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Financial Wellness: How to Manage Financial Anxiety

Money is more than just numbers and budgets; it’s deeply connected with our emotions, values, and behaviors. As a therapist, I often encounter clients grappling with financial stress, not merely due to lack of funds but due to underlying mental and emotional factors. Below are three key areas of focus to better understand our money psychology and the role financial therapy can have. 

1. Money stories and Personal Histories

Our relationship with money is significantly shaped by the life we’ve lived. The stories we tell ourselves about money and the unconscious beliefs about money developed in childhood can profoundly influence our financial behaviors as adults. For example, a person raised in a household where money was scarce might develop a scarcity mindset, leading to anxiety about spending or an overemphasis on saving. Conversely, someone from a wealthy background might adopt the belief that more money equates to happiness. Understanding these narratives allows individuals to recognize and challenge these ingrained beliefs, paving the way for healthier financial behaviors.

2. Emotional Spending and Financial Stress

Emotions/ feelings play a crucial role in our financial decisions. Emotional spending is embodied by purchasing things to manage feelings rather than a deeper need, often leading to financial distress. People often share stories of shopping sprees triggered by stress, sadness, or boredom (think Treat Yo Self from Parks and Rec). Financial therapy helps us recognize these patterns and develop healthier coping mechanisms. By exploring the emotions behind our spending, we can learn to address the root causes of their financial behaviors rather than merely treating the symptoms. 

3. Communication and Financial Relationships

Money can be a significant source of conflict in relationships. Financial therapy emphasizes the importance of open and honest communication about money within families and partnerships. Misaligned financial goals, differing money narratives, and lack of transparency can strain relationships. Encouraging clients to have regular, judgment-free conversations about their financial aspirations, fears, and habits fosters mutual understanding and cooperation. Tools like budgeting together, setting shared financial goals, and respecting each partner's financial autonomy can strengthen the financial and emotional bonds in relationships.

Doing deep work in any form can sometimes feel hard, but not impossible! When we better understand what we learned (or didn’t learn) about money growing up shapes not just our practice with it but how it makes us feel. Today there may be things we love to spend on and your partner, family, or friends can't imagine why you choose to spend money in those ways (that’s probably true both ways). By building skills and tools to better understand our money behaviors, values, and aspirations, we can live a more robust and vibrant life!


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