On paper, some people might say I’m good with my money. I pay my bills relatively on time (key word: relatively), I have a decent savings account, my income is also decent and I’m able to live a fairly care-free life, all things considered. Yet in spite of these financial pros, I find myself keeping a constant sense of money-related stress at bay. I avoid looking at bills right away, I leave taxes until the very last minute, I tap my credit card not knowing if it will decline because I almost always forget to check my balance until it does. These bad habits are so ingrained in me, it’s as though I wouldn’t know how to function properly if I didn’t have these financial anxieties fuelling my work ethic.
After all, I’m also a freelancer with no salary to rely on when times get tough. I’m also currently single, so the weight of responsibility rests entirely on my own shoulders.
According to the recent research, Canadians ranked money as their greatest stress. Nearly half of Canadians say they have lost sleep because of financial worries, a quarter feel pressure to keep up with other people’s financial status — millennials being to most susceptible to this. And many have at least one financial regret, whether that’s wishing they had saved and invested more money, bought real estate or land or done more schooling. This is backed up by a survey conducted by Capital One and Credit Canada, in which it states that, like me, 21% go to extremes to avoid reviewing their personal finances. (I knew there was no way I was alone in that.)
Worrying is natural.
While some of these worries are out of our control, the housing market being one of them as Vice Canada recently investigated, we are in more control than we give ourselves credit for. This is the whole premise of Credit Education Week (CEWC), “a national effort to raise financial literacy awareness and the importance of proper credit education.” More than that, it provides willing participants the resources and tools to proactively plan and manage their financial situations, thus easing the stress that comes with it.
Yet most important, in my eyes, is the safe space it provides to simply talk about our finances. Like many other mental health burdens, conversation appears to be at the forefront of this particular anxiety. We feel shame and embarrassment, so the natural tendency is to retreat and hide. “One in four Canadians have hidden their financial situation from loved ones at some point, whether it’s by using credit to purchase something they couldn’t afford, lying to avoid spending money or lying about their current financial situation,” writes CEWC.
So how do we change this? By instilling healthier habits:
1. IT’S OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY: A classic mental health motto that is just as relevant here. Stress is natural. Worrying is natural. Yet it’s important to distinguish what we can control and what we can’t. By focusing on what we can control, everything suddenly becomes clearer. And for what we can’t? Well, that’s what professional help is for.
2. BE REALISTIC: Build budgets based on your income, essential expenses and savings goals — not on what you wish you had. Make use of the resources you have. There are also free tools out there such as a budget calculator can help identify areas in your budget where expenses can be cut to achieve a specific financial goal and ultimately reduce the stress associated with unnecessary debt.
3. TRACK AND EVALUATE: Track your spending regularly against the categories you’ve created to see where your money is actually going. Use a budget tracker, and if your debt is still getting you can be proactive by getting free help from a non-profit credit counselling agency like Credit Canada.
4. MINDFUL MONITORING: Tools like Capital One’s Credit Keeper can help you better
understand credit and the importance of a healthy credit score to your overall financial
health. Credit building programs from Credit Canada are designed to teach Canadians
how to build or rebuild their credit and increase their credit score are also a good
5. LEVERAGE TOOLS AND RESOURCES: www.cewc.ca is also a great resource to
learn more about Credit Education Week and the different events taking place
across the country, including credit building programs designed to teach Canadians
how to build or rebuild their credit and increase their credit score.
As Patrick Ens, VP of Strategy and Brand, Capital One, shares, “Money is an emotional topic and is one of the biggest sources of stress in people’s lives, but it is rarely talked about. During Credit Education Week, we are aiming to help Canadians begin conversations around money, their relationship with it and how actively prioritizing and managing finances can alleviate stress.”