Are you spending too much time worrying about your finances, rather than doing anything about improving them? Three-quarters of people worry about their money at least once a year – at the cost of actually doing anything to improve their situation.
In fact those who fret about finances rather than planning what to do with their money, save less than those who concentrate on managing money, according to research published today by National Savings & Investments.
"Britons are getting into a cycle of financial fret," warns John Prout of NS&I. "Time is spent worrying instead of focusing on money management and finances suffer, causing more stress."
Worriers put aside an average of just £53.47 a month, while planners manage to save £104.39, almost double. It means over a year planners can put away an extra £600 – enough for the average energy bill for six months.
"By planning ahead and taking active steps, we can take more control of our money and work towards saving," advises Prout. "So if you're getting money worries, take some time out to review the situation and take action."
The one in four people who don't worry about finances are much more likely to be those who take time to make their money go further. For example, more than half use price comparison websites to find the best deal, or use vouchers and coupons to save cash.
Getting good spending habits is essential to making the most of your money, says Andrew Hagger of Moneynet.co.uk. "As with most things in life the more time and effort you put into something the more you get out of it," he points out.
"There are better deals to be had if you're prepared to shop around and switch savings accounts to get a better return, for instance, but unless you're talking about a reasonable deposit, many people will feel it's too much hassle for relatively little reward."
That's a mistake, he warns. Ensuring that whatever savings you have are earning the best return will lead you into good habits elsewhere.
Of course if you're deep in debt, than it's difficult to avoid worrying about your financial future. "Unfortunately, some people can see no way of ever escaping their current level of indebtedness and therefore don't even consider the benefits of planning or saving for the future," says Hagger.
"But even when times are hard, planning ahead can help ensure that you're financially prepared for the future. Even if it only means stashing away a couple of pounds, doing it regularly will mean building up a little nest egg, which can be the springboard to getting control of your finances."
Worrying about finances can lead to inaction through guilt, according to the research. Currently, two-fifths of Britons spend more time worrying than planning. The lack of action impacts their well-being as a quarter feel guilty when they end up overspending.
"There is a misconception that money management is just a personal finance issue," says Una Farrell of debt charity the Consumer Credit Counselling Service. "In fact, it is much broader than that and affects, and is affected by, health, emotional wellbeing, relationships as well as the ability to hold down a job."
She warns that it is important that people face up to any problems or issues they have with their personal finances, from arrears on their mortgage to saving for their retirement. "If they don't take action and just worry about money, they could find themselves struggling with more than just their finances," she warns.
Happiness, wellbeing and overall self-esteem are influenced by our sense of financial control, according to a recent Aviva study. It showed that 85 per cent of those with high self-esteem feel in control of their finances. Meanwhile, 70 per cent of those with poor self-esteem, don't feel in control of their finances.
"It's not the amount of money people have, but the feeling of being in control that makes individuals most content," Sarah Poulter of Aviva says. "While most people worry about their finances at some point, it's important that they don't let concerns overwhelm them and allow them to disengage with money matters."
If you need help overcoming your financial fears you could talk to a financial adviser, suggests Jason Witcombe of Evolve Financial Planning. "There is often no right or wrong answer with financial decisions which makes it very easy to procrastinate and worry. So, if you do feel that you need a helping hand, consider employing a financial adviser to take the stress away."
He says he encourages his clients to put as many aspects of their finances onto auto-pilot so to reduce the number of decisions they need to make. "A simple example of this is investing into an ISA via monthly direct debit rather than leaving it until the last minute each tax year and then feeling nervous about putting a large sum into the markets in one go."
Adviser Ray Black of Money-Minder. com says having a bills account can help. "Arrange for all bills and direct debits to come out of one account and set up a standing order from your main account to cover them," he suggests. "The result will be less worrying about not having enough money to pay all the bills and a better night's sleep!"
Another option is to use one of the many financial planning sites that have sprung up on the internet. In the latest Which? Money published today, it advises: "If you're looking for help with your financial planning, consider sites such as RetireEasy or MoneyVista." However both cost almost £80 a year, although MoneyVista is currently offering a free trial which could be enough to help you.
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