a passenger in your financial reality, but rather the driver of your financial future."
The key, according to Casden, is having a plan so that you can establish a sense of control over your financial situation. "It’s crucial to stay focused on your goals so you don’t feel like you’re a passenger in your financial reality, but rather the driver of your financial future."
To help you tap into that financial-driver feeling, we asked Casden and Matt Lattman, vice president, Discover Personal Loans®, to share their insights on ways to feel more on top of your finances.
Keep scrolling for 5 things you can do today to feel more empowered about managing your finances.
1. Set your goals
The first step to feeling capable and in control? Identify your why. "Like any other wellness practice, a financial wellness practice works best if you know why you’re doing it," Lattman says.
Casden suggests that following a successful financial plan is easier when you center it around your personal goals and values (so that every step you take is in line with your core values as a person). Stuck on where to start? Think: What is your motivation for managing your finances? What are the milestones—big and small—that you want to achieve in your life?
2. Start budgeting
With your goals clearly defined, it’s time to make a budget. By tallying up your monthly income and expenses, you'll be able to more easily determine whether your income can support your current lifestyle, or if there are areas in which you can be more mindful, Casden says.
Start by making a physical list. "Sit down with a pen and paper, spreadsheet, or an app, and start by making a list of all the money that comes in, after taxes," Lattman says. "Then make a list of what you owe, like your car loan or mortgage. And, of course a list of your necessary monthly expenses like housing, utilities, and food."
3. Consider your debts
Once you know how much money you're spending every month, you can evaluate how much of that money is going toward paying off debt. Take stock of all your outstanding debts—whether that's a longstanding payment (like a car or student loan) or a surprise expense (like an auto repair or a medical bill)—and assess its monthly fee and interest.
According to Lattman, if you're dealing with multiple debt payments that fluctuate or that have high interest rates, consolidating them through a personal loan might help you save money on interest in the long run.
Discover Personal Loans offers a lump-sum payment—often with a lower interest rate than most credit cards—that can be used directly towards higher-interest debts. “[Personal loans] can help you put more of your money toward paying off your debt—saving you money on interest in the long-run," Lattman says. "In fact, 86 percent of surveyed debt-consolidation customers said they saved money with a Discover personal loan, and the majority of them said they saved an average of $440 per month,*” Lattman says.
4. Review your assets regularly
If you're one of the 26 percent of people who avoided looking at their bank account in 2021—according to a national survey of over 1,500 United States residents commissioned by Discover Personal Loans**—Casden has some intel for you.
She recommends checking in on bank statements, credit card statements, and other bills on a monthly basis (just once a month!), and reviewing your credit score, investment accounts, and insurance policies one to two times a year.
How important is checking that credit score each month? Pretty important if you ask Lattman. “Your credit score can really affect your finances, especially because businesses from lenders to landlords look to it when they decide whether to do business with you. If you’re working on improving your credit health, you might want to check more often.”
5. Communicate and ask for help
A great way of alleviating stress in any situation is to tap into your support system, and the same goes for managing your finances. "You wouldn’t try to deal with any other kind of stress or anxiety on your own, so don’t do that with your financial worries," Lattman says. "If medical debt is your main concern, for example, talk to your providers and find out if they can help you with a payment plan."
The main thing is, don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. "Talk about your financial concerns and struggles with people who you not only trust, but who have knowledge in those specific areas," Casden says. "Don’t let ego get in the way of you reaching your financial goals."
Try establishing a "money date" with your significant other or close friend to discuss financial goals and concerns as they arise, calling up a family member who works in the financial industry, or making an appointment with a financial advisor or debt consolidator—just remember you aren't in this alone.
*ABOUT THE CUSTOMER 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 at 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’.
**ABOUT CONSUMER SURVEY: A national survey of 1,515 U.S. residents ages 18 and up was commissioned by Discover and conducted by Dynata (formerly Research Now/SSI), an independent survey research firm, between September 23 and September 27, 2021. The maximum margin of sampling error was +/-3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence. Generations are defined as: Generation Z, born after 1997; millennials, born between 1981 and 1996; Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980; and Baby Boomers+, born before 1964.
Top photo: Getty Images/Westend61
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