By Peter Hafner, CFP®, CWS®
I saw my doctor the other day. He's a great guy and runs a good practice. I really appreciate how efficient and accommodating he is. But there are some aspects of visiting my doctor that I don't like. Similarly, seeing a financial advisor or planner can be in your best interest. But instead of seeking out strong financial advice, many of you are avoiding the issue and it's causing you problems.
What do I visit the doctor? I show up every time he asks and do exactly what he says. I go to the doctor because even though I don't particularly enjoy the experience, I know that it's in my best interest and that it will result in better health and ultimately will lead to a better life. Now I'm not bringing this up just to brag about what a good doctor's patient I am. (For more, see: What Type of Person Needs a Financial Advisor?)
Why Americans Are Stressed About Money
The point I want to make is that I know many of you know that seeing a financial advisor or planner can be in your best interest. But instead of seeking out strong financial advice, many of you are avoiding the issue and it's causing you problems. In fact, did you know that according to Think Advisor, the number one stressor in the lives of three out of four U.S. adults is money? That is a full 75% of the population.
One reason so many Americans feel stressed about money is because they aren't saving enough. Did you know that the average American couple has only put away $5,000 for retirement? This is according to a study done by MarketWatch. It shouldn't be any surprise that most Americans are stressed around money matters. Who wouldn't be under these conditions?
If we can all agree that you're likely to have better health if you see a doctor on a regular basis, it's probably not much of a stretch to accept that you could improve your financial situation, and maybe you're stress and anxiety level, by working with a financial Planner or advisor.
If working with a Financial Planner could help so many people, what are the things that get in the way?
How Anxiety and Shame Get in the Way
The first is disclosure anxiety. Many of us are simply uncomfortable sharing our personal and private information with another person. It is the same way I feel with my doctor. Not only is it an uncomfortable experience, what if she actually asks me to make changes in the way I normally do things? What if I begin working with a financial planner and they ask me to save more and spend less?
The second is evaluation anxiety. This fear follows right on the heels of disclosure anxiety. This is when we are concerned with what others think of us. In this case, we are afraid of what will happen after we take the risk and disclose our personal information to another person. Will they look down on us? Will they judge us harshly and think less of us? These are uncomfortable thoughts to consider. (For more, see: 7 Steps to Evaluate a Financial Advisor.)
Shame is a terribly corrosive emotion. Shame tells us we are inadequate and/or unworthy. It fills us with regret and paralyzes us. Shame can make it impossible to move forward and do what we know is in our own best interest. In addition to being corrosive and debilitating, shame is also a surprisingly interesting emotion. I find shame interesting because it can manifest so differently in different people.
In fact, shame can harm different people for exactly opposite reasons. Some people feel shame because they haven't saved enough. They feel inadequate because they haven't done enough and they believe that there could never be enough time to try to improve things. What could possibly be the point of trying to turn things around? It is hopeless they believe. But other people feel shame for exactly the opposite reason. It's almost like they have done too much or been too successful. These people worry and wonder how they can be so fortunate when so many others are suffering. Whatever version of shame might be troubling you the result is the same. Shame can stop you in your tracks and make it impossible for you to move forward and improve your financial situation.
Overcoming Anxiety and Fear
Albert Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. Sadly, this is how many Americans are approaching their financial lives today. But it doesn't have to be this way. The way to break free of these fears is by reaching out to friends and relatives who seem to have their financial affairs in order. Ask them if you can have a conversation with them about finances. Let them know that you think highly of them and feel you could benefit from a short conversation. Pick their brain. Ask them how they got to the good place they are in now. Find out who they are working with. Do this with several people and make a short list of respected financial planners and advisors and then go out and meet with them.
The bottom line is, you can feel uncomfortable doing nothing and knowing nothing is going to get better. Or you can feel uncomfortable moving forward and doing the things you know need to be done and that will ultimately lead to a better financial situation and life. Both choices are uncomfortable, but one leads to a better future. The choice is up to you.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” - Nelson Mandela (For more from this author, see: How Landscaping Can Make You a Better Investor.)
This article was originally published on Investopedia.