Yes, you heard right: financial-phobia. Do you experience a quickening heart rate at the thought of managing your finances? Do you ever feel frozen or immobilized? Ever feel sick to the stomach? Dizzy?
You are not alone. According to a 2003 study in the United Kingdom, about one in five suffer from a serious fear of their finances. Of those, about one-half of respondents experience a quickening heart rate at the thought of managing their money.
Experiences of the other symptoms mentioned above range from 11 to 15 percent. A similar study has yet to be performed in the United States, but it would be overly optimistic of us to hope that the situation is any better on this side of the pond.
Besides those notably awful medical symptoms, a fear of your finances can put you in an even worse place financially.
It can mean trusting financial advisers too much. Some sufferers leave mail unopened and deadlines missed. Many people simply cannot stand to deal with their financial affairs.
According to the study, the problem is slightly more pronounced among women – 25% compared to men at 18%. Its prevalence also declines with age, having affected a high 30% among those aged 16 to 24, going down to 11% for those above 65.
If you find yourself facing mild or severe financial phobia, don’t beat yourself up over it. Managing your money can be a little on the stressful side.
Besides, financial matters are often made out to be more complicated than they actually are. Add in all of the financial lingo, and even the most enterprising folks feel daunted. The ironic thing is that being in control of your finances is much less stressful than being out of control, but being stressed is what keeps you out of control. So how do you break the cycle?
First things first, admit the seed of your fears. Maybe you had a big spending habit and lived above your means. Maybe you just can’t understand what a short sale is, or cannot fathom the idea of an exchange-traded index fund. Start by admitting to yourself what your financial shortcomings are.
Step two: outline a few ways to work around your financial shortcomings. Don’t know enough about investing? Head to the local library or bookstore, and pick out a good introduction for beginning investors. Visit the FAQ section of online discount brokers to begin to understand the lingo. With interest and a little dedication, you’ll become investing savvy in no time flat.
Once you start reading up on the basics of investing, you’ll learn that there was very little to be afraid of in the first place.
You’ll begin to understand investing terms: share price, dividends, market capitalization, price to earnings ratio, and asset allocation will no longer sound like Greek to you. Take your time. Start with literature geared towards the beginner, and work your way up.
If you already have an investment advisor, such as one provided by your company retirement plan, don’t be afraid to include them in your ongoing investor education. Ask what they recommend for an investor with your goals. Then, ask why. Why do they recommend a certain approach? Why do they want you to put a certain percentage of your money in bonds as opposed to stocks?
Start small, work hard, and soon you’ll wonder what there ever was to be afraid of in the first place.
Published or updated April 4, 2013.