Do you have a hard time falling asleep? Or do you bolt awake at 2:00 a.m. every morning with a racing heart? According to a recent survey from our research team at Ramsey Solutions, you’re probably worried about money. In the first quarter of 2021, Americans listed “personal finances” as their top stressor. In fact, one in three of us loses sleep over it.
That’s millions of hours of lost sleep across our neighborhoods, our cities, and our country.
But stress itself isn’t the enemy. Anxiety is like an alarm: It alerts you to something in your environment that makes you feel unsafe, disconnected and/or out of control. It’s your brain and your body’s way of protecting you (even though it doesn’t necessarily feel that way).
The good news is that by getting connected with people and changing your thoughts and actions, you can begin to transform your bank account and your mental health. Here are a few practices that will help you get started.
1. Take responsibility for your personal finances
One of the most painful data points that emerged from the state of personal finances study is that a third of Americans believe they won’t ever recover from the financial setbacks of the pandemic. I know that the horrors of the past year have been devastating. I’ve personally talked to thousands of you on the radio. If you’re scared or hurting, my heart goes out to you.
But here’s the reality: You cannot edit the past. The only question that matters is what you will do next. Change begins when you look in the mirror, own your grief, and decide to do things differently. Don’t sweep your money stress under the rug, or wait for some government official to come to the rescue. Starting today, chart a different path for your future.
2. Never take on debt
Going (further) into debt when you’re in a bad financial situation is like drinking salt water to quench your thirst. It looks good at first, but it will kill you. Of the people we surveyed, we found that Americans with consumer debt are twice as unhappy with their lives as people who are debt-free.
If you owe money to anyone for any reason, get out of debt as quickly as possible. Do whatever it takes. Get a second or a third job, and work extra until you can say goodbye to debt forever.
3. Save an emergency fund
Hard times will come, so instead of worrying about them we must do our best to be prepared. This is where an emergency fund comes in. An emergency fund isn’t sexy: It doesn’t compound your money, and it doesn’t get you more shiny toys in your garage. But it does help you sleep. It does help you laugh a little bit easier, and breathe a bit deeper. Once you’re debt-free except for your home, save enough money to cover three to six months of expenses. That way, when you lose your job or your HVAC unit is on the fritz, you’ll be faced with an inconvenience—not a crisis.
4. Invest in people
In addition to a financial disaster, we are living in a loneliness epidemic. People are your emergency fund for life, both the good and the bad times. If you’re stressed about money, grab a cup of coffee with an old friend. Go for a walk with your spouse. Go back to church. After all, money is just a resource that allows you to live a meaningful life—and relationships are the foundation of that life.
Take responsibility, don’t take on debt, build an emergency fund, and connect with real people in real life. You are worth being well in every area of your life, including your finances. Don’t put this off any longer!
*Dr. John Delony is a mental health expert with PhDs in Counselor Education & Supervision and Higher Education Administration from Texas Tech University. Prior to joining Ramsey Solutions in 2020, John worked as a senior leader, professor, and researcher at multiple universities. He also spent two decades in crisis response, walking with people through severe trauma. Now as a Ramsey Personality, he teaches on relationships and emotional wellness. Follow John onTwitter,Instagram,FacebookandYouTubeor online at www.johndelony.com.