(Originally Published in Biscayne Boulevard Times. January 2005.)
I was recently doing a massage for one of my clients and her back was in complete spasm. I asked her what was going on in her life that was causing so much muscle tension and she responded, “I am four months behind on my rent and if I don’t pay it off now, I am going to lose my apartment.”
In another session a few weeks earlier, a man burst into tears when we started to talk about his current job because he desperately wanted to leave but couldn’t afford to do so. He explained that many of his self-destructive habits, including excessive drinking, stems from his inability to deal with his current financial problems.
These are just two of the many encounters that I’ve had with people who are struggling with their finances so much that it is effecting their ability to live happy, healthy lives. Money and finances are some of the most stressful aspects of life for the majority of people. In fact, most divorces have money as the major issue.
Excessive worrying about money can lead to depression, anxiety and stress-related illnesses such as heart disease and high blood pressure. In an Associated Press poll of 1,000 adults taken in December 2004, half of all Americans say they worry frequently about their debt, many of them saying they worry “most of the time.” The average household has 10 credit cards, and the average interest rate is 19%. To pay each card off at the minimum monthly payment alone would take decades.
There are many great resources to help you manage your financial stress including books, websites, financial counselors and non-profit organizations. I reviewed some of these resources to see what advice they offer. Here are some popular suggestions:
Do you know the value of your net worth – everything you own minus everything you owe? Do you keep track of all the money that comes in and out of your life? Do you know how much money you’ve earned in your lifetime? These are just some of the questions that lead to more self-awareness about your financial situation. You can begin this process of exploring your financial situation by writing down all of your earnings and spending for a month and reviewing your financial records including pay stubs, tax documents, and investments.
2. Reaching Your Goals
Once you have a clear picture about the money in your life, you can begin to create needs assessment and financial goals. This includes strategies for getting out of debt, decreasing spending and increasing income. A good wealth plan should include a budget, a cushion of money to fall back on and a clear and focused intention for your finances. Having a wealth plan empowers you to control your finances instead of allowing them to control you.
3. Cultivate a Positive Attitude
One of the best ways to free yourself of the guilt, frustration and despair you have felt about money issues is to cultivate a positive attitude toward money. You can start by forgiving yourself for financial mistakes of the past and saying positive affirmations about money everyday. When you are spending money, spend it mindfully and say to yourself, “May this money return to me tenfold.” You can use that positive attitude for goal setting, decision making, and good planning of your finances.
4. Use Money Creatively
Financial experts suggest many ways to use your money creatively including bartering services, buying things used, wearing things out, taking care of what you have and making your spending a clear mirror of your life values. Practicing creative use of your money will result in lowering your expenses and increasing your savings. This will create greater fulfillment, integrity and alignment in your life.
Financial decisions affect every aspect of your life from relationships to retirement. By viewing each financial decision as part of a whole, you can use money to achieve your goals and improve the quality of your life. Your goals should focus on the things that really make you happy such as buying a home or traveling around the world. Focusing on your happiness and not your money will help you build a bridge between where you are and where you want to be.
Once you have changed the nature and function of your interaction with your finances, you will reach new levels of comfort and competence around money. This improvement will lead to a greater sense of freedom and empowerment which is a natural antidote to stress and illness.