In my work, I frequently speak with clients who harbor fears about money. If you relate negative emotions like fear, stress, and anxiety to financial topics, it can be difficult to become interested in your finances or to build confidence in your money skills and knowledge. What’s more, when your emotions are stirred up, it becomes all the more challenging to get outside of your own head and move forward toward your financial goals with clarity.
Fear regarding money topics is particularly problematic for women, with one-third admitting that money causes them stress and anxiety. Whether you are male or female, however, the result is the same – financial fears hold you back. If you want to dispel your negative emotions around money, use the guidance below.
Name Your Fears
It’s possible to face generalized fear and anxiety about financial matters, but most people who equate money with fear can name the specific things they are afraid of. I call these most common concerns “the fourteen financial fears” and it’s important to identify yours if you hope to overcome them:
- Losing a job
- Not having enough money to pay bills or retire
- “Bag lady” syndrome, or fear of living in the streets
- Fear of numbers (numerophobia), or lack of confidence in working with or understanding numbers
- Saying no to kids, disappointing kids, and worrying that the kids won’t succeed
- Messing up kids by giving them too much, creating too much dependence
- Investments that lose money
- Taking too much risk
- Being a burden on the family because, later in life, you may need care
- Losing a sense of identity (this particularly applies to career women in retirement)
- Losing inherited dollars or failing to carry on the legacy
- Fear of failure
- Fear of missing out
- Fear of retirement and its impact on your marriage
Whether you see your fears on this list or if they are manifesting in a different way, name them out loud or write them down. Facing them head-on in this way can actually make them seem a bit more approachable and weaken the hold they have on you. You can begin to get to the root cause of your fears, ask questions to gather more information, then build a strategy to protect yourself from whatever it is you are afraid of.
Spotlight on Numerophobia
Since the fear of numbers is probably the most common fear I hear from my clients, I want to spend extra time examining how to tackle numerophobia. Though it happens to people across the board, I hear it most often from married women who are used to relying on their husbands to take the lead on household finances. It acts as the first line of defense for anyone resistant to or uninterested in having financial conversations, too. My response is always the same: Most people know how to add and subtract, and these skills – coupled with a bit of information – are all you really need to manage your money.
For more on numerophobia, check out this episode of my podcast, where you can also access a Numerophobia Goals Worksheet.
Overcome Your Tendency for Avoidance
Most people with money fears avoid making financial decisions, and avoidance is easy to fall back on in the moment. However, what it means is that eventually – often during a challenging transition like divorce or the death of a spouse – all the things you delayed dealing with will be front and center, requiring your attention.
To avoid putting yourself in reactive situations with money and increasing your fear and stress in the process, start taking a proactive financial role right now. Regardless of which fears may be standing in your way, you can confront them by taking action:
- Develop a financial plan
- Ignore sensational messages from the media that can confirm some of your gravest fears
- Break your silence and begin having conversations with your spouse or family members about money
It’s never easy to face your fears, but avoidance isn’t the answer. A few moments of courage can help you take your power back and move forward with more confidence.
Take an Interest
If you’re finding it difficult to overcome your financial fears, it may be time to change your emotional relationship with money. One way to do this is to think of your finances in terms of how they impact your life. Stop making it about the numbers and, instead, focus on the goals and possibilities your finances can bring.
It’s not easy to turn off your dollars-and-cents mindset, but asking yourself these questions will help you reframe the conversations with yourself:
- If money were no object, how would I spend my time?
- What would I do more of? What would I do less of?
- What would I need to do financially to achieve these goals?
When you can begin to view your finances in the context of how they impact your life goals, it’s easier to remain interested and excited about the possibilities, rather than paralyzed by your fears.
Final Thoughts on Tackling Your Financial Fears
Having fears about money is common, but you don’t have to allow them to hold you back from important decision-making or from achieving your goals. With intentional steps like naming your fears, facing them head-on, and reframing your internal dialogue about financial matters, you can begin to see money less as a roadblock and more as a tool you can proactively use to create the life you want.
For more guidance on overcoming financial fears and gaining confidence in your financial decision-making, I encourage you to read my book, Flourish Financially.