How To Handle Financial Anxiety, According To 6 Women Who’ve Done It
Being a grown-ass woman in charge of her financial future can be a pretty terrifying thing. Life circumstances change, the job market can be uncertain, and financial literacy is rarely talked about, let alone taught to people who don't have access to generational wealth. No wonder so many women experience financial anxiety regularly. As one poll conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) found, 67 percent of people were "extremely" or "somewhat" anxious about paying bills or expenses in 2018, and women were more likely than men to report anxiety. Part of this has to do with sexism, as we're still being fed cultural messages that money is "men's business." But the gender wage gap is also a thing, as many women earn less than men in the same industries, and that hampers our financial security and retirement.
So if you're feeling the pressure, how do you cope with anxiety around money? Six women told Bustle about their strategies, and they range from getting educated about money, to making well-informed decisions, and communicating honestly with partners about financial needs and desires. Ultimately, like any other kind of anxiety, managing financial anxiety is a personal thing, and each person's coping strategies will be unique to the individual.
I'm 32 now and in a healthy financial position. Ten years ago I wasn't, and although I've never had a great deal of debt and I've always had a good credit rating I have absolutely lost sleep over money. Last year I separated from my husband, and as such my financial situation changed.
If you have debt, then face your fear and find out exactly how much you owe and to who. Even if it is scary, it gives you some control. Ignoring it and leaving yourself in the dark about the extent of your situation is only going to exacerbate your anxiety.
Educate yourself. Until fairly recently I didn't think to use the wealth of information available to me about finances. I now invest in company shares every month and I also have a share scheme savings account through work that is making me money without me even noticing. I wish I'd done this years ago. Investing isn't as difficult or risky as you might think.
Try not to compare your financial situation to other people's, and set yourself financial goals. Big or small, once you reach them you'll feel great and start replacing feelings of anxiety with feelings of achievement. Use banking apps; having your information on hand all the time stops you overspending or burying your head in the sand.
Use free financial advice. If you have a friend or family member who is great with numbers/money/spreadsheets, use them! Contribute more into your pension, keep an eye on your credit score, and be honest with your partner about what you can and cannot afford.
I usually broaden notions of what is ‘valuable’, and then remind myself of the plethora of ways in which financial reward is sometimes (arguably, often) a terrible indicator of what I believe matters most. Then, I usually remind myself of the trade-offs I agreed to with myself in my head when I took the financial risk in the first place. While I sometimes feel the ‘price’ I have to pay is too high, I have yet to really regret any financial risk I have taken. (Disclaimer: I may sing a different tune when [my] student loan repayment kicks in!)
Basically, if one isn’t living the life one is meant to live, what’s the point? For the most important matters, money should follow, not lead (as much of a backhanded privilege as this is when it comes to debt).
I'm unemployed and basically managing by exercising a lot (for the endorphins), shopping at [discount stores] and meal-planning carefully, and applying to loads of jobs. Dwelling on the anxiety doesn't help; I had a bit of a breakdown a few weeks ago, though, so it's not like I'm floating through unconcerned. I can't even begin to think about the long-term financial picture of house-buying, children, pensions, etc. at this point though, which occasionally worries me.
I deal with financial anxiety by making copious notes on all my spending and incoming payments, being hugely thankful for past me for saving a small nest-egg, which has made present me more at ease, and reading a lot about credit building. Although it will be years before I attempt to own a home, it feels good to have that in the back of my mind.
I lost all my savings and went deep into debt after my divorce. My ex hid a whole lot of money. It rests on my mind every day. I saved so much for our future, before I had a kid, and that was pulled out from under me. I'm nervous in my new relationship to ever give up ownership of my apartment (which I'm paying a massive mortgage on) 'just in case'. It seems dirty, but I'm scared about being financially vulnerable again.
The idea of having a f*ck-off fund is all well and good, but when you're spending pretty much every dollar on paying back an extended mortgage and legal fees, it becomes an impossible idea.
Actually talking about money helps people develop financial literacy. I never would have learned to save if I hadn’t discovered that a friend who earned less than I did had 30k in savings. That was a huge wake up call and made me get serious about managing my finances. Now I own a very small part of the house I live in. The bank owns the rest, but the value has gone up and we are in a good position — and I have paid my own way through a Master's degree.
Talking about money can be scary, no matter your financial situation, but it can help to dispel some anxiety around it.