If you want an anxiety free financial life, what should you start doing? What should you stop? These are frequent questions that we receive from clients and prospective clients alike.
Just reading the word money activates the nervous system in most people. Moreover, because topics about money are confusing, the anxiety level increases even further.
Are You Stressed About Money?
Surveys by the American Psychological Association consistently show that money is our No. 1 stressor. Not surprisingly, money stress creates other problems that fold over into a wide range of both mental and physical maladies.
Reducing money anxiety starts with becoming grounded in reality. This means coming face to face with your financial life as it actually exists. In my experience, this can be very difficult as many individuals “sneak about” throughout their entire lives trying to avoid financial reality.
I’ll take this notion a step further. Anxiety over money issues, in my opinion, is actually a byproduct of avoiding reality. The more that you try to avoid reality, the greater the level of anxiety.
Another contributor to money anxiety is directly tied to the underlying desire for security. Everyone craves certainty, but that’s an elusive quest. Uncertainty, however, is reality and nothing that you do today can make tomorrow certain.
So, an anxiety free financial life starts by recognizing reality. What should you stop?
Cooking vs. Baking
Perhaps a good place to relay what you should stop doing can be described by thinking about the difference between cooking and baking.
My wife and I used to attend a cooking school taught by an experienced French chef. To him, and likely to most good cooks, cooking was dynamic and creative. This differs from baking which is very precise. You have a recipe and you follow the recipe exactly with little room for adjustment in order to produce the desired result.
Trying to Control the Uncontrollable
To enjoy an anxiety free financial life, you should stop trying to control things that aren’t controllable. Life is much more like cooking, where the exact order of things can’t be totally controlled; it’s interactive and outcomes sometimes differ from what you expect.
Depending on your personality, stopping the endless pursuit of control can be equally as difficult as starting to become aware of financial reality.
Prediction and Preparation
Much of what passes today as financial or investment advice is based upon trying to predict the future. Prediction is all about trying to be right. Preparation, on the other hand, is about recognizing that you won’t be right sometimes. Your plans will likely not unfold exactly as planned.
Of course, at the core of stopping the search for control is your approach to making investment decisions. Each day brings new “shiny investment” ideas trying to pull you away from your plan. Media pundits spew these tips constantly but very few have any application to your particular circumstances and what you are trying to accomplish financially.
You have to stop falling into the same behavioral traps that work at cross purposes with reality-based planning. Steady as she goes.
Creating a life free of money anxieties is simple, but hard. Understand that and acknowledge this reality. Start there.