Anxiety is a common reaction when money is brought up, particularly when the conversation is about saving for the future. Many worry -- some justifiably so -- about not having enough money to cover their retirement expenses or to be able to send their children to college. And that concern, once present, is not easily shaken.
Seventy percent of American workers report being stressed about their financial security, with 65% saying they expect this stress to continue over the next five years, according to a recent Prudential survey. If you're among this group, you should know there are steps you can take to be more prepared for your future expenses, and this could help reduce your financial stress. Here are four things you can try.
1. Create a financial plan
Whether your goal is to buy a home, pay for your child's college education, or fund your own retirement, it all begins with a solid plan. It's natural to feel anxious if you don't know how much money you need or how much you should be saving each month, and having a measurable goal you can work toward may be enough to take the edge off your financial stress.
First, identify your financial goal and the timeline you have to meet it. If you're saving for retirement, your timeline is the number of years until you retire. If you're buying a home, it's when you hope to purchase it. Next, identify how much you expect your goal to cost. You can use new-house calculators to estimate how much house you can afford and retirement calculators to help estimate the overall cost of your retirement. Universities should list an approximate annual cost of attendance, which you can use as a baseline for your college savings goals.
Once you have an estimate of how much money you need, you must create a plan to get there. If you're going to invest money in a retirement account or a 529 college savings account, you don't need to save every penny on your own because the money you initially invest will most likely grow over time. Your retirement calculator or college savings calculator should give you an idea of how much you need to save each month to hit your goal.
2. Reduce your expenses
If you're not on track for your financial goals, look for ways to reduce your expenses to free up more cash for savings. You could limit your discretionary purchases, like dining out and clothing, and cancel subscriptions that you don't use.
Alternatively, you could look to reduce the costs of your financial goals. Consider a more affordable home, for example, or delay your retirement by a couple of years so you don't need to save as much. Small changes like these can help make your financial goals more achievable without placing any additional strain on your budget today.
3. Look for ways to boost your income
With the rise of the gig economy, it's easier than ever to pick up side jobs when you need a little extra cash. Consider what you're good at and find a side job that matches that. You could drive for a ridesharing service, help neighbors with household repairs, or sell handmade items online. If you have a spare room or an extra property, you could rent that out for cash as well.
Look for opportunities to move up in your current career, too. Pursue promotions or consider switching employers if you can get paid better elsewhere. Think about taking professional education courses if you believe it'll open the door to new opportunities. Then, put this extra income toward your financial goals.
4. Get help from a financial advisor
A financial advisor can help you invest your money properly, develop a budget and savings plan, and come up with strategies to meet your financial goals. Consider enlisting one if you're struggling to manage your money on your own or you lack the time or patience for it.
Be sure you choose a fee-only financial advisor, instead of one who's fee-based. Fee-only advisors are paid a flat rate for their services and don't earn commissions if you purchase investment products that they recommend. This ensures that the advice they give you is in your best interest, not theirs. Always ask for a copy of their fee schedule so you understand what they'll charge you, and don't be afraid to talk to a few different financial advisors to see which you like best.
While nothing short of winning the lottery will eliminate most people's financial anxiety, developing a plan and asking for assistance when you need it can help you feel a little more in control of your financial future. Try some of the steps above and see if they make a difference for you.