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The Anxious Guy’s Guide to Financial Security

If you want to get your money straight, get your head straight first

Six different hand tools holding coins
Tyler Comrie

If you’re losing sleep and sanity over financial problems, you’ve got plenty of company. Just 23 percent of Gen Xers feel positive about their financial future, compared to more than twice as many hopeful members of their parents’ generations, according to a Bank of America survey.

But no matter how strong the riptide of your money concerns, there are ways to overcome it.

Don’t be a martyr

Negative feelings often arise from a burden of expectations, says John Stoj, a financial planner and founder of Verbatim Financial. Many of us are “victimized by the societal expectations for the male to be the breadwinner.” But your spouse or partner isn’t somebody you need to protect from financial stress. They should be sharing the load, at least emotionally.

“I had a gentleman tell me the other day he didn’t tell his wife that he lost $350,000 in Bitcoin because his Bitcoin account got hacked,” says Adam Lampe, CEO and cofounder of Mint Wealth Management.

Be honest with the people closest to you, and invite them to become part of the financial problem-solving.

Understand your unique challenges

You may remember your father at 50 seeming more financially stable, or at least less stressed about money. But the challenges faced by your dad were radically different than what we face today.

His generation was doing things younger, like having kids and buying homes. By the time your father was 50, he’d owned a home (likely the same home) for almost three decades, and paying for college tuition was a distant memory. And he was more likely to have spent a long time at one company, maybe one with a pension plan.

His focus could be entirely on saving for retirement, something that most 40- or 50-year-olds today can’t fathom. Steve Gaito, president of Retirement Resource Management, says that most of his clients reaching middle age “are significantly behind on retirement savings.”

Looking to your dad as a financial role model is like looking at Sean Connery as a dating role model. The times couldn’t be more different.

Start with baby steps

Every financial recovery starts with a plan, says Brian Halbert of Brian Halbert & Associates. But don’t reach for big, sweeping solutions. Keep it small and achievable.

Something like “save more money for retirement" is too vague. How about “put aside $1,000 every six months,” or even every few months, if your budget allows it? That’s concrete and allows you to make measurable progress.

“Can we do it through an IRA?” Halbert asks. “Can we do it through an employer account?” Maybe the answer is as simple as increasing automatic deductions from your salary to a 401(k).

Start exploring creative solutions to old issues. Gaito has worked with clients on “investing into Airbnb-type of real estate and creating income that way.”

“Part of getting better every day is understanding you’re going to have one bad day or half day a week,” Halbert says. “But if you’re doing well 6 days out of 7, you’re a Hall of Famer in baseball.”