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Does talking about managing money stress you out? Ignoring the state of your finances can be a sign of unresolved financial stress: experts Image Credit: Agency

Dubai: From worries about job security to managing crippling loans, many of us face stressors when it comes to money. But can one overcome it? What tips do experts offer on easing such fears?

“Financial anxiety is more severe than just worrying about having enough money in your bank account,” revealed UAE-based financial planner Andrea Barber, who also independently coaches people on money-related issues.

“People tend to respond to this anxiety by either avoiding their finances altogether, or becoming obsessive about fiddling with their accounts. However, anxiety can get attached to a lot of things, especially related to money.”

What triggers money-related stress?

What is it about your finances that gives you anxiety? Is it lack of income? Too much debt? Or maybe you're secure now but you're worried about your future? “It all boils down to an understanding of money that isn’t just treating money as a problem to be solved,” added Barber.

Barber also explained how much of what we believe about money is often culturally based and taught to us by the people in our lives, like our parents.

“You may have grown up thinking that your parents are really good with money, because they had stable careers as well as practices and processes, like savings. But if your own financial situation as an adult and values don’t match the framework that you were taught, it can lead to stress.”

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People might also avoid checking their finances or imagine scenarios where they don’t have enough money.

How do you battle money-related stress?

Long-time UAE resident Fahed Abbas, who was born and brought up in Abu Dhabi, agreed how his parents played an integral role in understanding the workings of personal finance and money management.

“Our family really provides that first and most important layer of socialisation around money, but that doesn’t mean I was never worried personally about making mistakes [with my money],” confessed Abbas.

“When it comes to money, I often tried to impose control or set rules in the face of anxiety, rather than looking objectively at my own money behaviours and practices to learn about ourselves.”

Do you avoid checking your finances?

People might also avoid checking their finances, imagine scenarios where they don’t have enough money, get hyper vigilant about tracking their money or obsess over saving, noted Barber.

“Creating a money practice, which is simply getting into the habit of regularly checking in with your finances, is the simplest way to shape a relationship with your money,” she revealed. “It’s important to schedule time to look at your money, so you can approach it in a safer, more focused setting.”

“Make that practice really simple. Choose three things to do each time you check in: For instance, review how your money is coming in and out, predict what expenses you might have coming up and make adjustments to prevent being reactive.”

Financial anxiety is more severe than just worrying about having enough money in your bank account

- Andrea Barber

What symptoms of financial anxiety do I need to watch out for? 

There are many symptoms related to financial anxiety disorder, according to Dubai-based money coach Mirin Raul, who previously worked as a wealth advisor in the UK. “While some of them seem obvious, while others may be surprising,” Raul added. Here are just a few:

Overspending: You would think that money worries would cause you to save your money, but it’s a known fact that shopping is most often provides temporary relief from money anxieties.

“Overspending becomes a vicious cycle where you keep spending to get relief, which makes the problem worse. It can also lead to hoarding; taking comfort in material items to relieve the anxiety from money challenges,” Raul added.

Fear of spending: The other side of hoarding is being frugal beyond reason. “Obsessive saving could prevent you from enjoying vacations or living in a comfortable home,” Raul revealed.

“The fear of spending can also lead to avoiding home repairs and healthcare. People who overwork or work obsessively to earn more may also suffer from this type of anxiety.”

Uncontrollable finances: People with financial anxiety often are uncomfortable accumulating wealth. “Being uncomfortable when amassing wealth can make it difficult to budget or prioritise household spending, and it can have a disastrous impact on retirement planning,” added Raul.

Obsessing over your finances: Money anxiety can cause obsessive behaviour as well. “The symptoms of obsessing over your finances include continually checking your online bank account. Feeling depressed about the world around you can stem from a financial anxiety disorder,” he further explained.

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Rather than remaining frozen in fear, consider ways you can alleviate financial stress and take control of your personal finances.
Andrea Barber offers 4 quick tips on dealing with financial anxiety
Rather than remaining frozen in fear, consider ways you can alleviate financial stress and take control of your personal finances. Here are some suggestions from Andrea Barber to help you cope with financial anxiety:

Schedule a money check-in: “Set a financial goal for yourself to save a set amount by a specific date. Then start putting money aside.”

Create a household budget: “Putting your income and expenses on paper will show you exactly where your money is going so you can take control of your spending.”

Manage your debt: “Debt is one of the biggest factors that creates financial stress. Having a financial plan can help you avoid debt. If you are carrying debt, developing a strategy to pay it down will help put you in control of your debt.”

Create an emergency fund: “Having an emergency fund can give you peace of mind because you know you have enough money set aside to pay your bills if you become sick or lose your job.”

Key takeaways

When it comes to managing our money, we face so many stressors on a regular basis — like, dealing with a surprise car repair and medical bills, to budgeting our salaries to keep up with fluctuating bills.

However, anxiety over our finances can manifest in all sorts of ways, and at times, it can even become debilitating to the point where it’s difficult to go through our day as it relates to our money.

Although worrying about not having enough money is an example of financial anxiety, experts evaluate how that’s not the only instance of experiencing it.

Financial anxiety can also be when you obsess over saving every single dirham, become hyperaware of where your money is going or you imagine situations where you lose all your money.

How do you curb financial anxiety? To start curbing your financial anxiety, identify what’s causing your stress in the first place, experts add.

“If your financial anxiety stems from a money mistake you once made, try to avoid harping on what’s already done and instead look forward to fix it,” added Barber.

Once you have a full picture of where your money is going every month, you can look for opportunities to redirect some of it to the areas causing your financial stress.