Imagine a life without the constant worrying about money – doesn’t that sound liberating?
Behind closed doors, most of us have simple desires concerning our finances. It’s not about luxury and excess, but the freedom to live without the constant anxiety and stress that money often brings.
Is it too ambitious to yearn for such peace of mind?
Absolutely not. Aspiring to eliminate financial stress is a commendable aim. But a small voice of doubt might whisper,
“Is this really achievable? Can I truly learn how to stop worrying about money?“
Yes, you can.
Before we delve deeper, it’s crucial to ask yourself whether you’re prepared to overrun your approach towards money.
Are you ready to recognize that freedom from financial worry doesn’t necessarily correlate with money problems?
I know millionaires who are always anxious, perpetually worrying about money and individuals with meagre means who live with financial peace.
The dream of being free from financial issues is undoubtedly enticing. But dreams alone won’t quell the reality of the bills waiting for you each morning.
We all live in a world where dreams offer momentary relief, but reality insists on bringing us back to the incessant worries about money, right?
Well, you might want to read my story of financial worries and take heart. Dreams can become true.
Are you ready to dive in?
Worrying About Money Was Ruining My Life
My gut was in a painful knot as I restlessly paced the hotel room. It was October 2009, approximately 3.45 am. Incidentally, it was also three days after my husband told me that we had £100,000 (approx. $160,000) in consumer debt.
Pacing, feeling sick with worry about money, was nothing new to me. Heck, by this watershed night in October 2009, I had been worrying about money for well over twenty years.
When I was young, and doing my Doctoral studies, I worried about paying the rent and surviving till the next payday. (Often, I survived by pawning my typewriter.)
Later I worried about:
- the mortgage;
- my husband leaving his job;
- how much we pay for our holidays;
- our children’s future; and
As if this wasn’t enough my worrying about money spilt over to include my parents, my sister, my niece and…
Well, my worrying about money became universal and abstract. It gave me physical health problems, mental health issues and high blood pressure.
Having learned exactly how much in debt we were, went beyond worry. I was terrified, and my mind drew images of my son living in 19th-century poverty and deprivation.
By November 2009, my worrying about money had a severe negative impact on my life. I couldn’t eat, sleep or plan. All I did was blame my husband (not entirely justified) and tear up every time I looked at my young son.
Fast forward to March 2010 and I had stopped worrying about money. Instead, I was determined to change our financial path.
Why Did I Decide to Stop Worrying About Money?
Why did I stop worrying about money having spent most of my life in acute money stress?
It is simple. One morning I woke up and thought that I’d had enough.
I’d had enough of agonising about credit card debt and stressing about earning more money. I certainly had had enough of allowing my, mostly irrational, fears to get so out of control that they were devouring my soul.
In brief, I’d had enough of worrying about money.
Most importantly, I had an epiphany.
Worrying about money, just like most worries in life, is pointless because it doesn’t allow us to move ahead.
Now, you may think that my epiphany was a minute glimpse of reality. For me, this was the cornerstone of figuring out how to stop worrying about money.
Worrying about money is pointless because:
#1. Worry saps your energy
Worrying about money is exhausting. For that matter, worrying about anything at all is exhausting.
Worry, being a negative emotion, saps your energy by depriving your life of meaning and purpose. It transmutes into fears that make you cower from life and try to avoid it at all costs.
Apart from that, worry leads to sleeplessness and, as any parent knows, lack of sleep is exhaustive. Lack of sleep slows down not only your body, it slows down your mind.
#2. Concerns divert your attention from what matters
What matter in life is living. Your life is shaped by your actions and your actions are shaped by your mentality.
When you worry about money or any other aspect of your life, you focus your attention on the fears your imagination served you rather than on the activities that make your life.
You know that where attention goes your energy flows, right?
#3. Money worries make you a person you don’t recognise
Worrying about money inevitably affects your behaviour. You find, for example, that you are no longer able to enjoy your life, that you feel guilty when you buy yourself an ice cream.
Even worse, worrying too much about money can make you a ‘generosity-stunted’ miser.
In brief, money worries can make you into a person you don’t recognise.
#4. Worrying makes you a person you don’t like
It is not only that worrying about money can make you into a person you don’t know, but it can also make you into a person you don’t like very much.
Every time you secretly begrudge your partner their meal choice, you lose a little bit of your self-respect.
Hence, I’d had enough. I had to work out how to stop worrying about money.
Six Steps to Stop Worrying About Money
Worry is an emotional state brought about by three things:
This means that worrying about money has very little to do with how much money we have and all to do with our beliefs, fears, knowledge and actions regarding money.
It took me six months to move from:
‘Thinking about money makes me shake worse than an alcoholic before his first drink’
‘Hell, yes! I’m a fearless money ninja ready to build wealth or die trying.’
These are the steps I used to stop worrying about money and start building serious wealth.
#1. Learn to Cope with Uncertainty Around Money
Many believe we cope with uncertainty by increasing the level of certainty in our lives.
We cope with uncertainty by convincing our subconsciousness that we will survive never mind what life throws at us and developing the competencies necessary to navigate uncertainty; even thrive on it.
In my case, as a first step, coping with uncertainty took the following:
- Affirmations every night before going to sleep. I kept repeating ‘Everything will be just fine’ until my eyelashes gently rang from tiredness. (Sounds weird, I know, but it works.)
- Developed an open-minded and flexible attitude. This is not about accepting everything that comes your way but about looking at what comes and adjusting your behaviour accordingly.
- Found a certainty anchor. When you swim in a sea of uncertainty, you need to be able to hold onto something. For me, it was my love (son and husband) and the determination to pay off all debt as soon as possible.
You’ll need to play around with the specifics here – these would be different for different people. (And please ensure that you don’t have a clinical anxiety disorder.)
The important thing is to realise that you don’t want certainty; you need to look for ways to cope with uncertainty.
#2. Deal with Fears Around Earning Money
Do you believe that your feeling of security depends on how much money you have?
Because if that was correct, you wouldn’t worry about retirement if you have a good pension plan (yes, I know; but I did worry about my pension as well while contributing to a gold-plated pension plan).
My experience shows that the best way to convince yourself that your future is secure is to develop the competencies and skills that would ensure you survive, and possibly thrive, never mind what.
In my case, I had to develop skills I know would get me out of the hole if I lose everything – money, house, pension.
This is all.
#3. Understand That You Need Very Little in Life
We all can get sucked into believing that we need all that surrounds us in life.
This is not so. In fact, we need very little to live a happy, abundant and contented life.
I know you feel sceptical about this; so did I until I learned better.
For that, you have to get outside your comfort zone. For instance, next time you pack only cabin luggage for a three-week trip. Or retreat to a place where you can live a simple life, learn, or practice, life skills and reflect on your basic needs.
Once you know that you need very little for a happy life, much of your worry about money would evaporate into nothingness where it belongs.
#4. Correct Your Ignorance
So, I worried about money, I was terrified of the debt and I knew very little about our financial situation.
You see, ignorance increases the level of uncertainty and makes you worry more about things.
What did I do?
I dealt away with my ignorance about money generally and our financial situation, more specifically.
I worked out what we earn and what we spend to the penny. I figured out where we waste money, how we can do what we do cheaper and what we don’t want to spend money on by using the ERR money management system.
(There are practical money management tools that can help gather the information you need to implement the ERR system. You can either use The Money Principle Monthly Budgeting Planner or use a money management app. Here you can learn how to open an account with Money Dashboard and how to use it to improve your money budgeting skills.)
I also learned something very important:
The only number that matters in personal finance is your monthly cash flow.
But I didn’t learn only about personal finance.
I learned about cooking, nutrition and exercise.
I learned about index funds, value investing, dividend investing and all things about investing that a beginner should know.
I learned about how to make money.
And I learned about business and how to invest in businesses.
By the time I was finished with my ignorance, my knowledge gave me solidity and my learning never ended.
#5. Learn to Act Promptly
When I worried about money most, I did very little to change my money situation.
So, I started doing things.
I checked bank balances.
I wrote a money diary.
I hustled like a woman possessed.
(I still do all that.)
You see, friend, five months are not enough to change dramatically your money situation.
Five months are more than enough to stop worrying about money and start turning your money predicament into a problem that can be solved.
Seven years, on the other hand, should be enough to change your money situation.
Where do I stand today?
Well, friend, I certainly don’t worry about money and haven’t done so for years. We also went, between January 2010 and January 2018, from £100,000 worth of consumer debt to over £250,000 in new investments.
I doubt this would have been possible were I still worried about money.
#6. Change Your Money Situation
You may have noticed that till now I told you how to stop worrying about money by changing your attitudes, your beliefs, your mentality and your behaviour.
Now, I tell you that changing your financial situation will also help you stop worrying about money.
There are four areas where you can enact material change.
Pay off your debt. Yes, all of it – credit cards, loans, student loan debt, borrowing from a family member. We did pay off all our debt except the mortgage (and we have enough money to pay the mortgage off; we just get better interest on the money than we’ll save from paying off the mortgage). Being debt free would make you less open to pressures from creditors and you could exhale and stop worrying about money so much.
Build investments. Having an emergency fund stashed on the side is always helpful when your aim is to alleviate financial stress and stop worrying about money. What is important here is that what would make you feel more secure, and alleviate your financial concerns, is not your net worth. What would do the trick is building liquid investments in the stock market that you could access fast in times of need and crisis. This is a bit controversial but I also have gold coins (easily accessible) – it makes me feel more secure and sleep better at night.
Build extra income. Learn to make money from the many different skills and increase your monthly income. Don’t be a one-trick pony; learn to think and act wider. Build different income streams.
Manage your money. Spending wisely is always good for your bank account and financial goals. It is also good for your financial anxiety and your feeling of security. So, learn to be in control of your finances.
Improve your credit score. You may think this is irrelevant but it isn’t. Credit scores are widely used by the financial industry, landlords and vendors.
Most of us spend our lives worrying about money: we either worry about earning enough to sustain our lives or worry about keeping it, growing it and making it last.
Worrying about money has little to do with how much we have; it comes from feelings of uncertainty, ignorance and failure to act.
You can either continue having sleepless nights, money anxiety and debt stress or try these steps, leave your money worries behind and turn your life and finances around – it is entirely up to you.
Do you worry about money matters? What are your main concerns and what have you done to deal with these?
(This post is a revised and updated version of a post first published in 2018.)