Stop Worrying About Money – Once and For All

by David Ning · 13 comments

This is a guest post from Neal Frankle, CFP®.  Like many, he was affected by the financial crisis but unlike most who did nothing, he managed to turn it into a positive experience.

It’s easy to be scared to death these days. You may have lost 40% (or more) of your investment capital. To put the cherry on top, you might be making a lot less money now than you did 12 months ago too. Times are tough. Believe me, I get it.
But like no other time before in your life, now is the time for an adult assessment of where you stand financially.  The funny thing is you may find that things aren’t as bad as you think.  For example, my income took a major hit when the market started to melt down last year. I am in the money management business and as the assets I manage shrank, so did my paycheck. To make matters worse, my business expenses are fixed so my net income went down much faster than the market. Believe me, I know what financial pain is.
I got scared. I worried about my clients.  I worried about my business.  I worried about my family.  I worried about worrying.  I got out of this funk by taking an objective look at my situation.  I:

  1. looked at exactly how much we were spending and how much we could cut. There were things that “we couldn’t live without” only a few months ago but we learned to live without them anyway.
  2. took many of the steps outlined in this blog over the last several months. (editor’s comment: what a smart man)
  3. got my entire family involved in the finances and it was the first time they ever took an interest. Everyone pitched in. It was good.

It turned out that it wasn’t all that bad.

Since then, we spent more time together as a family doing things that didn’t cost money. We played cards instead of going out to movies. We sat and talked instead of going out to dinner. This was a huge positive and it’s a gift I never would have gotten had it not been for the economic downturn.

I also made changes at the office and readjusted my retirement plan.  I’ll probably have to work 5 years longer than I originally anticipated, but that’s not so bad either. I love what I do and I can’t imagine doing anything different with my time. The great thing is, the 5 extra years doesn’t take into account the possibility that things could improve. Stranger & worse things have happened.

If you are worried and have financial anxiety, assess your situation objectively. What is the worst thing that could happen?  Is it likely that you’ll starve and be homeless?  Probably not.  What is the worst-case scenario for you?

The next question is, “Can you accept your worst-case scenario?  If you have to cut your expenses or get an additional job, is it really all that bad?

The last question is, can you improve the situation? In my case, I had no control over the market but I did have control over how I communicated with my clients and how much money I spent in the office and at home.  What can you do to improve your situation?

A few months ago I never would have said this but now I have to admit that I’m grateful for this financial fiasco. I’m not happy about the damage it’s done to millions of people, but it really helped me focus on what matters and what doesn’t.

How about you? Have you benefited in any way from what’s happening in the financial world? I’d really like to know.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

tom February 5, 2009 at 10:20 am

Great article, i look at the news and around me and all I hear is people whining and complaining that its not fair that jobs are being lost.

And I think to myself, you’re an idiot because you bought the house and car which you could not afford. Just because the dealership you can, does not mean you really can, its all business.

Plus, clearly you got yourself out of a tough situation, while most people keep complaining and don’t do anything.

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Jules @ Lovely Las Vegas February 5, 2009 at 12:31 pm

What a wonderful piece. A lot of people are re-evaluating their lifestyles, their spending, and their savings. And even though the economy is not how we wish it to be, this situation has made many re-jigger their lives. And rediscover what is truly most important.

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tom February 5, 2009 at 12:37 pm

I am not sure if you misunderstood, but i did not buy a car or house.
I was simply just saying that when people make these purchases they don’t put in any common sense, they listen to others who can’t give proper advice and then when shit happens, they complain.

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Neal Frankle February 5, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Thanks Tom. If you just bought a car and a house, my guess is that you (and everyone around you) will be calling you a genius in a few years. You probably bought these things at huge discounts. Nicely Done Tom.

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Neal Frankle February 5, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Tom, sorry, I did in fact misunderstand. Thanks for clarifying. You are right on. Folks just spend without thinking sometimes. They don’t put it in perspective. As you suggest, we should ask, “am I about to do something that is going to create serenity or chaos in my life”. I think that one question would save lots of heartache.

Jules…..thanks for your very kind words.

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CD Rates February 5, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Neal,

Great post.

We’ve made similar decisions over the years. When my wife and I were first married I worked two jobs so she could be home with the children. Ove the years, I was able to move away from having to have two. Then children grew and became more expensive. We cut where we could, but some things like private school were very important. I again took on a 2nd job to cover those expenses. I’m able to do it from my house so thankfully I’m home for that part.

I recently also started blogging on my own to bring in some income and my wife is doing some daycare. That still allows her to still be home.

And cutting expenses and getting a 2nd job isn’t too bad. You do have to manage time carefully because the family isn’t getting any younger. We are feeling that pull a little so reining some things in to make sure the family time doesn’t suffer.

Solutions are out there. We just have to be willing to look high and low and be creative.

BTW, fixed income products like CDs are really popular, we are busier than ever. :O)

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Neal Frankle February 5, 2009 at 4:09 pm

Thanks CD. I really respect the choices you and your wife made. You figured out what was important to you and you made it happen. That’s what I’m talking about.

You should feel very proud of your accomplishments.

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marci February 5, 2009 at 7:55 pm

It’s been a huge wake up call to millions…. some of whom will actually wake up and do something to improve their situation. Others will just whine.
For many others, it was a confirmation that they have been on the right track all the time – frugalness pays. and frugalness gives peace of mind.

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Seth February 5, 2009 at 11:13 pm

Neal,

Great post with some really practical and digestible steps for getting through financial anxiety. Like so many things in life, when we actually shed light on those dark little “worst-case scenarios” and “what-if” situations, they’re usually not that bad.

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Neal Frankle February 6, 2009 at 8:25 am

Marci and Seth…..so glad you on track and I really appreciate the comments. Moneyning has some terrific articles on how to stay on track. Don’t you really love this blog? I do.

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marci February 6, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Yes – David’s one of my top 5 blogs :)

And that worst case scenario works for me in a lot of real-life situations, family situations, and work situations also – not just the money ones. Once I have thought thru the process, finding that worst case scenario usually reduces my anxiety :)

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Neal Frankle February 6, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Agreed. You know, one of my favorite books of all time is “How To Stop Worrying And Start Living” Its an oldie but a goodie. It talks about this quite a bit.

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Chrissi November 15, 2011 at 11:39 am

I think that it is all too easy to spend more than you actually have, and that banks actually encourage you to do so!
I had somebody phone me the other day from my bank to discuss financing a house purchase – he was amazed that I would not be requiring a loan in order to do so!
Still, I worry about money, and whether or not I will really have enough to retire when I need to, and when working another five years is no longer an option!

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