How to Get Over Your Fear of Money

Every negative belief we've internalized about money is rooted in fear. It's time to get past it.

For as long as I can remember, I've struggled with anxiety surrounding money. As a freelancer whose work and paychecks comes in fits and starts, it was easier to operate like I was constantly broke than investigate the truth behind that assumption. While this frugal mindset protected me when times were more famine than feast, it also left me terrified to check my bank account balance, take on additional monetary responsibilities, and invest in my long-term wealth.

A disordered relationship with money is easy to fall into. Finances are a loaded topic, and we often hear that the rich are evil and the poor are lazy, as well as other reductive myths. We're led to believe that money is fickle—some people are just naturally better at making it—but ultimately, every negative belief boils down to fear. If those myths about the nature of money aren't true, what does that say about us as potential earners? No wonder I felt more comfortable holding my breath every time I pulled out my credit card than questioning the reality of my situation.

If those myths about the nature of money aren't true, what does that say about us as potential earners?

No matter how ingrained your dysfunctional relationship with money is, you have the ability to heal it, and to create a mindset that ultimately leads to increased financial security. We spoke with personal finance experts about how to start the process.

Realize that money is neither good or evil.

Currency—whether it's rocks and shells traded for goods and services, or ones and zeroes on a computer screen—is a morally neutral tool that represents a form of energy exchange. It's what we do with it that creates meaning. Jen Sincero, author of You Are a Badass at Making Money, shared that living paycheck-to-paycheck for a large portion of her life sucked, but it was the belief that she was incapable of attracting that form of energy (money) that really got her down.

Currency—whether it's rocks and shells traded for goods and services, or ones and zeroes on a computer screen—is a morally neutral tool.

"It was always the biggest complaint, the biggest failure in my life," she says. "I always struggled with money…But it was also one of the biggest incentives for me to shift my mindset and start making money. I can do so much better than this. I wanted to create, as opposed to just silently accepting what I've been given that wasn't making me happy."

Write a letter to money.

Accepting that money is value-neutral is a good start, but to get to the bottom of how you feel about your paycheck, Sincero suggests writing a letter to money—the same way you would a person. While this practice might seem a bit woo-woo, it can unlock a level of honesty to determine where your messaging comes from.

"When you just write, stream-of-consciousness, you see [your beliefs] staring back on the page," she says. "How much you want money, and how much fun it would be to make so much, and how you feel disgusting for even saying you want money, and how you don't think it's OK. You get to see all of your pros and cons on the page...and you get to see what you decided is the truth around it. And that is absolutely the first step, because you can't budge if you're participating in an unreality."

It's only then that you can integrate your perceptions and create new beliefs. Make a list, create mantras, tell a friend—whatever it takes to help reprogram your brain. "You know the gripe, or question, like: 'Is it wrong to want to make lots of money?'" Sincero continues. "People do good things with lots of money! You start questioning it, and then you can shine a light on the fact that you are buying into something that isn't true."

Invest in learning about money.

Healing any kind of relationship requires specialized knowledge. If you're not doing your own dry cleaning, changing your own oil, or filling your own cavities, why would you attempt to rid yourself of your fear surrounding money...alone? Hiring an accountant or money coach, or reading books written by finance experts enables you to piggyback off someone else's knowledge. The bonus is there's someone else on your journey to guide you when your emotions threaten to pull you off track. (Spoiler: Your emotions will attempt to pull you off track.)

Ultimately, professional guidance is money well spent. This approach worked for Sincero, whose Badass books regularly extoll the value of hiring someone rather than leaning on your own (still-developing) knowledge.

"I was so, so serious about it that I did everything," says Sincero. "I read self-help books, I read all the money books. The first thing I did that was really pivotal was I made the decision to focus on making money…I was like, I don't care what anybody says, I'm doing it. And then, once I made that decision, I started reading books on how to make money, books on wealth consciousness, I went to every money-making seminar I could get my hands on, I hired coaches, I enrolled in any kind of program that had to do with financial getting-your-act-together."

"I think all of the financial recovery work is about helping people meet their true needs and wants...[and then creating] a plan to meet those needs and wants in the present, as well as prepar[ing] for the future," says Dana Conley, a certified financial recovery counselor. "I'm really all about helping people create a conscious money revolution."

Why would you attempt to rid yourself of your fear surrounding money...alone?

Conley advises clients to see how their money attitude has been "impacted by their family history, by their culture, their religion, just by the various experiences that they've had in their life. And to look at what they're spending, not just their money...their time and energy."

Create appointments to check on your finances.

Even if you only have a few minutes each week to look at your account balances or check your credit card statements, stay consistent. Regular exposure reinforces that they are morally neutral numbers on a page. Conley sees this exercise as the beginning of a lifelong practice that allows us to question the beliefs, attitudes, habits, and behaviors we have around finances—and to track how we really use our money.

"You can actually get people started on the concrete action plan," she says. "And usually we do try to do that, because you want to build a momentum and you want to get them in the place where they're creating a habit of tracking their money in and money out. So, we do want to establish that early on, because [clients] can get caught up in just working with the family history and our emotions, but they're not actually doing any of what I would call the outer work of actually managing their money and creating some change."

Start a regular savings plan.

Much of our anxiety surrounding money (and certainly mine!) hinges on the belief that any second, an unexpected expense will come tearing around the corner, poised to knock our meager budget off its axis. Conley's no-nonsense suggestion for overcoming this is to start an automatic savings plan—whether it's $2 a week or $2000 a month. Once contributing to this safety net becomes a habit, your ability to defray the cost of a new computer or surprise dental work goes a long way toward peace of mind.

"If it's just on the personal side, we need to make sure that their income is taking care of all of their expenses and that they're really spending their money in the areas of their life that they most value," she says. "Whatever's left over at the end of the month we can start putting toward saving for those non-monthly expenses that come up, maybe quarterly, or twice a year, or annually. Taking time to identify those expenses and then starting to set aside a portion of that every month will get people ahead and that also helps them stop using credit cards for the things that come around."

Remember why you're doing this.

"I believe that everybody has the ability," states Conley. "I also know that everybody has very different circumstances they live in. We all arrived here privileged or not at all privileged, so I don't believe that everybody has equal footing," She focuses on the things we can change about our individual situations, such as our self-talk and behaviors.

"Everything I write about is for the human mindset, so it really is the same steps for everybody," says Conley. "Some people have an easier door in than others…If you want to really experience life on planet Earth as a human being, you need money. You need money to do stuff, you need money to survive, you need money to give back. So taking the time to get over your issues around it and...learn how to make it in a way that feels good to you is one of the most important things you can do."

If you want to really experience life on planet Earth as a human being, you need money.

Of course, despite our best intentions, it's difficult to change our behavior—especially one that provides any form of positive feedback. Nothing changes without a motivation that's more powerful than stasis. Consider why you want to reform your relationship with money: To save for a vacation? To buy a house? To sleep through the night for a change? Whatever the reason, this is your guiding star. Journal about it, vision-board about it, or tell a friend who's great at keeping you accountable. As Sincero notes, improving your relationship with money is difficult, but a mindset of abundance is available to anyone who's willing to work for it.

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