We asked you, our Financial Mindfulness Facebook family – across Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom – to take part in a survey about financial stress in your life. The results are in.
Financial stress, which comes with a strong set of beliefs, is a huge factor in your lives. Monthly bills – such as credit cards and other regular payments – disorganisation, income and unexpected expenses are the major causes of your financial stress.
Constantly stressed about money
One of the most striking findings of our July 2017 survey was that an extraordinary 94 per cent of respondents experienced financial stress – defined as “feeling discomfort and/or worry about making financial decisions” – at least “fairly often”.
A surprising 35 per cent experienced this kind of financial stress “all the time”, while just over a quarter were affected “very often”.
We also asked you a series of questions that haven’t been widely posed to the public before about financial stress. Your answers showed the seriousness of people’s struggles around money.
Why does financial stress hurt our concentration?
Because other studies have showed that financial stress can cause issues with concentration in our daily lives, we asked exactly what about your financial worries affects your concentration. “I can’t stop thinking about debt and [my] financial struggle,” was a typical response we received to one of the questions we posed. “Thinking several things at once and always having the uncertainties and insecurities present in [my] mind. Focus is clouded with fear,” said another woman. Similarly, this: “I cannot concentrate since money is always on my mind. Worrying about how to pay all the bills and keep the kids fed make it difficult to focus.”
Another wrote of the damage that a lack of knowledge was having for her and her partner: “Just being disorganized, my boyfriend and I have no control over our finances and we do not know where to start. We are trying to [get help] but we’re still not dedicated to [the] advice.”
Why do we deliberately avoid thinking about the problem?
We know financial stress comes with self-defeating beliefs. Our survey showed the fears behind these beliefs.
“If I think about it too much I panic,” was a typical response, while another admitted suffering from “head in the sand syndrome”. Responses to this question revealed some real emotional distress when dealing with money: actually facing their financial problems was “too overwhelming”, “exhausting”, “too embarrassing”, “too stressful”, “I want it to go away”, “seems impossible, “it scares me and hurts”.
That makes a response like the following totally understandable: “I run away from things I don’t know how to handle.” This response seemed a bit more worrying: “It’s good to avoid thinking about it because the more you think about it, you give the problem more energy.”
From so much worry, it’s a short step to this: “It makes me depressed and not want to do anything or see any people.”
We asked about mindfulness too: what do people think it is? Interesting the least popular choice was “meditation”. The most popular was “being more aware”, followed by “making conscious decisions more often.”
How would a life without financial stress look?
We also asked exactly how people would even know if their financial had reduced, a reasonable question given the pervasiveness and complexity of the problem.
Easily the most popular option was “I would not worry about money as often”, which got more than twice the votes that “I would feel calmer making financial decisions” then “I would pay bills and meet my repayments without a problem”.
Way down the list was “I would have more money”, suggesting absence of financial stress is not about wealth.
You want to try to solve financial stress with mindfulness
Happily for us, a huge majority of respondents would try our program – which is a personalised financial stress reduction program, delivered by an app. An overwhelming 86 per cent said they would trial a free app or web-based platform that combined financial education, mindfulness sessions and goal-setting in an attempt to reduce their financial stress.