Money is the number one source of stress in America, and no one is immune to its problems -- no matter how much (or how little) you have. Here are some of the most common reasons we stress about money, and ways we can free ourselves from financial fear.
How have you been treating your money lately -- and how has it been treating you? The more aware you are of how you and your money interact, the easier it will be to let go of self-sabotaging myths and improve your sense of security and worth.
Financial avoidance is a silent epidemic that can cause unnecessary stress and hardship. There are any number of causes: Maybe you were taught that finances are a man's job; maybe money was a source of frustration in your family; maybe you feel so overburdened by debt that even opening your bills is too terrifying to think about.
Even if you think your anxiety is about not having enough money, it's really about something much deeper: a lack of personal power -- the kind of power that comes from pulling your head out of the sand and taking responsibility for your financial health.
Disagreements about finances are the number-one cause of divorce in the United States, says Debby Fowles, and author of "Everything Personal Finance in Your 20s and 30s." And it's spending -- not debt or borrowing concerns -- that couples argue about most frequently.
To better understand each other, consider how your financial situations growing up have influenced your current outlook. Did your family lived comfortably, or paycheck-to-paycheck? Did you go without things you couldn't afford, or did you put them on a credit card? By discussing your past, you'll see where your "financial baggage" may collide.
Research shows that almost half of all working-age households in the United States aren't saving enough to ensure comfort and security during retirement -- and women, in particular, need to have a financial safety net in place; they're typically the ones who put careers on hold to raise children and care for elderly family members.
Taking care of others means taking care of yourself first. There's no better way to do this than by ensuring that you have enough money to last a lifetime. And no matter what your age, it's never too late to take charge of your finances.
Personal finance isn't always an easy topic to bring up, especially with the very people who taught you the basics of money. But as your parents grow older -- and health concerns arise -- you may be concerned as to whether they'll be secure when they reach retirement.
People are living longer in an age when government programs for the elderly face an uncertain future. Start planning now to ensure that mom and dad's money lasts as long as they do.
Are you financially comfortable but still have trouble buying things for yourself without being wracked with guilt? Gayle Rose Martinez, author of "Money and Me," would say you're too close to your inner "Frugal Fern" -- that part of us that equates money with personal security. Typically raised in households where money was scarce, penny-pincher types dealt with stress by hoarding money and spending as little as possible. Parting with money proves to be difficult later on, as well.
But you can break loose, Martinez says, by saving a specific amount each month that makes you feel "safe" -- and from what's left over, setting aside some cash for a frivolous purchase that drives home the fact that your hard-earned money is also there for you to enjoy. "Notice the good feelings that come with this expenditure," she adds.
Budgeting isn't something most people get excited about. The word smacks of self-denial and hours spent in front of an Excel spreadsheet trying to trim $1.09 from the electricity bill. But relying on a simple blueprint for saving and spending is the express route to personal financial security.
You can't predict everything that happens in life, but in just an hour a week -- with the help of our printable worksheet -- you can ensure that you always have a solid financial cushion (and thus peace of mind to spare).
Let's be honest. No matter what moral high road we try to take, enough is never really enough. If a new pair of jeans can restore your lagging spirits, then a whole new outfit would surely bring on sheer bliss. If you rent a cozy one-bedroom apartment, you yearn for that 2,200-square-foot house. Call it an upgrade, call it retail therapy -- our desire to acquire can be all-consuming.
So how do we achieve happiness without going broke in the process? The secret to abundance lies in striking a balance between not enough and way too much -- and getting what you want in life, while cultivating contentment for what you already have.
Medical bills, co-pays, and medication costs can quickly add up -- especially if you're dealing with a chronic illness or recovery from an injury. You may be tempted to cut your treatment short to save money, even if it compromises your health.
Ask yourself, "What do I value more, my money or my well-being?" Sometimes, the expense is worth it -- and there may be ways to reduce your out-of-pocket costs.
Just as we install smoke alarms and identify the best way out in case of a fire, it's essential to envision a worst-case money scenario and prepare for it -- especially during an era of such high unemployment and foreclosure rates.
To keep your fiscal house from going up in smoke, grab a notebook and pen: Preparing a written, detailed plan will help you meet a crisis with calm, no matter what happens.
With lenders tightening their purse strings, good credit matters more than ever. Without it, you'll find yourself at the back of the line when you try to get a mortgage, car loan, or business line of credit.
Instead of leaving your fiscal health to its own devices, take a proactive approach to credit maintenance. It could be easier than you think to maintain a high score or give a low one a nudge.
Sure, you want to make the best, most nutritious meals for you and your family -- but just thinking about the added costs of fresh vegetables, whole foods, organics, and all-natural brands is enough to send anyone screaming to the nearest fast food joint.
Or is it? With a few smart shopping strategies, you can dine like a queen without spending like one.