I have struggled with financial anxiety since I was a child.
Growing up in a household with a loving, hard-working mother who struggled to make ends meet caused me to develop a worry default when it comes to money.
Although I didn’t understand much about our financial situation, I was old enough to know that she was responsible for paying the bills. And, when the bills didn’t get paid, we were in trouble.
This anxiety became a way of life for me as an adult. When I actually started making money, my financial anxiety magnified.
I fluctuated between two extremes: an impulse spender who cared very little about getting out of debt and building wealth, to a money hoarder who would rather be reclusive than spend money on social activities.
I am happy to say that I am now somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Of course, there are times when I am pulled to one end or the other due to circumstances.
What Is Financial Anxiety?
Financial anxiety involves excessive worry about money that interferes with many areas of your life, including your health, relationships, and career.
In some cases, the worries are valid – job loss, underemployment, past due bills. In other cases, people worry about money even when there is no apparent threat to their finances.
The difference between someone with healthy money concerns versus financial anxiety is in how they respond to it.
Consumer credit reporting company, Experian, published an article about financial anxiety, outlining 7 symptoms.
Of the 7, I identify with 4 of them: overspending, hoarding, frugal to a fault, and anxiety as the cause of money troubles.
As you can see, none of these responses to money worries are healthy, and will inevitably get worse if not managed.
The costs of financial anxiety are easy to miss. You’ll say you’re being responsible, frugal, or cautious instead of seeing your actions as the anxiety-provoked behavior that they are.
Financial anxiety is very real, and can cost you much more than any of the things you spend your money on.
Here are 4 hidden costs of financial anxiety, and tips on how to overcome them.
#1 You’ll Avoid Giving & Generosity
When money is tight, the last thing you want to do is give it away. If you’ve become financially stable, memories of lean times will make you think twice about sharing your resources with others.
So, you keep it all to yourself, living a life where you never give anything to anyone.
As a Christian, I believe in the tithe. I give 10% of my income to my local church every month.
I am fully aware that many people simply do not understand this biblical principle, especially if you have debt or a low-income.
I used to agree. I haven’t always been a giver. I used to think that I was putting myself in a dangerous financial situation by tithing, giving gifts, or serving others in any way that required money.
Then, I experienced what the writer of Psalms says:
I have been young, and now am old; yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his children begging for bread.
– Psalm 37:25
How To Overcome It
- Budget for generosity. Even if it’s just $10 a month to treat a friend to lunch. Treat it like any other expense.
- If you tithe, make it part of your budget. There is nothing irreverent about it; you are merely planning your budget around your tithe, instead of the other way around.
- Realize the life-changing benefits of generosity, for you and those you bless with your resources. You never know the impact your kindness may have on others.
#2 You’ll Settle In Your Career
One of the biggest reasons people settle for unfulfilling, soul-crushing jobs is because of money. Financial anxiety makes it difficult to leave even the worst job.
You want to leave, but you make “good money.” It may not be the highest salary, but it’s enough to cover bills, savings goals, and leisure activities.
Or, you’ve gotten used to those money-saving benefits like a short commute (saves on gas!), discounted gym membership, etc.
I get it. These are the very reasons I continued working in jobs that were either below my skill set, had no chance of advancement, or made me downright miserable.
I was more comfortable with the certainty (or so I thought) of a paycheck because I feared not having one, than leaving a dead-end job.
How To Overcome It
- Start searching for jobs that align with your skills, interests, and passions. Opportunities rarely fall in your lap. You have to go looking for them.
- Create your exit strategy before quitting your job. Having a plan in place gives you the confidence and motivation to make necessary changes.
- Set goals for your life. Decide where you want to be in the next 3 to 5 years. Then, use those goals to look for career opportunities that will get you there.
#3 Work-Life Balance Will Be Non-Existent
It’s no secret that we are living in the age of the hustle!
Some personal finance gurus often advise people worrying about their debt, savings, and retirement to start hustling.
Hustle for that promotion, hustle to start your own business, hustle at your side hustle.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against working hard to pursue your goals. I have a side hustle!
The problem arises when there is no balance between hustling and living life.
When you’re in perpetual hustle mode, including working extra hours, not delegating tasks, or taking on extra projects, your quality of life starts to suffer.
Relationships, physical health, and mental health take a backseat to the constant pursuit of more money. This is a surefire path to burnout.
How To Overcome It
- Evaluate the benefits of taking on more work. Are you more efficient at your job, or are you just cramming more tasks into an already packed schedule?
- If you are making more money, ask yourself if it was worth losing relationships, or risking your mental and physical health.
Realize that if you are constantly chasing after more, you will never feel like you have enough.
#4 You’ll Never Reach Financial Freedom
I know, never is a pretty strong word, one that I don’t regularly use when talking about something positive like financial freedom.
But, I want to emphasize the enormous negative impact that financial anxiety can take on many areas of your life, including your ultimate goal of financial freedom.
You see, anxiety keeps you in a constant state of striving, reaching, doing.
Whether the thing you are worried about is real or imagined. Whether you have $5 in the bank or $500,000 in the bank. If you are constantly worried about money, you cannot be financially free.
You can’t enjoy traveling the world with all of the money you’ve saved, because you’re afraid to spend it.
You can’t enjoy your golden years with your husband because you’re worried you will outlive your money.
Anxiety is the antithesis of freedom.
How To Overcome It
Make a list of the things you would like to be able to do once you are financially free.
Maybe you want to take a year to write your memoir.
Or, how about that dream you have to buy an RV and visit every state in the United States.
Maybe, God has been nudging you to sign up for a missions trip at your church.
Now, think about how will you be able to do any of those things if you’re constantly struggling with financial anxiety. Be honest with yourself.
Here’s my favorite Bible verse about anxiety, any kind, including financial anxiety:
Therefore, I tell you, don’t be anxious for your life, what you will eat, or what you will drink, nor yet for your body, what you will put on. Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothing? See the birds of the sky, that they don’t sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns. Your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you of much more value than they? Which of you, by being anxious, can add one cubit to the measure of his life?
– Matthew 6:25-27
Do you struggle with financial anxiety? If so, you are not alone.
How are you working to overcome it? What has worked for you? What hasn’t?
If you know someone who struggles with constant money worries, please share this post with them.