The three types of financial stress
By Paul Benson
November 7, 2018 - 12.00am
There are three main types of financial stress that I come across on a regular basis. The first is inherited, the second is debt, and the third is longevity.
Inherited financial stress is the most common and debilitating. It is experienced by those who have grown up in households where their parents regularly argued and fought about money. Money therefore becomes a stressful topic, and so the thought of sitting down and planning is about as attractive as volunteering to have a root canal done by a trainee dentist.
Financial stress can make you broke, like a vicious circle.Credit:Shutterstock
Those suffering inherited financial stress tend to follow one of two patterns. Either they put their head in the sand - they don't open their superannuation statements, don't budget, and certainly don't discuss financial matters with their loved ones.
Alternatively they go to the other extreme, and micro-analyse everything, to the point of complete paralysis. They're convinced that whatever decision they make, it will be the wrong one.
The next common type of financial stress is that caused by debt. In 99 out of 100 cases of debt-induced financial stress, credit cards will be a central element. And yes, that is intentionally plural - there's never just one. Often there'll be a car loan and perhaps a mortgage, but credit cards certainly seem to be the gateway drug to debt-related financial stress.
The final form of financial stress, that I see, I've somewhat imperfectly termed longevity. This manifests itself in being stressed about the normal ups and downs of investment markets - actually not so much the ups, but definitely the downs.
So what can you do to prevent financial stress from holding you back?
The first thing to do is have a separate bank account for your bills and regular expenses, and have an automatic transfer from your everyday account every time you get paid, to top it up.
With this system up and running, you will know that whenever a bill comes in, you have the money sitting there waiting to pay it. This means, a) no more stress, and b) no need to hit the credit card.
The pressure of living under the weight of debt
The next thing is to clear your unproductive debts. Determine which debt is the most expensive and focus all your attention on getting rid of it. Again, use automatic transfers as much as possible to avoid the risk of weakened willpower.
Another useful way to alleviate financial stress is to have some projections done, so you have a good sense what the long-term outlook is. You'll find your super fund website will have a projection tool so you can get an estimate of where your retirement savings will end, and sites like the government's Money Smart has some good calculators for this purpose too.
Worst-case planning is another great way to reduce worry. This is where you list out the biggest worries you have, and then determine what action you'd take if those things occurred. The actions may not always be pleasant, but just knowing you have a plan can remove that dark cloud floating around in the back of your brain.
Finally, don't be afraid to talk about your finances with your partner or other loved ones. Especially for couples; you're a team, and chances are if you're worried about your finances but are too afraid to discuss it, so is your partner. Don't pass your inherited financial stress down to your kids.