Here’s a fun, indoor thing to do on the next rainy day. Type the question “What do people fear most?” into your preferred search engine and look at the results.
We humans are scared of all sorts of things: failure, change, heights, snakes, the dark, giving speeches, being alone, being confined in small spaces, being judged.
From experience, we know fear affects people in different ways. In the face of danger—real or imagined—some people run like a scared jackrabbit. They pull the covers over their head and hope the trouble passes. Others can’t sit still, can’t stop pacing because their hearts are racing. They have to DO something.
I see this in my business. I constantly meet people with financial fears: Will they ever be out of debt? Will they have enough money to retire? Is the market going to crash? How would they make it if they lost income because of a death or disability?
I understand such fears and that’s why I encourage jittery, scared clients to ask themselves four probing questions.
1. What exactly am I afraid of? By naming both your fear and its consequences, you can begin to assess the fear’s true capacity for harm. For example, “If I have to file for bankruptcy, I’m afraid of what people might think of me.” Or “I’m afraid my business isn’t going to make it. What if my family ends up homeless and living under an overpass?”
The more specific and honest you can be, the clearer will be your understanding of what to do next. It also helps to have a trusted, objective friend or financial advisor to help you process financial fears. He or she can help you separate realistic ones from irrational ones.
2. Is this a fear I wish I didn’t have? Personally, I am grateful for my fear of investments that “sound too good to be true.” That fear has kept me from putting my family’s financial future at risk. Not every fear is bad.
But there are other financial fears most of us wish we did not have: asking for a raise, leaving a stable but unsatisfying job for a new role that seems like a better fit, trying to live on less, so we can save more. (What would friends think if we curtailed our lifestyle?)
In short, if you have a financial fear you wish you didn’t have, it’s probably a fear worth facing.
3. What’s at stake if I give in to this fear? Perhaps you’ve wanted for years to start your own business. But with this strong desire, there’s also a crippling fear. Maybe you worry about failing? Being poor and going hungry? Losing your home? Being laughed at or talked about?
I get it. However, I also know that if you always let fear call the shots (a) you might avoid dire consequences (though there’s no guarantee of that); and (b) you will reach the end of your life never having attempted, much less accomplished, the dream you say is so important to you.
Some risks are both scary and worth it. And sometimes not facing a fear is the biggest risk of all.
4. What do I stand to gain if I confront my fear? Suppose you faced your fear and took actions that make you uncomfortable. Could you fail, resulting in financial hardship, social disruption, family strife, etc.? Sure.
But what if you succeeded? What if, thanks to a little courage, you became the person you always wanted to be? Suppose you found the lifework and the future you’ve always dreamed of?
In short, if you have financial fears, you’re normal. I’ve learned that when we bring those fears out into the open and name them for what they are, they lose some of their dread.
In fact, they can actually become useful when we examine and discuss them.
I recently wrote an e-book called “How to Put Money Worries in Your Rear View Mirror.” It offers a proven plan for getting on the road to financial peace and freedom. If you’re struggling with financial fears, I’d like to send it to you, absolutely free. Simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Argent Advisors, Inc. is an SEC-registered investment adviser. A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request. Please See Important Disclosure Information here.