A staggering 90 percent of Americans are stressed about money. In 2016, a Gallup poll found that 60% worry about not being able to pay medical costs for an illness – a 5% increase from 2015. The top concern amongst those polled was not having enough money for retirement (64%). 30% worry about paying their rent or mortgage and 40% worry about not having enough to pay normal monthly bills.
It’s unsurprising that money is one of the top reasons for divorce. I have a theory. In most cases, we have a choice about money worries. There are people who are genuinely struggling to get by, but there are money worries I hear of from well-to-do individuals that I believe can be remediated. In this article, I outline three times we worry about money when we shouldn’t along with how to overcome each worry.
1. Before Next Payday
In Britain, the average Brit has spent all of their wages a whole week before payday. From a poll of more than 2,000 people in the UK, aged over 18 and in full time employment, a shocking 86% admitted that there is a period of the month when they have nothing to live on. Whilst nearly a fifth are creative with the supplies they already have at home, a worrying 37% borrow money through an overdraft, loan or credit card to get through the rest of the month.
If you’re struggling to resist spending all of your paycheck before the next payday, consider using an app like Squirrel which puts money aside before you spend it. If you prefer using pen and paper, try tracking what you spend for a month. You may find there are small expenses that you don’t really enjoy anymore that can help you bridge the gap until your next payday. What if you feel guilty about your spending?
“Guilt is something people feel when they run out of excuses for their behavior” – Gaius Baltar, Battlestar Gallactica
The best way to alleviate that guilt is to take action today. You know that you have no excuses left. Focus on how much you can learn from tracking and how it can alleviate guilt in the long run because you’re taking control of your actions. You may find that since you’re already frugal, you really don’t earn enough money to save, in which case focussing on increasing your income is key.
2. When Something Breaks
You take your car in for it’s regular service and get a call from the mechanic. You need a new transmission. You’re quoted $1500 for the replacement. Since you need the car for work, you approve the cost. Hanging up the phone, reality sinks in. Where am I going to get $1500 in the next few days?
Solution: Emergency Fund
If you’ve ever come across someone who’s lost their job, but does not look worried, it’s likely that they have an emergency fund – a savings pot dedicated to emergencies such as sudden job loss. General guidance suggests saving at least 6 months worth of expenses separately from other savings for emergencies. Learn more about emergency funds here.
3. A Friend Buys a New House
This is an unusual one and not something that we’re always conscious of. When a friend upgrades their house, we can often feel as though our house is no longer sufficient. We feel as though we need to upgrade our house too. Keeping up with the Joneses is one of the ways that we can guarantee that we’ll always worry about money. When others set the benchmark, we’ll never feel satisfied with our lives.
Solution: Set Your Own Goal
The goal shouldn’t be to have the same or more than your peers. Excess is not the answer. Knowing what truly fulfils you is. What if you don’t know what fulfils you? Then become a self-expert. Without taking time to reflect on what drives us, we fall into the trap of following what those around us do. Try answering these questions:
If I had enough money not to work, how would I spend my day?
How might my life be better with less money?
How might my life be better with a smaller home?
Our default is to upgrade: bigger homes, flashier cars, ski chalet, extravagant holidays. What if upgrade didn’t have to mean bigger or more expensive? What if upgrade meant more time, more energy, more meaningful work? There’s a movement called Minimalism that argues that you can enjoy life more if you get rid of the excess items, relationships and obligations.
Whilst many of us will have worried about money, it’s important to emphasize that there is a way out. A staggering number of us have already got out of debt, built savings and a pension. Want to join these people? The key is to start today.
About the Author
Maureen McGuinness is a personal finance enthusiast, blogger, personal finance mentor and DIY-investor. She’s on a mission to get everyone to be on top of their personal finances and feel good about doing so. Our relationship with money doesn’t need to be one of stress and worry. Asking the right questions, she’s helped her mentees feel more in control of their money, get out of debt and build savings.