Do you have any idea how many debt-burdened people don’t want to open up their mail every day? According to a 2018 Bankrate survey, 36% of Americans are losing sleep over their money troubles every day. I don’t have that financial fear and in fact, I actually look forward to getting and opening up my mail each day. That is a symptom of getting old I guess more than a result of my “braveness” when it comes to money. I just look forward to getting the coupons and sale flyers and yes, that is fairly sad, isn’t it? But for others, it is very different.
Can you imagine hiding from the mailman or being afraid to answer the telephone in fear that the next thing you might see or hear is that someone is coming for you or worse, your money? That may sound like high drama (and it actually is), but if you were to check around, you would find that there are way too many people who live in this kind of fearful existence. The shoeboxes they have full of those unopened bills would make some of us seek immediate emergency cardiac care. I hope that isn’t you.
It’s Just Not Natural to Fear Your Finances
Not wanting to confront unpaid bills may be perfectly understandable when you have problems, but it’s a totally unfortunate reaction to a very bad financial situation. And it’s not just people in extreme debt that might be afraid to look. Many people avoid checking on other things like their credit scores or using a retirement calculator to see where they stand because they’re afraid of what they might find.
But living in constant financial fear and then delaying your actions to resolve those problems will always make matters worse. There is a price tag for being in denial and it can be very costly when it’s allowed to happen.
The Real Cost of Not Looking at Your Finances
Take retirement savings as an example of a major item on the “Financial Fears” checklist! People fear running out of money in retirement, so they don’t calculate what they need to save and then procrastinate on saving. That means they lose out on things like company matches in retirement plans, tax breaks on contributions, and the compounded gains they could be earning right now and for years to come. This is a fact:
The longer it takes people to start saving for retirement, the harder it is for them to catch up—and the more likely it is they will run out of money in their golden years!
Another consequence of not looking at your finances is bad credit ratings, which can really hurt you and here’s why. It means paying more through higher interest rates, pricier insurance premiums, and requiring larger cash deposits. Turning your credit accounts and low scores around takes time, so putting it off means living with a bad credit rating even longer. That, in turn, will cost you even more money.
Your bad credit also can make it harder to rent an apartment and even to get a job. So, ignoring your bills will, at best, cost you in late fees and at worst, can lead to eviction, foreclosure, lawsuits, and wage garnishment. Even if you wanted to try to qualify for a repayment plan or debt consolidation loan, when you have ignored your debts and financial troubles too long you will usually end up having to file for bankruptcy. The longer you put it off, the fewer options you have in resolving the issues.
How to Stop the Fear and Make Your Financial Recovery
There are steps you can take to improve your finances. First, you have to make a commitment to yourself that you’ll get over your fear of personal finance and take charge of your money. Only when you make your finances a priority will you be able to conquer your money fears.
Recognize where you are: you’re afraid. Many people who are afraid of their personal finances don’t realize it or just won’t admit it, even to themselves. They tend to lie to themselves and say they only live once and shouldn’t have to worry about money. That’s living dangerously, to say the least.
Other people think that if they don’t know the state of their personal finances, it means everything is just fine. It’s simply turning a blind eye to the problem and once again, it’s lying to yourself.
When your finances have gone wrong, just avoiding the subject is simply locking yourself in a closet. That type of thinking is keeping you poor and is or will cause you sleepless nights. Before you can make a plan on how to handle your money issues, you have to actually acknowledge your fears of your personal finances. That’s how you move forward with your life and find a solution to your money problems and anxiety.
What You Need to Do
Whether it’s the realization that you need to get more serious about saving for retirement or you are dealing with a troublesome credit card balance, it’s important to recognize what’s causing your anxiety.
First, write down your three biggest financial sources of stress so you know what you’re up against. (Keeping the list short can help you feel less overwhelmed.)
Next, motivate yourself and you can fix your financial problems. Rather than get bogged down by thoughts of never getting out of debt, imagine the amount of stress you can feel decreasing as your debt load gets smaller and smaller. It’s important to believe in yourself and that you can really do it.
The third thing to do is simple: be totally realistic. Determine what you can reasonably achieve and then dedicate yourself to following through each and every month. Make yourself a promise: “Each month I will spend less and put the difference toward my debt so my balance declines by at least $100.” Don’t set overly ambitious financial goals that you may abandon in a few weeks or months.
You may not be able to cut any one expense by $500 a month, but you may be able to identify five monthly expenses you could reduce by $100 each. Forgive yourself if you slip up. Sticking to a budget is not always easy, and there may be days when your resolve falters. If that happens, remind yourself of how much you have to gain by reaching your goals. Then re-examine your spending patterns to see why you overspent. You may need to modify your budget or sometimes your behavior. If you can’t go into a sporting goods store without buying something, then just stop going there!
When it comes to overcoming your financial fears, it’s important to realize that knowledge is your number one tool. Staying in the dark about your money makes you powerless to take charge of your life. Knowledge gives you the power to change your relationship with your money and get a handle on your finances. Don’t let your fear of the unknown take away your right to be in charge of your money. You tell your money where to go and not the other way around.
What are you doing to move forward with your finances? Are you afraid of your financial future? Have you faced your money issues and what have you done to help improve them and help you sleep at night?