Financial Anxiety Is Real
There was a time when I’d much rather kill spiders I find in my bedroom than check the balance on my bank account. And for most of my young adult life, my dad took care of both—my finances and killing the spiders, that is. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I began taking more actionable steps towards financial independence.
Now that I have a big girl job and live on my own, I cover most of my own finances (save for my cell phone bill—thanks, dad!). But it took a lot of reframing the way I view money to get to this point.
In high school, I got an allowance of $75 once a month. When I was in college, I worked at my aunt’s accounting corporation during the summers, earning well over minimum wage. While I was in school, my housing and tuition was always covered by my parents. Even now, my grandpa will slip a twenty dollar bill into my pocket sometimes when I see him.
Because I never really had to worry about money, I became a frivolous spender at a young age, nearly draining my bank account to buy clothes and food. I knew I wasn’t spending my money wisely, and yet, I continued to spend frivolously. Subconsciously, I knew that if I ever actually ran out of money, I could always ask my parents for more.
Over time, though, I began to develop a fear of ever having to actually manage my finances. Because it’s always been handled for me, I had little to no sense of autonomy when it came to money. The money, which I’d often done nothing to earn, came from a source completely out of my reach and was spent in unregulated amounts.
In all honesty, I remained willfully ignorant about finances because the very idea of doing things like calculating student loans and filing taxes was incredibly anxiety-inducing. And yet, I knew that there was a ticking clock on this behavior—that the cash flow from my parents would eventually come to a halt, and I wouldn’t be able to afford my existing spending habits
It wasn’t until after I graduated from college and moved back in with my parents that I began to get serious about my money. Though having the option to live with my family after graduation was a huge blessing, I deeply desired autonomy. It seemed the only thing between me and the independence I wanted was money—specifically, learning how to manage my money.
So, I channeled my fear into curiosity. I leaned into the fact that I was a big baby when it came to money and began asking almost every adult in my life questions. I asked questions about saving, budgeting, building a credit score, doing taxes, you name it! My parents, mentors and older friends were more than happy to share their money tips with me. Their sound advice began to, slowly but surely, soothe my fears about managing my finances.
After I’d gained a sufficient amount of knowledge about money, I felt much more equipped to take action. Once I secured a steady job and earned a consistent paycheck, I felt a greater sense of responsibility when it came to my money. I applied for a secured credit card and began building a credit score. I began making monthly budgets and eventually saved up enough money to move out of my parents’ place.
As time went on, more and more financial responsibilities cropped up—rent, student loan payments, estimated tax payments, and more. But these responsibilities didn’t scare me like they used to. They simply motivated me to ask more questions and learn more, so that I could better support myself. Of course, I had to make many changes in my spending habits. I couldn’t go shopping every weekend or buy nearly as many lattes with soy milk. However, the feeling of being in complete control of my finances instead of being controlled by my impulses was unparalleled.
Though I can’t give individualized advice for getting over your money fears, I can say that, for me, being patient with myself throughout this process was everything. I wrote down my money goals and checked them off as I was financially able to. I was honest with myself about my spending habits and what I needed to change. I confronted my fears and anxieties with curiosity and action, and I was never afraid to ask for help.
I recognize the immense privilege of someone with a financial background like myself. Many people are forced to confront their own finances at a very young age due to their family’s socioeconomic status. I also recognize that, because of this, information about managing personal finances may not be as readily available to everyone as it was to me. Every person’s financial situation is drastically different and fear and anxiety surrounding money may come from a variety of factors.
I would love to hear your advice on how you got over (or are currently working through!) money anxiety. If you feel so inclined, share your stories in the comments below. Let’s get a discussion going!