Money stress keeping you up at night? Do you need financial therapy?

5 Remedies for Financial Stress

Money stress keeping you up at night? Do you need financial therapy?

Americans are a stressed-out bunch. The primary source? Money.

According to a 2019 report from the American Psychological Association, two-thirds of Americans said money is a top source of stress. It’s been that way since the survey began in 2007. 

It’s no wonder we’re plagued with financial worries. Four in 10 American adults reported they would have trouble covering an unexpected $400 expense, according to a study from the Federal Reserve. And a recent survey from Charles Schwab revealed that nearly 60% of US adults live paycheck to paycheck. 

Our day-to-day money challenges mean most of us aren’t thinking about saving for the future, either. Only 38% of people have an emergency fund, according to Schwab. One in five Americans has no retirement savings, a Northwestern Mutual study found. One in five Americans are also repaying student loans.

All this financial stress comes with a steep price — we’re paying for it with our physical and mental health.

If you’re feeling the pain of financial strain, here are some common ways it can impact your health, along with five tips to help you stress less while taking control of your personal finances — and your life.

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How Financial Stress Affects Your Health

Poor financial health correlates to poor physical health: 59% of people don’t get routine check-ups, 60% don’t exercise regularly, and 38% are more ly to skip preventative healthcare visits due to cost,  a survey from online lending marketplace LendingClub revealed.

Mental health and financial stress are strongly linked, too. For example, people with debt are three times more ly to have a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression. “Research shows that people with high levels of debt have higher rates of depression,” said Anne Brennan Malec, PsyD, LMFT, a financial therapist and founder of Symmetry Counseling in Chicago. 

And stressing about your finances can make you physically ill. Any type of prolonged stress, including financial strain, creates a constant “fight or flight” response in the body. That wreaks havoc on your immune system, making you vulnerable to disease. Over half of both women (68%) and men (56%) report losing sleep due to money worries, according to a survey from 

How to Deal with Financial Stress

Stressing about your finances won’t solve your money issues. But being proactive about getting to the root of your worries and addressing them can help. 

Here are five easy ways to create a plan to get your finances on track and position yourself for a stronger,  less stressful financial future:

Create a spending plan and stick to it

Having a spending plan (aka a budget) is one of the best ways to take control of your money and stop the cycle of worry. A spending plan lets you decide when and how you spend your money. It also makes sure you’re able to cover “must-haves” — fixed expenses housing, food, utilities, and healthcare, while also working toward paying off debt and building your savings. 

Having a spending plan doesn’t mean foregoing fun. “Remember to leave room for things you enjoy,” noted Jennifer Dunkle, a licensed professional counselor based in Fort Collins, Colo. “It may mean sacrificing elsewhere, but you have to spend less than you earn to get ahead.” 

Eliminate debt

If debt is keeping you up at night, take steps to get rid of it. First, tally up all of your debt to determine exactly what you’re dealing with.

Then, pay it off using a “debt snowball”: Pay off the smallest balance first, then put that payment toward the next smallest debt, and so on until you’ve paid it all off.

Being debt-free can significantly reduce your financial stress and improve your peace of mind.

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Build an emergency fund

An emergency fund is a “safety net” to help you cover financial mishaps or unexpected expenses, such as a large medical bill, surprise car repair or an unexpected job loss. Having an emergency fund can reduce your stress because it provides a financial buffer against having to borrow money to pay for an unanticipated expense. 

How much should you save? Most financial experts recommend setting aside enough to cover three to six months’ of essential living expenses. You may want to save even more if you have a family and children, or if you have less stable employment or earn a variable income.  

Building up your emergency fund may seem daunting at first, especially if you’re feeling strapped for cash. Whether it’s $10 or $100, putting aside a little each month adds up over time. You could also consider selling any unused items you have around the house to help build your emergency fund even faster. 

Read more: How Much Should I Put into My Emergency Fund?

Boost your income

Want to get rid of financial stress? Make more money! Consider doing something you enjoy to make a little extra cash in your spare time.

Nearly half of Americans have a side hustle, driving for Uber or Lyft, delivering groceries for Instacart or food with DoorDash, or doing freelance work, according to a survey.

Or, if you want to create a passive income stream, consider creating an online course through Udemy or Teachable, for example.

Get some help

If you’re really struggling with financial stress, seek outside help. Taking a class on basic budgeting or money management can help you get a handle on your finances.

A financial planner can create a long-term savings and investing strategy that allows you to take care of today’s needs while planning for the future.

A financial therapist can serve as a sounding board and help you manage any mental health concerns related to financial stress.

By decreasing financial stress, you can increase your confidence that you are in control of your finances, not the other way around. No matter what your age or financial situation, you have what it takes to make the changes necessary to improve your mental, physical, and fiscal well being.


Do you need financial therapy to deal with money stress and budget fights with a spouse?

Money stress keeping you up at night? Do you need financial therapy?

you may benefit from visiting a financial therapist or counselor to help you find the root of your financial issues. (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Do you fight about money with your spouse or significant other? Do you have trouble following a budget – assuming you even have one? Are you a compulsive spender?

If so, you might need financial therapy. 

What is financial therapy?

Think of it psychotherapy. But instead of improving your state of mind it seeks to improve the state of your money. In essence, it’s supposed to help you behave differently, and for the better, with your money.

Megan McCoy, an instructor at Kansas State University’s Financial Therapy Certificate Program, says financial therapy falls on a spectrum with mental health treatment at one end and financial planning at the other.

According to McCoy, financial therapy can be as intense as mental health treatment – where unresolved financial trauma is resolved — but it can also be talking with a financial professional who helps you explore your financial goals in a new light. 

At least one expert says it’s important to note the difference between financial coaching, the sort of thing a financial adviser might do for normal money-related issues, and financial therapy.

Financial planners, for instance, will coach clients toward positive financial outcomes, says Victor Ricciardi, a finance professor at Goucher College.

For instance, many do-it-yourself investors, according to Dalbar study, often buy and sell mutual funds at the wrong times; they buy when prices are high and sell when prices are low.

And that’s the exact opposite of what they should be doing. That behavior, which is all too common among average investors, doesn’t, however, merit financial therapy.

Rather it merely requires coaching on the part of a financial planner.

Financial therapy, by contrast, focuses on deeper psychological experience issues that result in money disorders, says Ricciardi.

“Clients are influenced by money flashpoints and beliefs they develop during their childhood and teenage years,” he says. “If these experiences are positive … an individual is more ly to have a positive view of money in their adulthood.”

But if these money experiences are negative — observing our parents overspending and accumulating credit card debt — an individual is more ly to have a negative view of money in their adulthood, says Ricciardi.

“Many times, these individuals will repeat this negative behavior,” he says. “In the most severe cases, for some individuals, this results in money disorders such as compulsive gambling, hoarding, and obsessive shopping.

Is financial therapy best for you?

Do you and your significant other have communication problems? That’s the biggest sign that financial therapy is necessary, says Derek Lawson, a visiting instructor in Texas Tech University’s Personal Financial Planning Program and a financial planner with Priority Financial Partners in Durango, Colorado.

Does one person cross their arms when the other is talking? Does one spouse interrupt or consistently answer for the other partner? Are one or both spouses sarcastic in an almost uncomfortable way towards the other, perhaps to be hurtful? And, is one hiding something financial, such as a bank account, from their spouse? In all these cases, the couple ly needs to see a financial therapist — and perhaps a couple's therapist, says Lawson.

Other signs you might need therapy?

Brad Klontz, an associate professor of practice at the Financial Psychology Institute at Creighton University, says the following are also signs you might need financial therapy:

When you are engaging in chronic self-destructive financial behaviors; when your financial stress is keeping you up at night; when financial problems are interfering with your relationships or your work; and when financial stress is having a negative impact on your health.

Where to find help

The Financial Therapy Association Network has an online tool that allows people to search for financial therapists, some of whom might have a Certified Financial Therapist-I or CFT-I designation.

Have no fear

Any stigma you may feel from using a financial therapist should be offset by the benefits of consulting one, experts say.“Since 2007, money has been consistently rated as the number one stressor for Americans,” McCoy says. “Everyone could use more skills to handle that stress, use their money more efficiently, and reach their financial goals.”

Signs you need therapy:

  • Fighting with your spouse over money, with one seen as spender, the other as saver
  • An inability to follow a budget.
  • Feeling emotional distress from estate planning.
  • Struggling to deciding how (and how much) to financially support adult children 
  • Spending compulsively
  • Hoarding; this can also mean a compulsion not to spend money
  • Financial infidelity
  • Anxiety about finances
  • Excessive risk aversion and/or excessive risk taking around finances. 
  • Emotional distress from foreclosure
  • Dealing with inheritances
  • Couples deciding to merge or keep finances separate after marriage.

Robert Powell is the editor of TheStreet’s Retirement Daily and contributes regularly to USA TODAY. Got questions about money? Email Bob at

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10 Ways to Curb Financial Anxiety When You’re Stressed About Money

Money stress keeping you up at night? Do you need financial therapy?

We’ve all been there before: You wake up in the middle of the night, and while you try to get back to sleep, your mind veers to the topic of money.

Before you know it, you’re in a full-blown 2am panic during which you lose sleep and accomplish little.

What begins as a passing thought to remember to pay the bills can suddenly leave you worried about how you’d pay those bills if you lost your job, how to climb debt, or how to make your budget stretch for the month.

If the topic of money leaves you in a cold sweat, there may be a deeper reason behind the stress.

However, the good news is that you can absolutely put yourself in control of your financial thoughts and actions.

By taking a step back from your worst fears and making sure you control your cash – and not the other way around – it’s possible to dismiss those negative thoughts and actually get some sleep at night.

1. Focus on the Positive

There’s a lot to be said for focusing on the good aspects of your finances instead of the negative issues. Of course, thinking positively won’t magically pay your bills or stretch your budget, but it can help calm your fears. It can also help you recognize and appreciate your financial strengths, which could lead to solutions to some of your problems.

Grab a piece of paper and start listing the positive aspects of your money management skills. Perhaps you have a great job, are regularly socking money away in a 401k or an IRA, and have a nice emergency fund saved up. Even when things are tight or money is causing you anxiety, taking a second to focus on where you’re going right can help you stay calm and clear your head.

2. Retool Your Budget

When I get the most stressed about my finances, it often means my personal budget is whack. It can be anything from overspending on certain categories, to not properly planning my purchases. Regular budget checkups are essential since life, and all of its expenses, are rarely constant.

Check these items off your to-do list when your budget starts causing you stress:

  1. Review. Go over your bills and expenditures, and make sure all your numbers are accurate by ensuring that receipts and bills match up with your budget. Of course, things can fluctuate from month to month because of car repairs, health emergencies, travel, and other unpredictable events. This might be the perfect time to allot a certain amount to an emergency fund for a little more peace of mind.
  2. Reduce. Check to make sure you’re in the black each month, since going into debt is generally the greatest cause of stress. If you find yourself in the red more months than not, it’s time to rethink your money-making or spending strategy. Try taking on a second job to bring more in, or reduce your phone bill, TV package, or travel plans to restore balance to your budget. If you need help cutting down some of your expenses, check out Truebill.
  3. Pay Off. Create a debt pay-off plan and stick to it so you have an idea of when your credit card balances, student loans, or car payments are going to be paid off – this knowledge alone can help you breathe a major sigh of relief.
  4. Repeat. Repeat as needed to feel more in control of your finances.

3. Banish Financial Shame

Past financial mismanagement can lead to an aura of shame, whether it’s a lack of money, incorrect budgeting, or simply being ignorant of proper financial practices.

Unfortunately, that shame can perpetuate a cycle of anxiety and future mismanagement. If that sounds you, you’re not alone.

With an unemployment rate hovering around 7% and an average household credit card debt of over $7,000, it’s clear that not all Americans are on par with Warren Buffet.

When you’re feeling embarrassed about money, remember that taking the time to educate yourself and organize your finances – even if the numbers make you squirm – can set you on a healthier path for the future. There’s no shame in wanting to be better with money, so don’t feel awkward if you need to broach the subject with your partner, see an advisor, or ask for help.

4. See an Advisor

Making an appointment with a financial advisor can help calm your fears and ensure you’re on the right path for your financial goals.

Whether you want to save more for retirement, start investing, or you just need help defining your aspirations, an advisor can be of great assistance.

If you don’t currently have a financial advisor, SmartAsset has a tool where you can locate vetted advisors in your area.

Many financial advisors offer a no-obligation, low-pressure first appointment as a way to get to know each other and consider the basics of your finances. The process is very much seeing a therapist – but for your money. Just bring a list of goals and questions to the first appointment. If you feel comfortable, make it a long-term relationship.

5. Contribute to an Emergency Fund

The idea that the best-laid plans can be derailed by unknown events, such as the loss of a job, illness or death, or even natural disasters, can be paralyzing. However, if fear of the unknown has you second-guessing your financial plans, it’s a good time to evaluate your emergency fund – a nest egg of cash that remains untouched, except for emergency purposes.

If you haven’t started an emergency fund yet, begin with a goal of saving up just $1,000 on a high-yield account from CIT Bank. Then, as you continue contributing, work your way up to at least six months’ worth of living expenses. Knowing that you have money set aside for emergencies can help you rest much easier at night.

6. Stop Comparing Yourself – Especially Online

My , Instagram, and accounts are generally inundated with friends’ pictures of trips, cars, and other clear indicators of wealth. No matter how accurate my perception of their wealth actually is, comparing myself and my finances to others’ definitely causes me stress.

It seems we, as humans, to know where we fall on the measuring stick of wealth, looks, and success, so we use others to gauge our position. However, constantly comparing yourself to others is not a healthy way to live.

Here are some things to remember the next time you feel the urge to compare yourself to others financially:

  • You don’t know what’s in their bank account. While a friend might seem to enjoy plenty of success, it could be courtesy of credit cards and debts.
  • You don’t see the hard work and sacrifice that goes along with financial success.
  • Your friends’ journeys are not yours – your experiences are unique.
  • Many people post the best version of their lives on social media, so perception can be skewed.
  • Keep some factors in your life private, so you don’t feel the need to promote a perceived sense of wealth to your friends. While it’s okay to share pics from your latest vacation, boasting online is unhealthy and can leave you spending more to maintain the facade.
  • The only person you can change is yourself. Instead of gauging your success by that of others, create a measuring stick by which you can feel more in control over your money, such as a healthy savings account and an accurate monthly budget. These can be more effective indicators of your wealth and success – not someone’s photo album.

And, if all else fails and you still can’t stop yourself from feeling stressed and depressed because your friend just went to Hawaii, it might be time to put your social media accounts on hold until you can gain control of your feelings.

7. Consider the Worst

It might seem counter-intuitive that one of the best coping techniques for financial anxiety is to consider the worst. After all, “the worst” is probably a trigger for much of your money stress. Whatever it is to you, take a few minutes to actually ponder what would happen if it came to fruition.

After you realize and acknowledge your fears, put a contingency plan in place and you can diminish the power they hold over you. The truth is that bad things sometimes happen, but by predicting them and knowing how you’d react, you can find yourself firmly in control of almost any situation.

8. Educate Yourself

If fear of the unknown causes you to stress about money, turn those unknowns into “knowns.” For instance, if you want to save for retirement but have no idea where to start, you may be worried about the future. Or if you think you need life insurance, but don’t understand the difference between the various types, you are ly feeling extremely confused.

In the case of finances, ignorance is definitely not bliss. Calm your fears by educating yourself and performing the following tasks:

  • Research retirement savings options online.
  • Take a course through your local continuing education department on financial management and budgeting.
  • Sign up for a college course in accounting.
  • Take a massive online open course (MOOC) for beginning investments.
  • Talk to a financial counselor about your options.
  • Ask someone for advice who understands your particular financial question.

By taking matters into your own hands and educating yourself, money stops being a stressful enigma and becomes something that you can understand and control.

9. Talk to Your Partner

If you’re managing money with someone else, such as a partner or spouse, shouldering too much of the burden yourself – or not shouldering enough – can cause definite stress. A clear division of financial responsibility can help you feel less anxious about where your money is going when someone else is involved.

Set a time to talk to your partner about your financial worries. As you look over the numbers together, several things can happen. First, your fears can subside when you realize you’re not alone in your struggles and aspirations.

Second, you can ask your partner to take on some of the burden of financial responsibility so you’re not budgeting and paying bills solo.

And third, you can come up with a new plan for spending and saving that you can agree on, allowing you both to feel at peace with your financial situation.

10. Retain Some Concern

While constantly worrying about money is detrimental to your wellbeing, retaining some concern over your finances might actually protect you from making poor spending and saving decisions. For example, being preoccupied with the future could inspire you to start saving more seriously. Or, extra caution about sticking to your budget may protect you from overspending each month.

Fear can also be helpful when it comes to investments. If your gut is telling you an opportunity is risky, you might want to talk to your financial advisor about putting your money into a lower-risk vehicle. If your spouse is pushing you to change jobs and locations and the idea makes you feel uneasy, some discussion might be required to avoid making a rash decision.

Perhaps a better word for “fear” is actually “respect.” While being anxious about the future is a passive way to deal with finances, actively respecting money and treating it with the proper care can help you plan for the future – and control your cash.

Final Word

The bottom line is this: Staying up at night and worrying about money won’t magically make cash appear in a depleted bank account, or help you decide how to save for your retirement.

Instead, learning how to calm your fears and feel confident about your financial choices is a matter of education, action, and respect.

As you find proactive ways to stay on top of your finances, you just may find that the anxious feeling that comes when checking your bank balance dissipates in favor of control and confidence.

Do you ever feel anxious about your finances? How do you cope?


Money stress keeping you up at night? Do you need financial therapy?

Money stress keeping you up at night? Do you need financial therapy?

Does money stress have you tossing and turning at night? Are you ignoring your bank account statements?

More than half of adult Americans said they’ve lost sleep over at least one financial issue, according to a recent Bankrate survey. Everyday expenses were the most common issue keeping Americans up at night, with nearly a third of people surveyed saying they lost sleep over them.

Money is about more than numbers: emotions are often at play too. Just as you can seek professional help for unhealthy issues in life, financial therapists can help you deal with problems related to money.


Financial therapy is the practice of helping people with how they think, feel and behave with money to improve their well-being, according to the Financial Therapy Association.

It's a relatively new niche. The FTA — a professional organization created to set standards for the industry — was established in 2010 and began to offer certifications this year, FTA president Meghaan Lurtz said.

The service is generally provided by a financial or mental health professional. The FTA offers varying degrees of certification, which leads to differing degrees of assistance, the provider's level of education and training.

Financial therapy could be assistance for people who can't keep tabs on their cash, or help for couples who regularly fight about money. But it can also include more serious matters gambling addiction.

“We all have stuff that is good and that is bad about our relationship with money,” Lurtz said. “It's really hard to change a belief or habit if you don't even know where or why you are doing it.”


It depends on who you see and what you are seeing them for.

If you are seeing a family and marriage therapist about issues in your relationship and money is a major sticking point, someone with a specialty in financial therapy may be able to better sort through those.

If you go to see a financial adviser and they work in the financial therapy space, they may be able to elicit better answers from you on how you feel about retirement or how market volatility makes you feel, and what that means for your financial planning.

However, a financial adviser should not be helping you with mental health issues depression. Part of the training is recognizing when to refer a client to get the help they need. Similarly, a therapist should not be providing financial advice, such as what stock to buy.

Financial therapy is not regulated but people who receive the certification are held to their own licensure and industry standards.

People who receive the first level of FTA certification, such as a fee-only certified financial planner, aren't providing therapy in a traditional sense but do have a more informed position on emotional aspects of money. Only those with some mental health training or who are actively licensed mental health professionals, such as a social worker, psychologist or family and marriage therapist, can receive the higher-tier certification.

“My ears are more highly attuned to money issues and I can go into more detail about money,” said Ed Coambs, a certified financial planner and licensed family and marriage therapist who specializes in financial therapy.

Coambs recently had a client who is going through a separation, and the ex-husband wasn't making agreed upon support payments. So while helping the patient deal with grief over the separation itself, Coambs could also recognize and help address some repeat trauma about money from the patient's childhood.


According to financial therapists, everyone could stand to benefit. But in reality, those whose issues with money are interfering with their life or relationships are ly the best candidates.

People who are in financial distress — such as hiding purchases, spending compulsively or avoiding their financial statements — definitely should seek help, according to Coambs.

But people who have a childhood with a lot of conflict about money or have disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder may also want to consider if that is impacting their financial well-being as well.

A therapist or other mental health professional will be able to tie their understanding of the human psyche to the relationship with money, he said. Whereas a financial planner might be using some therapeutic skill in their planning.

The cost varies widely by practitioner, according to Lurtz.

Sarah Swantner said that in her work as a financial planner, she has often found couples who cannot agree or people who say they want to make changes but cannot. Her firm, Kahler Financial Group, puts an emphasis on understanding and working with the emotional side of money. Ultimately, she went back to school to get a master's degree in mental health counseling to enhance her work.

“If you have a relationship with a client long enough there may be some issues either about anxiety about investing or a life change — inheritance or divorce,” Swantner said. “We want all our planners to have some listening and solving skills.”

It's not just for those with money problems either. Sometimes people with wealth struggle with how to manage it or have guilt about it. Swantner's firm offers hourly financial coaching and therapy for non-financial planning clients as well.

“Even if we are great with money, we all have feelings that are causing angst somewhere,” she said. “It helps to stop and think about why. How would my life be different if I didn't believe this – it's not just for people with 'problems.'”


The FTA has a searchable database for financial therapists near you.


In some cases, you may be better off with another kind of a professional. A licensed therapist or psychologist can help with many emotional and mental health issues.

A financial planner (look for a fee-only one) can help you develop a strategy for your finances now and in the future.

But nonprofit credit counseling services also can provide some money coaching help, which may be a best first step if you are dealing with an overwhelming amount of debt.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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