There’s no doubt about it: even though some aspects of the economy have improved since the Great Recession of 2008, financial stress continues to be an issue for most Americans. The American Psychological Association (APA) 2015 Stress in America Survey revealed that 72 percent of Americans reported feeling stressed about money at least some of the time during the prior month. Transcending gender, race and socio-economic status, the issue is particularly prevalent among parents and those under age 50. Results showed that 77 percent of parents, 76 percent of Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1980) and 75 percent of millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) say money is a somewhat, or very significant, source of stress. For those who can relate to these statistics, don’t despair. There are practical (and free!) ways to cope with financial stress, and start building a healthier relationship with money.
Shift focus and regain control
Sarah Pettinato, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker working as a mental health therapist with adults at The Wright Center for Community Health in Jermyn, Pennsylvania, said patients frequently report stressors related to finances. “Usually what causes anxiety, as it relates to finances, is a feeling of loss of control,” she explained. “Sometimes patients report to me that they feel like they are ‘on the rat wheel’.”
To help combat these feelings, Pettinato encourages people to focus on what is within their control, and to access resources available to them, such as:
“This allows people to focus on what is within their control, and change any problematic financial patterns,” she said.
A little self-awareness can go a long way
It’s important to recognize how financial stress may impact emotional and physical well-being. Signs of financial stress may include overspending, underspending, and feeling anxious or depressed about finances, according to an article by Jackie Zimmerman titled How to Cope with Financial Anxiety on Nerdwallet.com. Scheduling regular financial discussions with a spouse or partner can be helpful. Take note of the physical and emotional reactions that occur during these discussions — such as increased heartbeat, sweating, or feeling anxious — to acknowledge and work through it.
Create a shame-free zone
Many people may recognize their unhealthy financial habits, but they are too ashamed to seek help to correct their issues. This just perpetuates a vicious cycle: the shame leads to stress, which exacerbates the problem, leading to more shame, and the issues continue to build. In How To Deal With Financial Stress And Sleep At Night by Jeanne Dorin, a Next Avenue contributor, Forbes Magazine, letting go of shame is cited as an important step in this process. An honest assessment of the situation is critical to moving forward, and there are people and resources available to help.
Consider starting the process with a conversation with a trusted financial advisor. Referrals from relatives and friends can be very helpful, and bankers can be a great resource, too. Fidelity Bankers offer free consultations to discuss a variety of financial topics, from creating household budgets to repairing credit, to retirement funds and investments, without judgement. They can help clients move from a reactive to a proactive state, an important shift for anyone interested in improving the health of their relationship with money.
Make a plan
A healthy approach to dealing with financial stress is to tackle it like any other issue: with information and proper planning. Financial expert Dave Ramsey suggests these strategies:
The American Psychological Association is another great resource, offering tips for effectively dealing with financial stress, including limiting financial decisions to one at a time, avoiding temptation, and tracking spending.
Fidelity Bank has multiple local branch offices throughout Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, and our full-service Customer Care Center is at your service 7 days a week. Call or visit your local branch office today.
Daniel J. Santaniello, President and CEO, of Fidelity Bank, publishes Financially Fit with Fidelity, your guide to financial well-being, every Thursday. If you’re interested in a financial topic we haven’t yet covered or want to subscribe to our emails, please feel free to drop us a line at blog at fddbank dot com. We would love to hear from you.