Strait Talk Blog

Six Ideas To Help You Stop Worrying About Money

Take Control Of Your Mental Health By Kicking Money-Worries To The Curb


Cory Baer

Cory Baer

Chief Business Development Officer, Founder

Cory Baer is the Chief Business Development Officer for Strait & Sound. In this role, he fulfills a dual mission. First, he serves clients by ensuring that they have the best possible financial plan to achieve their long-term goals, particularly complete financial independence. Second, he also serves as an ambassador of the Strait & Sound brand by introducing the firm to the larger community and select strategic partners.

The COVID-19 pandemic foregrounded a topic that has long been ignored in our culture: mental health. Finally, we get to talk about mental health the same way we talk about physical health. The stigma is abating. For so many years, we could openly talk about our gym membership, our nutrition plan and our physical trainer. That made us look healthy. But we couldn’t talk about our therapist. That made us look weak. Thank goodness that stigma is fading. Mental health is just as important as physical health.

This gives me an opportunity to talk about a mental health issue that plagues so many people: money-worries. The anxiety that comes from money-worries is very real. It can be just as debilitating as a physical disease. In fact, stress and anxiety can be linked to heart disease and numerous other ailments. It eats away at our quality of life and robs us of the every-day joys that we should experience. If you or someone you love is experiencing this, here are six ideas that I believe can really help. They have certainly helped many of my clients.


The Six Ideas

Our promise, at Strait & Sound, is that we help our clients achieve complete financial independence so they never worry about money again. This does not mean that they are so rich they can fritter away money on whatever catches their fancy. That’s not how this works.

My colleague and partner Todd Sixt wrote a great article that describes what financial independence looks like. This is more about arriving at a position in life than it is about your net worth. Some people can achieve complete financial independence with little money. Others will need a sizable honey-pot to be independent. But no matter how much money you have, the point of all of this is to get to a place where money doesn’t worry you any longer.

For several of my clients, this has required a change in mindset. This means that they have needed to ignore many things they used to pay attention to. It also means they now pay attention to things they used to ignore. By changing their mindset and adopting certain disciplines, many of my clients have greatly reduced money-worries. I’ll bet the same thing could happen for you. Here are the six ideas:

  1. Get clarity about what you want money to do for you and your loved ones.
  2. Recognize that you have limited control.
  3. Focus on those things you do control.
  4. Build a comprehensive plan.
  5. Stick to the plan over time.
  6. Practice stewardship.


Get Clarity About What You Want Money To Do

I have said for many years now that I cannot help someone who cannot tell me what they want money to do for them. Money needs a purpose. Money is actually a means to an end—a set of goals that are realized by spending money. Some people make the mistake of believing that more money will make them happier. Just the opposite could be true. More money just might make you more miserable. I’ve seen that happen.

Here is the point I’m trying to make. If the only way that you can NOT worry about money is by having a ginormous honey-pot that just keeps growing, you might never free yourself from money worries. The goal, I believe, is not to get more money. The goal is for there to be enough money to support the quality of life you want for you and your loved ones, along with a feeling that the money will never run out. No two people I’ve ever met have the same goals. This means your money-goals are probably as unique as your DNA.

But the problem I see is that so many people don’t take the time to really get clarity about what they want money to do for them. Instead, they focus on the ups and downs of investing, income generation, taxes and cash-flows. Don’t get me wrong. These things are important. But they are a means to an end—having more than enough money to support the life of your dreams. That is true abundance.

So I have a question for you. What do you want money to do for you and your loved ones? Getting clarity about that allows you to do everything that follows—planning, saving, investing, insuring, tracking outcomes and making pivots. Once you have this clarity, you can really focus on the steps it will take to get you to that position in life my colleague describes.

You heard me say above that to reduce money worries you may need to pay attention to certain things you used to ignore. Getting clarity is the most important thing to pay attention to. This may require you and your loved ones to do some real soul-searching to identify those goals that are most important, possibly even non-negotiable, for you. I promise you that it’s worth the time and effort to do this.

Key Take Away

Your money-goals are probably as unique as your DNA.”

Recognize That You Have Limited Control

Have you ever heard of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)? It’s a real mental health condition that can be incredibly hard to control. Some people suffer with it for life. I find interesting parallels between GAD and certain types of money worries. Let me explain what I mean.

Many people who are worried about building or losing wealth pay attention to certain types of media. They might listen to investment professionals on TV, read certain newsletters or even watch stock-tickers on their computers. These sources tend to be a mish-mash of macro and micro economic indicators. The macro indicators are often about the markets and the economy more generally. The micro indicators are usually related to how their investments are performing.

These information sources produce the illusion of control. I’ve asked some people why they consume this media and they tend to say things like—“if something hot comes along, I want to buy it or if something I’ve bought starts to tank, I want to get out of it right away.” I totally get that mindset. But I also think this sets people up for a whole lot of heartache.

Let me say this for the record. I’ve been in the financial services field for most of my career and I cannot accurately predict what the markets will do today, tomorrow, next month or next year. I can make some educated estimates based on historical trends, but they’re just that—estimates. I know that I don’t control the markets and I’ve come to accept that.

If you want to reduce money-worries, I recommend that you adopt the same mindset. Please recognize that there are many things you don’t control. Why should you do this? Those who suffer from GAD can spiral into depression from many different types of stimuli. Usually, they have to be careful with how much news media they consume. I believe the same is true for those who want to diminish money-worries.

The trend I’ve noticed is that some people are giddy when the markets are up and depressed when the markets are down. But my question is this. Why would you allow something that you have no control over to control the way you feel? I believe a much healthier approach is to acknowledge—to say out loud—I don’t control this. That recognition actually frees you to focus on things you do control.


Focus On Things You Do Control

Freeing yourself from money worries probably requires you to stop focusing on certain things and to start focusing on other things. I recommend that you focus on things you DO control. Let me list several of them:

  • Budgeting. Everyone needs to live on a budget. No matter how much money you make, a budget could be the difference between you achieving your financial goals or not.
  • Saving. Most people who build wealth in this country do so by saving and investing. The money you save today could be the money that you spend later in life, when you most need it.
  • Building a plan. Again, no matter how much money you do or don’t have, you need a financial plan. I’ll describe more on this below.
  • Investing. I said in another article that I believe most people need to take financial risk to achieve their dreams. Investing is an important risk that I advise most people to take.
  • Pivoting. Pivots are an important part of ensuring that your wealth will be there to support your lifestyle. The key is knowing when to make those pivots, what options to consider and why.
  • Earning. I recommend that most people earn an income for as many years as possible. I also recommend that they take advantage of promotions and other opportunities to increase income. For the vast majority of people in this country, complete financial independence will often come from their career earnings.
  • Being in regular consultation with your financial advisor. I recommend that you communicate with your financial advisor often. At least once a year, you should have a deep-dive consultation. Usually, this consultation is about understanding where you are on your journey to complete financial independence and updating the plan.

When you look at the list above, I think you would agree with me that, for the most part, you really are in control of these situations. Here is what I’ve found, after working with hundreds of clients over the years. People who focus on the things they do control know that they’ve taken every reasonable step possible to ensure things go the way that they want. This usually reduces anxiety and gives them peace of mind.  


Build A Comprehensive Plan

Money needs a purpose. Money also needs a plan. If you want to kick money-worries to the curb, one of the best practices I can unreservedly recommend is a comprehensive wealth plan. In the section above I described several things that should be included in your wealth plan: earning, budgeting, saving and investing. To take your peace of mind to the next level, here are a few other things that should be a part of the plan:

  • Tax planning. I believe that tax mitigation is a necessary strategy for most people, especially entrepreneurs and high-income-earners. Tax planning usually works best when your financial advisor and tax preparer are on the same page, working as a team to support your goals.
  • Estate planning. The same is true of estate planning. Seamless wealth transfer to heirs usually comes about from an effect estate plan. I prefer to work with my clients’ estate attorneys to understand how the plan works and what I can do, from a financial perspective, to support it.
  • Insurance planning. Insurance is important both for protecting and growing wealth. This includes property & casualty, auto, life, disability and other forms of protection.
  • Long-term financial planning. An investment plan alone is not enough, in my opinion. You also need a long-term financial plan that you can follow over time. The plan tells you how much wealth you’ll need to achieve your money-goals. It also helps you chart your progress, year-over-year, against those goals.


Stick To The Plan Over Time

There is little that will give you greater confidence in the future of your dreams than going through a challenging time (like COVID and market volatility), sticking to the plan and then seeing the results. This decreases worries and frees you to truly live life. Hard times also stress-test the plan and help you identify potential pivots in the future.

Most plans will need to make a pivot at some point. If you stick to a plan, you’ll probably begin to see trends that you can project out into the future. With your financial advisor, you can then anticipate future pivot points based on these trends. This might include:

  • Times of increased cash-flow when it might make sense to buy more investments.
  • Lean times when you might want to decrease expenses.
  • Opportunities to buy or sell real estate to maximize net worth.
  • Opportunities to diversify investments, rebalance your portfolio or even reduce exposure.

But more than anything, sticking to the plan gives you peace of mind. It allows you to say to yourself and your loved ones: “we’ve taken every possible step we can think of, and our advisors can think of, to achieve our money-goals.”


Practice Stewardship

Money needs a purpose and a plan. But money also needs to take some risks. This is one of the major reasons Todd Sixt and I both advise our clients to view themselves as stewards, rather than owners, of their wealth. Stewards practice emotional distance between themselves and their money. They know that they can’t take it with them when they die. They want to maximize it while they have it and enjoy what it can do for them today.

I’m not advising you to be eat, drink and be merry and forget about tomorrow. That’s not what I’m saying. But here is one trend I’ve noticed. The people who tend to worry most about money are people afraid of losing it. That fear, that over-vaunted sense of caution, tends to prevent people from taking the kinds of risks that can produce sizable returns.

A steward, on the other hand, views their wealth much the way they view their health. They don’t eat right, exercise, take vitamins and get plenty of sleep because they’re afraid of dying. They do all of that so they can live a great life, full of energy and vigor and stamina. They love life with a certain zest that an unhealthy person doesn’t experience. If you really want to reduce or eliminate money worries, see yourself as a steward of your wealth, rather than an owner. After all, you can’t take it with you.


Concluding Thoughts

In this article I’ve outlined six ideas that can help reduce money worries:

  1. Get clarity about what you want money to do for you and your loved ones.
  2. Recognize that you have limited control.
  3. Focus on those things you do control.
  4. Build a comprehensive plan.
  5. Stick to the plan over time.
  6. Practice stewardship.

These ideas have been instrumental in helping my clients. I know they’ll help you too if you put them into practice. If you have questions about anything I’ve said here, please know I’d love to chat.

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