Three Moves To Make To Regain Financial Control

No, you can’t maneuver the markets, inflation or interest rates. But you can manage more than you think – and doing so will make you feel better in these uncontrollable times

How are you doing? That can be a loaded question these days. Especially because research has started to show the degree to which the coronavirus pandemic is impacting our mental health. According to a research conducted in late-June and published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in mid-August, 41% of US Adults reported struggling with “at least one mental or behavioral health condition.” Anxiety, not surprisingly, was highest on the list. And chances are pretty good much of this worry and depression relates to money.

Even during good times our finances rank high on the list of the topics that plague us emotionally. Now, however, multiple surveys show those worries are practically universal with the vast majority of respondents saying they feel worried about having enough not just for today but for retirement, and also that those worries are sending our overall stress levels higher.

So, what do we do? We can build our financial resilience – or rebuild it if it’s been taken down a notch – by focusing on controlling those things we can control, and letting go of the rest. And doing so will help us breathe a little freer and easier as well. Start by making these three moves.

Control: Your knowledge of the numbers
Let Go Of: The feeling that your money is the boss of you

Information is power. But when it comes to our financial flows, many of us don’t have a good enough grip on it. Start by tracking – using an app, pencil and paper, or your credit union’s or bank’s online application – how much is coming in, how much is going out and where it’s going. Once you start to see that you are, perhaps, spending more than you thought on utilities (a natural since you’ve likely been home more in the last few months than usual) you can make an effort to reduce your consumption. Seeing changes in your bills will inspire you to do more.

Control: Your long-term (and short-term) plans
Let Go Of: The feeling that your future isn’t yours to determine

Having goals and a roadmap that shows how you’ll proceed from the place you are right now to the place you want to be in the future is key to actually making that plan a reality. But far too many people stumble through, letting life take them by the reins instead. Remember that the best goals share three traits: they are specific, actionable, and have deadlines. So, maybe your near term goal is to boost your emergency fund until it’s a full $2,000. Decide when you want to meet this goal. Then break down the time you’ve allotted yourself so that you know – specifically – how much money you need to come up with on a weekly basis to get there.

Control: Your channels of communication with your significant other
Let Go Of: The feeling that you’ll never be on the same page

It isn’t reasonable to expect that just because we’re romantically linked to another person they’ll want the same things from their money that we want from ours. (Haven’t you ever heard that opposites attract? Financial opposites do, too.) Once a month, make a specific date in the calendar to sit down and talk about what you want from your money and what’s standing in the way of you achieving it. Agree that you’ll continue to hold these pow-wows as a way of keeping each other accountable and getting – as a unit – where you want to go.

Jean Chatzky