Why You (Probably) Shouldn’t Stress About Money

Stressed out? If so, you’re in good company. Most Americans rate feeling moderate to high stress, and the largest source of stress (by far) is money. Career comes in second place, but money continues to freak our population out the most — millennials above all.

Sounds bad, but guess what? It doesn’t have to be that way.

Sure, job seeking and promotion hunting is exhausting. And struggling to pay the bills or not having enough for (questionable) big splurges is no fun either. However, under a different perspective optimism begins to shine through.

Assuming you’re doing what you should be — paying off debt, spending less than you earn, putting your savings to work — a broader horizon should flip your financial stress around. Whatever your time horizon is, double it. Then double it again.

Now think about your worries.

Can you only save $100 a month? Don’t sweat. A year’s worth of savings delivering average stock market returns will be worth more than $20,000 in 30 years.

Still paying off student loans? That’s totally okay. School was an investment, and you’ll be able to put fresh money aside before you know it.

Have a 401(k)? If yes, you may be able to get a 100% return just by participating. Not bad.

Pile on future raises, joint incomes, plus natural stock market growth and suddenly the picture looks much brighter. The desired results may not be immediately attainable, but odds are high that you’ll be in excellent future shape just by trying. Remember, compounding is one of the most powerful forces in the universe.

Maybe you shouldn’t be stressed after all. Money can work for you if you simply let it — just think bigger.

Not enough — still feel stressed? If you do that’s totally fine. Our primal instincts have funny ways of showing up unwelcome in this modern world. If you understand the big picture but still feel doubts you can’t shake, try out these three ideas:

  • Track your feelings. Every time you make a big financial decision or feel a wave of money-induced emotion, take note of what you feel. After enough simple notes and enough time, look back. My guess is that on reflection your past emotions will feel out of place or completely different from what you feel in the present. It’s a perfect way to learn from yourself and recalibrate.
  • Seek distractions. Feel unnecessary stress all of the sudden? Quick! Go exercise, call up some friends, or maybe even remove yourself from the herd if that social pressure is part of what’s causing you that stress. Just find something else for your mind to focus on.
  • Ask yourself questions. Our emotions aren’t naturally backed up by words, so if you start attaching words to your feelings you’ll start to feel more control over how you feel. Ask yourself insightful questions and you may be able to ease stress by proving to yourself that the stress shouldn’t exist in the first place.

We all have emotions; it’s just part of being human. Everyone is different, and many people cope differently, but if you’re living life normally don’t think for one second that money is worth stressing about. If you’re not making wise decisions, make better ones. If you are making good decisions, then think longer-term. And if you’re genuinely having a tough time (layoffs, hospital bills, you name it), then keep fighting, my friend.

Seize control of your actions and your mind and you’ll be one step closer to ridding yourself of financial stress. Not everyone does it, but you can. Now relax, reflect, and enjoy renewed optimism.

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