The doom-and-gloom headlines about our economy feel as if they have been saturating our collective consciousness non-stop. It’s no wonder. Inflation is hovering at a 40-year high. Housing prices continue to swell. And our paychecks, meanwhile, aren’t stretching as far as they did even a year ago.
If worries over money matters are stressing you out to the point of negatively impacting your state of mind, you aren’t alone. An April 2022 survey of nearly 2,500 adults from Bankrate and Psych Central found that 42% of those polled regularly worry about their finances, noting that money concerns were having a negative impact on their mental health.
The new research showed a higher number of Millennials reporting money-related stress than other age groups with 48% of 26- to 41-year-olds saying they were psychologically impacted by their finances, followed by 46% of those in Generation X who range in age from 42 to 57. Some 40% of the Generation Z group (those aged 18 to 25) reported having mental health issues tied to money concerns.
There are steps you can take to improve your relationship with money, lower your stress and eventually move to a better spot with your finances. But know this: More money won’t always make you happier. Research bares this out. There is a point when your annual income rising, say, above six figures, won’t bring you any more joy than it did when you were pulling in $90K.
Consider these money moves to get a better handle on your financial life:
Create or update your budget
A sure way to get a grip on your finances fast is to take a look at how much you have coming in and going out every month. You want your money to work as hard as you do, and it can’t do that if you don’t know where every penny goes. So sit down and review several months of statements from your credit union or bank, credit cards and other monthly bills. Make a list of all of your monthly obligations.
Then do the same for the money you have coming in each month. Review your pay stubs, or online direct deposits. Be sure to count any rental income or pay from side jobs. Once you see on paper what you earn after taxes and what you are spending, you can decide where adjustments need to be made. The key is to make sure you are spending less than you earn, so you have 15 to 20%, if possible, to save for the future each month.
Live below your means
If you don’t have enough money in your account for new shoes or a vacation right now, don’t use a credit card to pay for these non-necessities. When money, or the lack of it, causes stress, it’s almost always better to save more and spend less. If you are able to do this for long enough, the rising balance in your savings account can bring you a level of peace and security that’s hard to top.
Consider financial counseling
If you aren’t able to resolve your money issues on your own, consider seeking help from an accredited financial therapist, counselor or coach. You can start with a group such as the Financial Planning Association or the National Foundation for Credit Counseling to locate assistance in your area.
With reporting by Casandra Andrews