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How to Overcome a Fear of Dealing with Your Finances

Have you ever been afraid to open a credit card bill, check your bank account balances, or sit down and create a monthly budget? You are not alone. I regularly talk to friends and readers who admit they are afraid of dealing with their personal finances. Even if your finances are sound, living in fear of your personal finances could come back to really haunt you in a number of ways.

Ignoring Your Finances Will Hurt You

If you regularly ignore your finances (whether out of fear, laziness, or something else), you may survive for a while if you are unwittingly but regularly spending less than you earn. Of course, you may also be digging yourself into debt (or throwing money away) because you don’t have a handle on your money.

When you ignore your personal finances, you don’t know how much you are spending in relation to your income. You also put yourself at risk for late fees on credit cards and other bills, and for overdraft fees because you may spend money that you don’t have in your checking account. But wait, it can get worse.

If you don’t regularly check your bank and credit card balances (even more frequently than when you get your monthly bill), you may miss bank mistakes or fraudulent transactions that will really cost you. Although unlikely, there’s always the possibility you could fall victim to identity theft. Catch ID theft early and clearing up your credit shouldn’t be difficult. Give an ID thief time to open accounts in your name, however, and your credit and finances could suffer for years.

The lesson? Don’t ignore your finances!

Dealing with Money Anxiety

Everybody deals with money anxiety from time to time. We all worry about having enough money to make ends meet each month and earning enough to achieve long-term goals. But worrying about money only creates stress (and can even lead to physical health problems). Worry about money so much that you can’t even look at your bills or make a budget, and you’ll not only fail to make progress, you’ll wind up making your financial situation worse.

To overcome a fear of your personal finances, you first need to ask yourself why you’re afraid. Perhaps there’s a good reason, like you know you’re stuck deep in debt and you don’t want to go face-to-face with the hard numbers. Or, your fear may be less rational: Perhaps you just aren’t a numbers person or are intimidated by financial planning. Whatever your reasons for fearing personal finance, try to write them down and recognize that they are unjustified and/or may actually make your problem worse in the long run.

Next, it’s time to begin overcoming your fears by facing your finances, little by little. The best way to do this is to take stock of where your finances stand. In a spreadsheet (or even a scrap of paper), write down all of your account balances and any debts. The difference is your net worth. If it’s positive, great! If not, you’re in debt, and it is proof that you need to keep facing your fears so you can begin digging out.

From there, continue to take small steps to address your finances:

  • Check your account balances once a week.
  • Open bills as soon as you receive them, and pay them as soon as possible. (The less time a bill sits around unpaid, the less you should worry about it.)
  • Create a budget.
  • Begin to get out of debt.
  • Set longer term financial goals.

If you’re still overwhelmed by your financial situation as you begin to take steps to deal with your money, get help. Talk to your partner or friends about money. You don’t have to go into details if you aren’t comfortable with them, but the more you talk about money and listen to what works for others, the more your fear will begin to fade. If money still paralyzes you, get real help. Talk to a credit counselor about debt problems or a fee-only financial planner if you have already accumulated assets and want to begin setting long-term goals.

Have you dealt with—or are you dealing with—a fear of your personal finances? Why are you afraid? What are you doing to overcome your fears? Let us know in a comment.

Published or updated on August 3, 2009

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


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  1. Mary Ann says:

    I am very similar to people who fear looking at and opening bills/mail. I just feel like it is too much responsibility hence I become more and more disorganized about it. To make matters worse I am now in charge of another person’s finances as well. I paid a personal secretary for a while, who helped me sell a car, pack up an apartment, and go through mail, pay bills, etc. But it is embarrassing to have to do this and sometimes I am too ashamed to ask for help. Periodically (at least once a month) I go through marathons of opening a ton of mail all at once and then a few bills get paid. Being on a fixed income makes things scarier still, although I am grateful I even have that & feel I don’t deserve it. It would be great if part of our early education, be it at school or at home, were aimed at handling finances. Mostly you just end up learning from your mistakes!

  2. thomas says:

    i have terrable fear of money cant look at my accounts for years cant overcome this i have no life

  3. Cat says:

    I definitely agree that regular monitoring of your main accounts (checking, savings, and credit card, or whatever combo of those accounts you have) helps a lot. It only takes a couple of minutes to check them. I also agree that paying bills ASAP helps a lot with stress. It is really easy to let them sit and accidentally get mixed in with the junk mail. I have a set of stamps and a pad of checks in my bag so I can bring the bills to work and pay them on my lunch break. That way everything is with me and not as likely to end up on my dining room table for weeks :)

  4. Thanks, M.Wanzer! Well put. At some point I want to research and write about financial stress leading to physical health issues. I’ve seen some articles on it put never paid as much attention to them as I should have. Bottom line is letting money problems get out of hand leads to more stress which can lead to big health problems! Solution: Face your fear of money before it kills you.

  5. M.Wanzer says:

    You are absolutely right that money problems can cause stress which can in turn cause physical health problems. Furthermore, if you get a good handle on your finances and find out where you can cut spending and why you are coming up short every month, this is the first step to improvement. If you figure out why you are coming up short every month, this may motivate you to find new ways to close that gap and come up with side ventures to supplement your income. People that are “bad” with money tend to think that getting a handle on it is extremely difficult, its not. Sometimes all that’s needed is writing down exactly what your monthly expenses are and what your income is, that’s a great starting point. I wish my parents taught me these types of lessons early on, these are lessons that we need to learn early on.

    Good Post.

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