Do your money worries keep you up at night?
For the eighth year in a row, the American Psychological Association (APA) identified money as the number one stress trigger in its annual Stress in America survey.
The APA's most recent results showed that 72 percent of Americans reported feeling stressed about money, with nearly 1 in 5 reporting that they had either considered skipping or skipped going to the doctor because they had financial concerns. As for relationships, almost one third of adults with partners reported that money is "a major source of conflict."
The following outlines common money stresses, and offers tips for tackling them.
You're just one paycheck or unexpected expense away from financial disaster. A recent survey reported that over 40 percent of American households are "liquid asset poor," meaning that they have less than three months of savings to help absorb a financial shock like a lost job, medical emergency or other unforeseen financial expense.
- Tip: Build an emergency fund. After budgeting, building an emergency fund is the next essential step in financial planning. An emergency fund is essential to absorbing big changes like job loss or smaller, unexpected expenses like a car repair or medical bill. Saving and investing for other goals are equally important, but they should follow the creation and annual review of a healthy emergency fund.
You feel lost financially. A 2014 financial literacy survey found that only 30 percent of Americans could accurately answer three basic personal finance questions dealing with savings and investment returns. Respondents from other major developed countries - including Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and Australia - scored roughly the same. It's a global problem.
- Tip: Identify your biggest financial problems. Does every dime you make go toward paying bills? No savings or investments? No emergency fund? Once you've identified your main money blind spots, get help. Reach out to a trusted friend or relative with good money habits or a qualified financial advisor who can help you see where you stand, establish realistic goals and restart your financial education. Chances are your first lesson will involve learning how to budget.
You'll are unable to foresee saving or investing enough. A March Bankrate.com survey said that nearly half of Americans aren't saving enough for emergencies or retirement. People between 18 and 29 years old, the youngest group, were the most likely to save a small amount; 37 percent said they save 5 percent or less and another 18 percent said they save nothing at all. The biggest savers? The quarter of middle-class households earning between $50,000 and $75,000 annually that put away more than 15 percent of their income.
- Tip: Save or invest more. Start by figuring out where you stand financially. Then meet that reality by cutting spending, adjusting your lifestyle, boosting your income, or very likely, all three. It might make sense to research new or related career paths to earn more so you can save more. Seek qualified help if needed.
You've been keeping money secrets. Money problems affect all relationships, but couples can be hit the hardest. So-called "financial infidelity" - a person's unwillingness to admit to the loss of a job, missed tax or bill payments, overspending or any other problem that siphons cash from a household or business - can affect anyone who shares a financial relationship with you. It may even end the relationship.
- Tip: Summon the courage to make full disclosure. Quantify the situation and share the details face-to-face with the people who need to know, but have a plan in place to rectify the situation. Then face the consequences. You can't control their reaction, so focus on solving the problem and changing your secretive behavior for good.
You can't face financial paperwork. Avoiding bills, statements and other account communications connected with your finances - including work-based benefit communications - reflect financial uncertainty in some form.
- Tip: Get help. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about your situation or consult a qualified financial expert to define and fix the problem. Create a reminder system for all financial decisions you have to make so you won't miss payments, opportunities to save or crucial decisions about pay or benefits.
Bottom line: Facing money fears is tough but essential for financial success. Make time to identify your biggest financial challenges and don't be afraid to ask for qualified help to get control of your finances.
Nathaniel Sillin directs Visa's financial education programs. To follow Practical Money Skills on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PracticalMoney