Stressed about money? 5 expert tips to keep your financial (and mental) health in check
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Don’t worry — our resident financial expert (of investing education platform The Curve) has ideas for lessening financial stress.
If you’ve ever freaked out about paying a phone bill or let parking tickets pile up in the hope they’ll disappear, you’re not alone. With the cost of living being so high right now, many of us are experiencing more stress than ever before when it comes to money, and when we avoid dealing with it, it has repercussions for our bank accounts and our mental health. Money worries are a major contributor to a reduction in mental wellbeing.
According to a study conducted last year, New Zealanders’ personal finances have the biggest impact on our mental wellbeing — more so than even our relationships or family and friends. Financial stress doesn’t discriminate when it comes to age, either. Whether you’re 18 or 80, you can experience it. According to the survey, the top contributing factors to Millennials and Gen Zs’ financial stress are their day-to-day finances and long-term financial security.
Nearly 40% of Millennials and almost half of Gen Zs feel stressed or anxious all the time. More than half of the over-40s surveyed said they feel anxious about retiring. Financial stress looks different for different people, but no matter how ‘big’ or how ‘small’, stress is stress — it’s valid and it’s important to manage it.
We can’t escape financial stress — it’ll rear its ugly head multiple times throughout our lives. This means being aware of it, knowing what signs to look for, and taking steps towards navigating through it is the best way to keep it at bay.
There are actually lots of practices and habits we can put in place to ease both our financial stress and improve our mental wellbeing. It’s all about taking small steps.
When things feel out of control on the finances front, it helps to mitigate stress by focusing on what you can control. The first step to doing so is often the hardest, so here I suggest five things you can do that require the least amount of effort but will make a difference.
1. Break down your spending
Understanding where your money’s going is the first step to managing your spending. Once you see how much of your income is being spent on what, you can narrow in on where you can make improvements. As the famous American investor Warren Buffet says, “Don’t save what’s left after spending, but spend what’s left after saving.”
2. Picture future you
Thinking about what you want to do with your money is the first step to setting financial goals. Do you want to own your own home? Perhaps you’ve got your eye on saving a retirement fund? Having realistic goals you can work towards keeps your eyes on the prize and makes you less susceptible to veering off course.
3. Pay attention
Debt can really hold you back from growing your wealth, but burying your head in the sand or ignoring that pile of unpaid parking fines won’t make them go away any faster. Take charge and address bills and debt quick smart, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing. Trust me, you’ll feel so much better when you know where you stand.
4. Remember future you
Knowing that you’re working towards having a retirement fund will remove some stress in the now. It might sound daunting and like you’re playing a long game, but you’ll barely notice if you start small. Even saving $5 a week is better than nothing.
5. Talk, talk, talk
Humans are designed to thrive with the support of our social connections, so it’s likely you’ll find that sharing your money worries will take some of the load off — you’ll probably discover that the people you know have similar concerns. A problem shared truly is a problem halved, even if it’s just with your journal.