We’ve all heard the adage “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” And we’ve most likely seen it in action: people who experience hardship, financial or otherwise, and face that hardship with steely resilience and fervor, wasting no energy on self-pity and the blame game. On the flip side, we’ve also watched others fall victim to the hardship and be paralyzed by their anxiety or fear. How do you avoid paralysis and stay financially resilient in the face of adversity?
Here are five actionable steps you can take based on the insights that Women & Co. readers have shared with me and a bit of my own experience tackling financial fear:
1. Embrace and pinpoint your fears.
As Betsy Myers says in Take the Lead, leaders aren’t fearless but have the courage to confront and push through their fears. This starts, Betsy believes, with pinpointing exactly what it is you’re really afraid of. When it comes to your finances, is it admitting you made an investment mistake, lost your job, or can’t afford to go out on the town every weekend?
2. Believe in yourself, stick to your values, and have faith that things will improve even if you don’t have all the answers today.
This is advice from Mary Carlson, Holly Hicks-Opperman, and Tricia Doane who are members of the Citi-sponsored Connect: Professional Women’s Network on LinkedIn. I would add this: remember what makes you valuable is who you are as a person, not about what you have.
3. Take stock of where you are financially: what is coming in, what is going out, and what you have in reserve.
Then put together an action plan based on what’s important to you and where you want to be tomorrow financially. Whenever I feel financially anxious, putting “pen-to-paper” or “stylus-to-tablet” helps me breather easier and regain some measure of control over my financial life.
4. Seek out professional advice.
A banker, debt counselor, or licensed financial adviser can review your situation, offer a fresh perspective, and connect you with resources, online and offline, for dealing with the financial issues you are facing and refine your action plan.
5. Focus on consistency, not perfection.
As you move forward, keep in mind that financial toughness is a marathon, not a sprint, so you don’t have to tackle everything at once. Taking it one step at a time will help you build good financial habits that are sustainable through the good and not-so-good times. From time to time, even the most financially strong stumble — at least I do! — the difference is that we regain our balance and keep moving, rather than let that misstep derail us for weeks, months, or years.
Linda Descano, CFA®, is President and Chief Executive Officer of Women & Co., Citibank’s complimentary online resource that provides expert content and commentary for women who want to enhance their financial acumen. Linda is a noted authority on wealth management and personal finance.