Money worries are one of the biggest causes of stress in our lives, and they affect people of all ages and income levels. The best way to start addressing those worries is to talk about them, but of course many people are very reluctant to. Here are three main obstacles that stop us opening up about our financial concerns — and some suggestions on how to to overcome them.
With annual inflation hitting figures not seen for decades, families all over the English-speaking world are facing a huge cost-of-living squeeze. No matter how much you earn, the increases we’ve seen in fuel, electricity, gas and food prices are bound to have an impact on your finances.
Thankfully, we haven’t yet seen much of an impact on jobs or businesses, but with a recession forecast in many countries, that will surely change in the coming months.
A recent study in the US by PwC found that more than a third of the 3,000 workers they surveyed across a range of industries said that money worries had had a severe or major impact on their mental health in the past year. Around the same number said that concerns about their finances had had a severe or major impact on their sleep.
Large numbers of people also reported that financial stress was having negative consequences for their physical health, relationships at home and their attendance and productivity at work.
As PwC noted: “The impacts of financial stress can run deep.”
These findings once again highlight the importance of financial wellbeing. If we feel insecure about our financial situation, this is not just an abstract concern that we can somehow compartmentalise. Because so much of our lives are dependent on having money, we can’t just put those concerns to one side and carry on.
Fortunately, this is becoming better understood. More employers are recognising the importance of financial wellness programmes. Governments are starting to implement strategies too.
But there is one significant issue that still needs to be overcome. As PwC notes:
“As with mental health, a stigma around getting help lingers – 41% of financially-stressed employees are embarrassed to seek guidance on their finances.”
This is a real problem. Many people who know that they are not coping are still not willing to ask for help with their money worries.
This is the financial wellbeing conundrum. We know how important financial wellbeing is. We know that many people are feeling stressed about money. Yet two in five of them will avoid getting assistance because they feel vulnerable.
There are many complex reasons for this. However, there are three significant ones. And, if we are able to recognise them, we are able to address them.
- Feeling alone
A lot of people avoid getting financial help because they think that this is a problem that only they are having. They imagine that everyone else is going just fine, and so they will either be judged or misunderstood.
However, surveys consistently find that more than half of people have some level of financial stress. In other words, chances are that someone close to you is also having money problems.
The best way to address this feeling of being on your own is therefore to start small. Confide in a couple of your closest friends. It’s likely that at least one of them will be able to relate far more than you expect.
- Feeling ashamed
One of the most destructive narratives that has been created around money is that if you are having financial problems, this must be your own fault. You didn’t save enough, or you didn’t budget properly, or (the silliest of all) you had too many morning coffees.
There is, unfortunately, too much bad advice our there, often from well-meaning sources. And this makes us feel ashamed to talk about our problems, because we believe we have fallen short.
But having a better relationship with money shouldn’t feel like a punishment. While we should be willing to learn from our mistakes, we shouldn’t judge ourselves too harshly.
We can own up to where we have gone wrong without feeling like we are beyond redemption. Nobody is perfect, particularly when it comes to their money, and we shouldn’t feel like we have to be.
- Feeling inadequate
As human beings, we are constantly comparing ourselves to others. It is no different when it comes to our finances, and when we are having problems, we tend to look around and imagine that everyone else is doing so much better than we are.
However, according to the PwC survey, 56% of workers are stressed about their finances. And only 42% say that their pay is keeping up with their rising cost of living.
This shows that we should accept that we really don’t know how well other people are doing financially. Appearances can be very deceiving.
You may not want to get into specifics, but starting a conversation with colleagues about how they are managing with the cost of living going up might reveal difficulties that you never imagined. You are also likely to find that everyone will be relieved to learn that they are not the only ones facing challenges.
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