The economy has been rebuilding and improving since the great recession nearly a decade ago. But consumer debt is also growing at a startling pace. College attendees are taking on more student loans to pay for their educations. Household credit card debt is on the rise, too. There are mortgages and auto loans to consider too. All in all, the average amount of debt—including people who have none—hovers somewhere around $139,500 per household.
Obviously, carrying increasing amounts of debt has serious financial implications for American consumers. But there are also the mental consequences to consider. Money-related stress is no joke, and financial worries can weigh on people heavily—sometimes without them even realizing it.
Here are four signs money is making you anxious, and some solutions you can consider taking to control your personal finances.
SIGN #1: Money Affects Your Mental Health Regularly
The first sign that money is making you anxious is, well, noticeable anxiety. Money may also affect your mental health by causing or exacerbating existing depression. If you’ve experienced mental health symptoms affected by your finances, you’re far from alone.
According to MarketWatch, financial anxiety has caused approximately one quarter of millennials to feel physically ill, “and has made more than half feel depressed.”
The first step is simply taking note of your mental health. Are you noticing a pattern in which money-related worries cause or worsen your symptoms? If so, it’s important to address both your mental health and your financial health so you can start to feel better. Be aware that denial is a very sneaky symptom and may cause the urge to ignore these problems at first.
SIGN #2: You Find Yourself Outsourcing Financial Responsibility
Anxiety may manifest as the belief you’re not capable of handling your finances. Ask yourself: Are you depending too much on other people to manage finances or make money-related decisions? If so, the best way to overcome this hurdle is to start taking the reins yourself.
Ask questions. Look over bills and bank statements yourself. Make sure you know exactly where your money’s going. Only then will you be able to create a customized budget and a realistic financial plan. Working with a financial advisor, retirement planner, accountant or debt counselor can be a good starting point for gaining professional advice.
SIGN #3: You Feel Unable to Break Harmful Patterns
Anxiety can make it very difficult to break harmful patterns, even if you know they’re detrimental to your overall well-being. Credit card spending is a prime example; even if you know you need to stop relying on credit cards, it’s hard to dig yourself out of that hole—especially if anxiety tells you to “deal with it tomorrow” or that “this is the last time you’ll do this.”
Breaking existing patterns means exploring your options for moving forward. Think in baby steps. A consumer facing significant debt without an end in sight may finally explore their options, speaking to a certified debt consultant at Freedom Debt Relief to see if debt settlement is a viable option. An employee may speak to their company’s HR advisor about setting up a 401k and benefitting from the employer’s matching program. A frequent credit card user may conduct a balance transfer to pay back what they owe with lower interest rates.
Taking responsibility for your own finances is empowering. The first step is simply overcoming anxiety.
SIGN #4: You Experience Near-Compulsive Frugality
Frugality can be an admirable trait. It helps consumers save their hard-earned money. But compulsive frugality can be detrimental—and a symptom of larger, money-fueled anxiety. Has your frugality crossed the line into compulsive penny pinching? If so, seeking help may be the best option—like trying cognitive behavioral therapy.
If you’re noticing one or more of these four signs in your life, money may be making you anxious. The next step is taking control of your financial and mental health, one step at a time.
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