When we think about the various things that can stress us out in life, health issues and work problems tend to top people's lists. But while many agree that it's more than acceptable to seek out medical advice or complain about their jobs, a large number of Americans aren't willing to discuss another issue that's wreaking havoc on their sanity: money.
An estimated 62% of U.S. adults are stressed about money, according to investing app Stash, with 33% admitting that financial issues cause them to lose sleep and feel uneasy all the time. Yet 34% are too embarrassed to discuss financial matters, and because they think they're worse off than their peers, they keep their problems to themselves. Meanwhile, 20% of Americans don't talk about money because they're ashamed of their personal financial habits.
Those feelings aren't totally unfounded. Almost one-third of U.S. adults have failed to pay a monthly bill in the past year, and among them, more than 50% have missed multiple payments.
If money is the one thing that's been stressing you out more so than anything else, it's time to address that situation before it worsens. Here's how.
1. Start following a budget
The better a handle you have on your money, the less stress it's likely to cause you, and to this end, following a budget will help. This way, you'll know exactly where your earnings are going month after month, and you'll be able to identify spending categories to cut back on as needed.
To set up a budget, list your recurring monthly bills, like your rent payment, food, healthcare, and so forth. Then, factor in once-a-year expenses -- maybe the car registration fee you pay annually. Once that's done, compare your total spending to what you bring home in your paychecks, and if you're maxing them out, reduce your expenses to leave yourself more wiggle room for unplanned bills and to help ensure that you're able to pay your existing ones.
2. Build an emergency fund
A frightening number of Americans don't have adequate emergency savings, with 40% not having the cash to cover an unexpected $400 expense. Once you have your budget set up and you identify some expenses to cut, take that savings and put it into the bank so that it's there for you in a pinch. Ideally, you should have enough savings to cover a minimum of three months of essential living expenses, but if you're nowhere close, start small and build your way up.
3. Get some help
If money issues have been causing you to lose sleep, you'll need to get more comfortable with the idea of discussing them out loud. In fact, hiring a professional advisor is a great way to get a handle on your finances, and the best way to find one is to ask friends, family members, and neighbors for recommendations.
At the same time, don't shy away from talking money with your peers if you feel they can teach you a thing or two. Your neighbor whose kids are attending college? You might ask him what he did to save for those tuition bills. Your colleague who just bought a house? You can ask what steps she took to amass her down payment. You shouldn't be embarrassed to solicit financial advice from the people you know and trust, and you never know when someone might have a helpful tip that really makes a difference.
Money may be regarded as a taboo topic, but it doesn't have to be. And if talking about it improves your financial picture, it's worth taking that leap.