Money is a minefield of emotion. It is tied to our highest aspirations in all that we do and as a result it is the biggest trigger of our greatest fears.
Ironically it is when we get stuck in our fears about money and need to apply logical thinking to assess the true situation, we are least likely to think and act rationally .
This repetitive cycle of money fears is mostly unconscious and makes it even harder for us to address and change.
I constantly wrestle with money fears and it is an ongoing process to work on building healthy money beliefs. In researching how to get on top of mine, I found comfort in discovering I am not alone in having what can sometimes seem to be overwhelming but irrational money fears.
I would like to share what I have discovered are the most common money fears and how we can take action to counteract them.
I will never have enough money
We fear that no matter how hard we work we will never be able to accumulate enough to be financially secure.
We fear we will be crushed under the massive amount of debt we have and never be able to get our heads above water.
We tend to fall into a victim mentality when we think like this and this is not supportive of taking action as we believe everything is outside of our control.
The concept of enough money is so ill defined it is no wonder we cannot take action.
Start by working out what you need to live on each year by taking a look at what you lived on for the last twelve months. Is this amount a realistic reflection of how much you truly need to have a comfortable life or has a lot of money left your life for frivolous things. Does a lot of your money go towards paying debt and how much more could you have if you paid down all your debts.
Work towards getting a realistic annual number to live on. Once you have this number you can work on building a pool of assets that can provide this amount for you even if you did not work. This may be a number we only ultimately reach in retirement but knowing it can give us a sense of security in that it is now a defined amount and not an overwhelming unknown.
A simple back of the envelope calculation as to how many assets you will need to generate this annual income is to multiple the number by 25. This assumes this asset pool if invested can generate a return after inflation of 4% per year and as a result the asset amount that should be able to generate passive income of 4% per year.
This is very much a rudimentary estimation but nonetheless gives a broad idea of the asset pool you need to create. A defined number you can start to take action to work towards.
Knowledge is power and when you have a measurable number of what enough money means it becomes so much easier to focus on getting to that number.
While it may feel particularly overwhelming to take a close look at your debt, as you did above, as soon as you have a number quantified you know what the challenge is you are facing. And knowing the road ahead is so much more supportive of taking action.
List all the debts you owe from the highest interest rate to the lowest. Now you have an idea of what debt is costing you the most and you can start to take action to pay it down.
The cashflows you analysed to arrive at your annual lifestyle number may have already highlighted those cashflows which are frivolous and not needed. By cutting out the “no value” items you can redirect the extra money to your debt.
Sell items you no longer need and consider starting a side hustle or working an extra seasonal job to generate more money to tackle your debt and once your debt is repaid this amount can be used to boost your asset growth.
I don’t understand financial concepts and don’t know what to do
Financial concepts can seem like a foreign language however it is essential to build your confidence around your finances and financial literacy.
Start by reading books on personal finance. David Bach in the US has the Automatic Millionaire Series which is a good starting guide. I would highly recommend Pete Matthews, a UK based Chartered Financial Planner’s book Meaningful Money or the colourful Ann Wilson and her book, The Wealth Chef.
Listen to financial podcasts geared to providing financial education. Again Pete Matthews has an excellent podcast, Meaningful Money. Damian Fahy has the very educational Money to the Masses Podcast and Farnoosh Torabi, although US based, explains financial concepts very clearly in her So Money podcast.
If you prefer a more personal touch a variety of professionals in the personal finance community could assist including financial coaches whose role it is to provide financial education, mentoring and coaching to help you get your finances in order. Be sure to check their credentials.
I fear losing my job and not being able to find work
Losing your job is a very real risk no matter what stage of your career you are at unless you are self employed, and that brings its own challenges. We all face this possibility every day. It is not an unforeseen occurrence and yet many of us haven’t prepared financially for this possibility.
Having an emergency fund of at least 3 to 6 months of expenses can go a long way to cushioning this event should the situation occur.
Also, you are your greatest asset when it comes to making money. Attend professional development opportunities, hone your skills and build a strong professional network. Keep building and maintaining your confidence by constantly learning.
Be open to opportunities to develop additional streams of revenue. Investing in assets to create a passive income stream, acquiring assets that can generate rental income and grow in value and growing online or other passive income businesses.
I fear losing all my money
Even though you are diligently saving and have built up a decent wealth pot you still face the fear that something will happen, another Global financial crisis, theft or fraud or something else that will result in you losing your money.
Some fears around losing money are good as it makes you more vigilant about your passwords, potential criminal approaches and anything else that does not sound legitimate.
Other financial fears may be irrational. If you have diversified your investments, are saving with regulated entities, understand your investments and have taken steps to protect your income, such as Income protection and disability insurance , you have to some extent gone a long way to mitigating these risks.
I fear running out of money in retirement
This is a big fear for women. We are constantly bombarded in the media with the threat of longevity (this sounds more like a gift to me ) and the negative news of how low our retirement savings are because of the gender pay gap, time out of the workforce and other headwinds we apparently have had or will have to face.
Shut off the bad news and take a good hard look at your financial situation. If in any doubt as to its sufficiency speak with a financial adviser and develop a plan to get it to a place that you can feel comfortable. There is a risk that we might run out of money in retirement but being proactive and taking steps to minimise it by doing the work now has a big impact on reducing the probability of that happening.
We all have our money histories and the money beliefs and fears we developed as a result. As tough as it seems facing up to our money beliefs and fears and taking action on them ultimately it is the only way we can address and diminish them.
This not only makes a positive outcome more likely and minimises the probability of our fears being realised it also builds our confidence, improves our relationship to money and sets us on the path to financial stability.