A friend once told me they expected to have the job of their dreams, be married with kids and live in a house by the time they turned 30.
That’s what happens in the movies, right? So what went wrong?
I know several people who feel as though their finances are spiralling out of control and who can’t see that light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s easy to straight-up panik when your finances don’t look the way you think they should, or you’re not achieving the goals you set 10 years ago when, honestly, you didn’t know any better.
Almost 4 in 10 Canadians under 35 say their financial stress has led to health issues, while 11% say their stress has caused either mental health challenges or substance abuse, according to FP Canada’s Financial Stress Index.
Addressing your anxiety is never easy, but there are ways to lessen the burden. Let’s look at some of the most common triggers for people our age and how to find the help you need to achieve your (more realistic) goals.
Hey, full disclosure: The links in this article are sponsored. But we only recommend products and services we trust and that we think you’ll love.
Stuck in student debt
Hey, hey. Don’t be embarrassed to admit it. Tuition and student housing were a lot more manageable back in the Good Ol’ Days, but these expenses are much harder on today’s generation.
A little (not-so) fun fact for you — here in Ontario, it takes an average of 9-and-a-half years for students to repay. That’s like, a decade out of your life.
Meeting those monthly payments can prevent you from saving up for other important things, like a car or a house. And the debt itself can drag down your credit score — which will make it harder to get a loan for that car or that house.
If you’re struggling, don’t wait until you can’t meet your next deadline. (That would trash your credit score for sure.) Connect with the National Student Loans Service Centre to reduce your monthly payments or look into a Repayment Assistance Plan to get the government to cover part of your bill.
This might not be true for everyone, but checking my score regularly actually helps lessen my own financial worries. I signed up for Borrowell over a year ago to check my credit score for free, and the service sends me weekly email alerts to keep me on track.
It’s comforting to see what steps I can take to improve my score and what kinds of loans I’m already qualified for.
Speaking of mortgages…
How much home can we really afford in this economy? The answer for some of us right now is nada, which is why renting has become such a popular option.
Home ownership was always a sign that You Made It, at least in our parents’ generation. For those of us who simply cannot foresee ever scrounging up the funds, renting might feel like failure.
It’s not, though. We live in completely different times, with different economic barriers. So, don’t focus on what your parents did and focus on what’s feasible for you. That’s a big step toward conquering your financial anxiety.
If you can’t find properties within your budget in the big city, look at smaller towns with more affordable options. Or, just stick to renting.
It’s better to comfortably pay your rent on time in a condo than to struggle with all those mortgage payments, utility bills and insurance on a shack you can barely afford. That’s my plan, at least.
You can also take the chunk of money you would’ve had to invest in a down payment and other housing-related expenses and focus on growing your money in the stock market instead. There’s no rule that real estate is the best or only investment you can make.
If you are in a position to make an offer on a home, don’t forget to spruce up your credit score and shop around for the best mortgage rate. It’s the biggest deal you’ll ever make, so don’t go in unprepared and don’t just grab the first loan you see.
Also, the job market is fierce
If life worked the way we assumed, we all would have found jobs straight out of school in the fields of our choice.
OK, sure, I did — but that hasn’t been the case for several friends of mine, and not for lack of trying. Finding a great job can be difficult even for someone several years out of school with plenty of experience under their belt.
Take one pal of mine, who’s getting more and more anxious that he hasn’t attained financial stability as the years keep passing by. He’s considering taking a break from his job just to figure things out and evaluate his options.
It’s unfortunate that finding a job you love and the salary you need don’t always go hand-in-hand. But some job boards make it easier to filter through the options you do have.
ZipRecruiter, for example, uses AI to match you with postings based on your actual skills, education and experience. It beats sifting through dozens of postings yourself, getting your hopes up each time and then feeling your heart sink when you don’t have the right qualifications.
Or, you might have your sights set on remote work. (Who wants to rise in the cursed early hours of the day and make the laborious commute during rush hour to the office anymore? Not I.)
You can check out your options on FlexJobs, which is geared toward flexible and remote work. There’s a monthly fee, but the service has zero ads, weeds out scams and offers career coaching and skills tests.
Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out for help
If your financial anxiety is snowballing into genuine despair, do yourself a real favour and consider getting professional help.
You’ve got two main options.
You can speak to a financial advisor or planner — someone who will take a look at your financial situation and goals and help you create a game plan to manage your money.
A financial therapist, on the other hand, will address both your financial and mental wellbeing. This can be especially helpful if your finances are interfering with your life and relationships — or if your life and relationships are exacerbating your financial problems.
Another friend of mine — who freely admits to overspending on pricey vintage clothing, fan merch and hardcover fantasy novels to ~fill the void~, so to speak — agrees she might benefit from a mental health professional getting to the root of her behaviour.
Admitting you need help is an important first step and can get you the tools and resources you need to put your financial anxiety to rest.
Because it’s all well and good to have a solid financial plan, but it’s not gonna be much use to you if you can’t stick to it.