The Three Types of Money Stress

As the tax deadline approached this year, my stress grew and grew! The endless amount of information to gather and organize. The looming deadline. The creeping self-judgement of my procrastination and passivity. The worry that I screwed up.

[Deep sigh]

But even as these emotions swirled, I found relief in knowing that it would end soon. And it did.

We all experience this type of short-term money stress from time to time. Like during tax season, when applying for a loan, or when an unexpected expense occurs. Our stress spikes but then diminishes when the event ends.

Chronic money stress, on the other hand, persists and becomes a way of life.

In my work with clients over the years, I’ve seen that chronic money stress comes in distinct forms. If you find yourself perpetually stressed or anxious about money, it can be helpful to identify your type. This will allow you to find the most efficient solution to your particular type of stress.

Type 1: Money Crisis

Money Crisis is an extreme state of money stress where you cannot pay basic bills such as rent and utilities. It’s more common than you might think. Money Crisis can occur suddenly, with the loss of a job, medical expense, or divorce. If you cannot pay your bills and are at risk of losing safe, secure housing, then the first step is to stabilize your situation. Resources that can help may include family, friends, churches (even if you’re not a member), non-profit organizations and government programs. You can find some helpful links on my Resources page.

This type of money stress can cause trauma, which can affect your ability to move forward. If you’ve survived a money crisis in the past, you may want to consider working with a financial therapist if money continues to be a major source of stress or worry.

Type 2: Money Struggle

Just as it sounds, this type of money stress is characterized by a feeling of financial struggle. You never seem to earn enough or have enough in savings, even if this is not objectively true. In fact, others might think you’re living the good life. But to you, it feels like a constant struggle to maintain the status quo. You worry that you can’t let your guard down – can’t relax, can’t dare to dream about a different career or way of life. You feel trapped or limited in your options. Though you long to feel calm and secure with money, you may doubt if it’s even possible.

This is the most common form of money stress I see in the people I work with. If this describes you, I have good news. It is possible to find peace and calm with money. Once you dive into your history and see the origins of your struggle, things can change quickly. I continue to be amazed how much my clients are able to shift their perception of money and of themselves in just a few weeks of money coaching. If you’d like to explore money coaching, then schedule a call with me to learn more.

Type 3: Money Tension

Money Tension is an often overlooked or unrecognized type of money stress. Other people may think, “What do you have to worry about?” because you know you have enough to meet your needs. Your challenge is that you can’t enjoy the money you have.

This can take different forms. You may be afraid others will judge you if they knew how much you really had, even if you earned your money through hard work. If you didn’t earn it yourself, you may feel guilty and ambivalent about having access to wealth when others don’t. You may have come into money suddenly and feel overwhelmed by the possibilities, decisions, and challenges in navigating relationships within this new dynamic. This can feel incredibly alienating and lonely. Exploring your values, passion, and self-worth will enable you to feel more comfortable with your wealth. Talking with a trusted professional, such as a therapist or behavioral money coach, can help you get to the root of the issue and find relief.

Do you see yourself in one of these descriptions? Let me know if I can help.


Emily Shull is a behavioral money coach and founder of Me Myself and Money. 
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