You have probably heard the song made famous by Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. I’m sure you’ve heard it hundreds of times since its release back in 1988. It’s a catchy tune and of course it makes you feel good and yes, happy. But in reality, we all worry about things, like the kids, our jobs, the car, and lots more depending on where you are on the “I worry about everything” scale. And one thing that I can be sure is on your list is money worries, the one thing we all have on our minds.
So the question today is, “What are your money worries and what can you do to calm your nerves and chill?”
Are your money worries really well founded, or are you typically a person who just overthinks it? I have to plead guilty that I have been that overthinking person most of my life. I’m not particularly proud of it. But I do know that I’m not alone in that club. As I have aged, I have taken a slightly different view of money worries and what can be done to stop the constant worrying. Do the money thoughts go away completely? No, never. But sometimes they can change.
What can change is really you. You can learn what you are made of and what you can do to change your reality. Instead of spinning around in circles and making no progress towards your goals, you can change the way you think. Here’s how I did it!
Big Worry #1—What will happen if I get laid off or lose my job?
We are not only dependent on our job for the money we use to live on (after all it is the reason we get up and work every day unless you name happens to be Bill Gates Jr.), but our jobs are a very big part of our ego and persona. The reality is, people do lose jobs, change jobs, get laid off and even retire. So worrying about it isn’t going to change that possibility even if you are very lucky.
What I learned is that having an emergency fund will ease the stress and worry. Experts say 3-6 months of your living expenses will get you through that “event” when you are laid off or worse terminated. But here’s the important part to understand.
It’s not 3-6 months of you living exactly like you were when the paychecks came rolling in. You don’t need to fund everything, what you will do is prioritize everything and cut your expenses so that you don’t buy everything you spent your paycheck on before. Yes, rent or mortgage, real estate taxes, food, clothing, necessities and utilities, health insurances and medicines and your credit card debt payments all need to be covered. That means that there still will be luxuries or wants that you will have to cut back or even eliminate. That’s important to understand and it may mean that you will have a frugal new habit that will become a part of your lifestyle thinking and practices after you return to work. Not too shabby to learn to live with less to ease your money stress is it?
Oh and don’t forget this: if you lose your job you may qualify for unemployment benefits. If so, that money will supplement your emergency funds and really stretch it out a lot further, as long as you stick to the cuts you have to make first.
Other things to minimize any possible unemployment include keeping your résumé up-to-date, learning new skills, growing your network, and developing a side hustle or alternate source of income.
Big Worry #2—I’m in over my head on my mortgage!
If you own a home, or you’re thinking about buying, there are some simple rules of thumb to consider. First, your mortgage payments should be no more than one third of your income. If you make $60,000 a year in gross salary, you shouldn’t spend more than $1,667 a month on mortgage, taxes, and insurance or you’re in the danger zone. Did I just cause you to start worrying about it? I hope not, because there are things you can do to make that situation better.
For one thing, if you are paying too much interest on your mortgage, refinancing is a great way to bring down your monthly payments. As of today, 30 year fixed rates are consistently under 4% and there are many options like 25, 20 and 15 year fixed rate loans which can lower your payment and term. Use a refinance calculator to help determine if this would save you money in the long run. Check your current mortgage holder for these rates first as that may save you on refinance costs.
I have refinanced 4 times in my life and each time I reduced my monthly payments dramatically. If all else fails, you can consider selling and downsizing or becoming a renter. If you must rent to relieve your stress, then you do it. Many people do and it may be that home ownership (which comes with lots of extra expenses) isn’t for you.
Oh, and would you believe I once held an 11.5% home mortgage interest rate? It was back in the 80’s, but talk about worry, yikes!!
Big Worry #3—My investment portfolio is a disaster!
Are you looking at the market and your investments every day? That’s a no-no because the market can swing wildly up and down and that’s a big, big worry you can easily avoid. I’m not saying not to pay attention to it. Experts tell us that the market changes all the time and those trends dictate serious examination but that’s over weeks and months. Over time, the market has continued to go up and gain so that if you just have a little patience, money, a little thought and a little good advice you needn’t worry 24/7.
Your 529 plans, stock investments, retirement plans and the like are time events that can be evaluated and corrected before it’s too late. I went to my bank for advice which was free (although I did have to sit through a sales pitch of the banks investment “opportunities” which I didn’t bite on), but you can also go for a professional Certified Financial Planner’s review of all of that as well as your stock portfolio for about $200. CFP’s are good advisors and can tell you if your mix of investments is right for you based on your risk tolerance. I have zero risk tolerance at my age (age is a huge factor) and thus I’m invested in market index funds from a very dependable company. Riskier mutual funds or stocks aren’t for me anymore so I don’t worry about the market like I used to do even with the Brexit fluctuations. You shouldn’t have to either.
Big Worry #4—Will I ever have enough to retire?
It’s a definite worry for a whole lot of people, of which I was certainly one. The rule of thumb here is that you will need about 80% of what you earned last as the basis for your income after retirement. That’s the money you have hopefully saved and will use after you retire. So let’s say you’re that $60,000 dollar guy we talked about earlier and you retire. You will need about $45,000 to live on statistically after you leave your job. But that doesn’t all have to come from your savings and retirement plans.
If you live in the US, there’s Social Security (yes I know it’s in danger but I do have faith and a loud protesting mouth). Social Security will supplement your retirement and it can be as much as 50% of it in the above case. If you’re into Roth IRA accounts you won’t pay any taxes at all (you paid them already) so your $45,000 will go a lot further than your $60,000 salary might have gone.
You can always try some kind of side hustle or alternate income stream like rental property, for example, that can help you later if you prepare now. There may be a pension in your retirement planning and if so even better. All of that means you may be able to retire just fine and don’t have anything to worry about. As long as you have prepared for it with time and money when you are younger and working, you will have that nest egg you need. I had heard you needed $1,000,000 or more to be comfortable in retirement these days. Well, we aren’t wealthy here in NJ (the tax hell of the USA) and certainly not millionaires. But even so, we live on our nest egg and Social Security which is far less than that. We do it with our good money habits, careful budgeting, and being prepared for emergencies. You can too.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever worry about your finances. But some planning and preparation can help ease many of those worries that keep you up at night. So don’t worry, make a plan, and be happy!
Are you worrying constantly? What are you most worried about?