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3 Money-Things That Are Stressing Me Out Right Now, But Shouldn’t Be

I was recently diagnosed with anxiety, which means I’ve been worrying about things…a lot.

Luckily, I was able to get access to help through my university, and things are getting better. Through counseling, I was able to realize that one of the things triggering my anxiety is money. While my mind knows that money is an amoral thing (meaning it’s not inherently good or bad), my heart feels like money is the one thing that could cause everything to come crumbling down.

So, in an effort to take better care of my mental health, I’ve been listing all of the money things worrying me so I can honestly tell myself if I should be actually worried or not. Hopefully, if you struggle with money-based anxiety like me, these reflections will help give you some peace.

1. “I need to invest my money RIGHT THIS SECOND.”

I’m new to this whole personal finance game, so I’m just trying to wrap my head around all of the advice I’m hearing. The number one tip that I’m hearing from people is “Invest now so you can benefit from compound interest.” Now when people tell me this, I know they’re just telling me to start early. What my anxiety hears, though, is that if I don’t invest my money TODAY, I’m financially screwed.

Is this true? God, no! So why am I worried? I’ve been thinking a lot about opportunity costs lately. Here, the opportunity cost of taking my time to invest is losing out on some compound interest. The reason I shouldn’t be worried, though, is that I’m taking my time to learn about investing terms and strategies that will help me not lose my money as soon as it’s wrapped up in stocks, mutual funds, etc. I mean, what’s the point of compound interest when there’s nothing to compound on?

It’s important that we take the time to learn about what we’re getting ourselves into. So if you’re on the younger side like me, know that learning about your options is better than making a decision based on fear and anxiety.

2. “I’m not working enough.”

Being a person who watches motivational video after motivational video, I feel extremely guilty if I’m not at work for at least nine hours every day. I hate this feeling. I worry about this, because I don’t want to find myself being financially insecure at the end of my undergraduate career. I plan on going on to get my Ph.D. in math after I graduate, so I know that if I don’t have a significant amount of savings, I’ll be pretty much screwed.

The problem here, though, is that I also need time to study and take care of myself. Again, it’s a problem I have with opportunity costs. So how do I reconcile the two? It took me a while to realize that no amount of hours or money is going to fix my mental health; I need time. I need time to focus on grounding myself and being mindful about how I’m feeling, and I can’t do that when I’m chasing dollar bills. I realized that once I have a better control of my anxiety, I’ll be able to work for longer without feeling drained or distressed.

3. “How do I know that I’m not financially f***ed for the future?”

Dear self,

                  Are you in debt? No

                  Do you have a budget? Yes

                  Are you saving money? Yes

                  Are you going to invest your money (eventually)? Yes

Then stop worrying!

Sincerely,

Self

Overall, I’m in a really great spot financially (especially for a 20-year-old), and I need to not be so hard on myself. Could I be in a better place? Yes — I mean, everyone could be. Am I already in a good place? Absolutely! When it comes to money-related anxiety, I just need to stick to my guns and keep working. In the words of Barack Obama, “If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, you’ll make progress.”

Hattie is currently working towards her undergraduate degree in Mathematics at Colorado State University.

Image via Unsplash

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  • Dana Ernest

    Great post! I have anxiety as well and have been taking baby steps the last few weeks to not be so stressed about money. I know that I’m way harder on myself than I need to be. I have a great emergency fund, plus a mutual fund, and money to spare for when I want to start an IRA or 401K (which I’m doing this year). I’m not yet 25, and I’m so much more financially responsible than most people I know, but I still beat myself up when I want to buy a necessity, or an expense comes up. I have to take a breath and remind myself not to worry. I have actually saved up and am taking myself on my first vacation in years for my birthday next month. I’m telling myself that I’ve earned it – the money is specifically for this trip so I don’t need to have a panic attack and worry about dollar signs the whole trip!

  • Anon

    A) you’ll probably get a stipend and tuition remission if you’re accepted anywhere good for grad school, so I wouldn’t worry about being screwed.
    B) Absolutely don’t go to grad school until you’ve dealt with anxiety and constant guilt about not working. Grad school exacerbates both.

  • Jack

    The second one is SO important. I had a side hustle for a long time and the extra money was great, but not only did it cause me to spend extra money, it caused me to be tired and sick and psychologically not well WAY more often.
    These days I put in my 8.5 hours at my full time job and that’s it. I used my extra time to look after myself, cook fresh homemade (cheap!) meals and shop for deals. I feel like I save in the long run because I’m more calm, frugal, healthy, and I can be here 100% for my main job, and not take unpaid leave because of sickness.

  • nancxpants

    I think I might print out the note to self from #3 to hang up in my apartment. Gotta stop letting the thought of a better place make me feel terrible about being in a good place.

  • Phoebe

    if you plan on doing a PhD (I am approaching year 5), I recommend taking a year or two off. It allows you to work on some good applications, get to know the programs (and the financial packages each offers), AND, if you have the means, find a source of income – don’t just save money, but get that retirement fund started. I wish I had before I started in my program, as I am now living off stipends and often dip into my savings for research trips, conferences, car repairs, etc… And keep seeing someone for your anxiety! I developed it by my second year and luckily my school offers ten free sessions with a counselor per year. Good luck!

  • BI

    I love that quote by Obama. I’m going to think of that whenever I get anxious.

  • Carolina

    This came at the perfect time for me! I am not perfect. I lose track of my goals (or what my goals should be), but I am working really hard at getting my financial life in order. I do have student debt which I am working hard on, but have never skipped a credit card payment and always do it in full. I don’t need to be stressed because I have a plan.