Freelancing Plus Financial Phobia Equals High Anxiety

Spring, a joyful season of rebirth, also brings its share of woes. Hay fever, for example, and taxes. If, like me, you are a freelancer with a financial phobia, managing finances can be daunting on a good day. As the filing date approaches, the spectre of dealing with The Tax Man can trigger weeks of debilitating high anxiety.

Financial phobia? No, seriously, turns out it’s a thing.

For salaried employees who bank a paycheck at regular intervals, structuring finances can be a fairly straightforward process. For many freelancers, there is nothing regular about their revenues. Frequently, cash flow can resemble a roller coaster of exhilarating highs and white-knuckled lows. For freelancers managing their finances well can iron out the ups and downs, and ensure a certain peace of mind. Never a simple task, if you suffer from financial phobia it can seem insurmountable.

For folks with a financial phobia, procrastinating and avoidance can become a high art. My favourite enabler is the internet. What better way to duck inevitable tax return hell than by finding out whether I am the only person on the planet who shrinks in horror at the very sight of a letter from the tax authorities?

My research didn’t take long. I started with “money phobia”, but that’s a thing for wealthy people with guilt issues. Next.

Several keyword permutations later, I stumbled on financial phobia. Aha! And, looka here, a 2003 BBC News clip cites a Cambridge University study that found that 1 in 5 Britons suffer from financial phobia. More research turned up the term “money anxiety disorder” or MAD, an acronym that pleased my word nerd heart.

What is financial phobia?

According to the article, financial phobia is “a recognisable condition rendering [those who suffer from it] unable to handle their personal finances”.

The Cambridge study suggested that many financial phobics are intelligent and perfectly competent in other areas of their lives
but are struck dumb at the notion of dealing with their money.Brian Bloch, Investopedia

Apparently women and young people are particularly at risk, however, it can strike anyone at anytime. Not addressing the phobia and simply not dealing with finances can spell disaster. Worse, folks who suffer from financial phobia have the unfortunate tendency of handing over control of their finances to someone/anyone just to be rid of the burden only to discover that the someone/anyone is a crook.

How do you recognize financial phobia?

Determining whether you have financial phobia is fairly straight-forward:

  • If you have trouble dealing with any changes in your financial situation;
  • if you adopt the head-in-the-sand position when it comes to anything having to do with your finances; and/or
  • if merely thinking about financial causes physical distress, i.e., increased heart rate, dizziness or nausea …

… then you most probably have financial phobia.

How do you cope with financial phobia?

Unless you are avoiding completing your tax return, I suggest you get online where you will find tons of free info and tools. The right tools will depend on where your are geographically. Clearly, advice from financial wonks based in the States won’t do you much good if you live and work in Europe and need to address issues at the granular level.

That said, I followed a few links that provide an overview of the treatment solutions. Tackling the fear head on through self-awareness and education seems to be the most commonly prescribed antidote. Mindy Crary at Creative Money offers a 7-Step Cure. My sister Judy, a financial wizard despite her meek and mild-mannered appearance, suggested checking out Suze Orman, a US-centric financial adviser and TV personality. I did and quickly subscribed to her email list. I also downloaded The Money Anxiety Cure: A Path to Financial Wellbeing by Koorosh Ostwari, the very last of non-essential purchases I will make for awhile.

Typically, I look askance at the pathologization of human behaviour. When it came to managing my finances, I just thought I was a wimp, lazy and/or a disorganized idiot. My persistent and worsening physical symptoms, akin to those associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, led me to conclude that financial phobia or money anxiety is a thing, a real thing. And it’s a thing I need to address sooner rather than later.

— • —

Picture credit: The Tax Collector by Marinus van Reymerswale via Wikimedia Commons

One Comment

  1. I totally commiserate! When I first went full time freelance in 1995, I developed such anxiety in relation to the ups and downs of my income that my intestines arrested for DAYS at a time—sometimes more than a week. I could not go. Period. After going to the doctor for the typical cures, which didn’t work, then muscle relaxants, which helped, eventually I was back on track. But it took several years before I was able to overcome the huge anxiety I felt regarding my irregular income. And that is even though I have a husband who made a regular (though modest) income! I don’t think I would have had the guts to do it if there weren’t another source of income to cover the bare essentials.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *