Countless people are experiencing anxiety and worry about money. This often comes from having an unstable financial structure born of unhealthy money behaviors and circumstances — a structure I call the Money/Life Drain. Are you caught in the Money/Life Drain? Are you experiencing a sense of escalating emotions around money? Are you feeling enormous pressure to make more money or to spend less?
I want to share with you the levels of the Money/Life Drain, to help you see where you are. The force of the Money/Life Drain, with increasing pressure and narrowing options, draws us down to its bottom level. There we feel trapped, caught in a repeating pattern of money behaviors and the consequences that come with them.
Let’s look at the levels of the Money/Life Drain, starting at the top.
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Level 1: Financial Burdens, Debt, Out-of-Control Expenses
We start our descent into the Money/Life Drain with feelings of being burdened. Our expenses are growing and we are having trouble keeping up. We might be juggling funds, using credit cards or family loans just to stay afloat. These provide momentary relief, but then the problems resume. Worry about money becomes a distraction. But despite our sincere intentions, our money habits don’t seem to change. Bills continue to mount and creditors expect to be paid.
Level 2: Inability to Save, Pressure to Work and/or Earn More
The pressure increases and the options narrow. We can’t seem to save money. It’s hard to keep up with, much less get ahead of, our financial difficulty. Obtaining money by borrowing against the equity on our homes or by tapping retirement accounts, once unthinkable, now seems necessary. We feel pressure to get more money by working more hours or getting a second job. Even if we do this, the pressure doesn’t subside.
Level 3: Stressed Relationships
We argue more — and more heatedly — with our loved ones. If we’re trying to hide how bad our finances really are, the burden of the secret wears on us, and we live in fear of being discovered. Friends or family members might grow impatient with our repeated inability to “get our act together.” We have little time for people we love, which adds to a sense of isolation.
Level 4: Compromised Health and Well-Being
Worry about money is now starting to affect our sleep and our mood. Insomnia and anxiety add to our exhaustion. We suffer headaches or digestive troubles, elevated blood pressure, chest pain — or even panic attacks. We might turn to alcohol, drugs, or other distractions to escape the feelings of dread that seem nearly constant.
Level 5: Financial, Emotional, and Spiritual Depletion
Finally, we are overwhelmed on every level. We experience down-to-the-bone exhaustion and feel depleted financially, emotionally, and spiritually.
Do not despair! I’ve described this Money/Life Drain so you will know you are not alone and to help you see where you are in the cycle. In my book Financial Recovery: Developing a Healthy Relationship with Money, I’ve devoted a whole chapter to the Money/Life Drain and the ways you can escape it.
Karen McCall founded the Financial Recovery Institute to bring her innovative, transformational approach to as many people as possible. She spreads her passion for her work by training counselors and money coaches to build their own successful practices. A popular speaker and workshop leader, she lives in Sonoma County, California.
Article adapted and used with permission from Karen’s blog at www.financialrecovery.com/blog/.