It’s officially normal to be stressed about your finances


I wrote a feature back in 2019 about how people were stressed about money, despite good economic times. That article was top of mind recently as I read some data showing that money is the Number One source of stress right now, at levels almost double those for personal health, work, or relationships.

It now seems clear that stress about money is baked into the economic system we live in. Financial stress is the new normal.

The latest data on money stress comes from FP Canada, an organization that oversees the respected certified financial planner (CFP) designation. Thirty-eight per cent of those polled said money is their biggest source of stress, and one in three said financial stress is leading to anxiety, depression or mental health challenges.

Reasons for financial stress today are everywhere: Inflation is effectively cutting our take-home pay month by month, interest rates are rising, some people still haven’t financially recovered from money-related setbacks in the and the wealth-generating machinery of the housing and stock markets has stalled out. In particular, you’re up against it if you have to renew a mortgage or run a household for a family.

But people felt the same way in 2019, a year now remembered fondly for its pre-pandemic stability. The story I wrote included data from a survey showing that finances were ranked as a stop source of stress by – wait for it – 38 per cent of respondents. People I spoke to for that story talked about how expensive groceries were, and how wage growth wasn’t keeping up with inflation. Sound familiar?

Stress levels over money are going to rise in the months ahead. We have a serious inflation problem and the cure, higher interest rates, has some toxicity of its own. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that people were worried about money back when we had what a period of economic calm.

I know financial advocates will read this as a call for a renewed efforts to empower people by teaching them the basics of managing money. Let’s do that, but also recognize that money stress is about more than not knowing all the smart money moves.

Our society has accepted the idea that you never have enough – there is always more to want and buy. As a result, there’s a tension in our lives between what we think we should be doing with our money and what we want to do to make ourselves feel good. The FOMO aspect of social media – fear of missing out – just adds to the problem.

One thought on how to attack the problem of financial stress is to empower people to make one or two improvements in their finances a time. Start saving or investing a small percentage of your income every payday. Pay off, or at least reduce, your debt with the highest interest rate. We won’t cure financial stress, but maybe we can drop it down the list of things bothering people.


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Rob’s personal finance reading list

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A thorough comparison of two popular travel reward programs. And the winner is…

Our gaming problem

If you’re watching the NHL playoffs on TV, you’ve no doubt noticed a tidal wave of ads for gambling on sports. Here’s a much-needed critical look at this attempt to turn gambling into recreation for the masses. Resist, I say!

Mind the appraisal gap

A slowing real estate market increases the risk that your mortgage lender will appraise the value of your home at a lower price than you paid. The result could be that your lender won’t provide as much financing as you need.

So much for easy money in stocks

Much-needed perspective on the stocks that soared after the stock market crash of March 2020. Sure, they made a lot of money for investors. But have you noticed how much they’re down from their peaks?


Ask Rob

Q: I am a 60-year-old female, working full-time, making $62,000 per year. I have no RRSPs (used to, but had to cash them in early). I do have two life insurance policies, four adult children, and no debt. I have just received an inheritance of $144,000, and would love your advice on how to invest. Real estate would be my preference, but I’d be interested in knowing your opinion.

A: First, a question. What is your goal for that $144,000 – to grow it over time, to generate income for when you retire or to keep it intact and not expose it to any risk? Real estate seems appealing, but we’re now seeing that home prices can go down as well as up. Regardless, investments in real estate are illiquid – it’s hard to access your money if you need it to cover expenses or treat yourself. A thought – do you have a tax-free savings account? If not, consider setting up a TFSA to hold investments in line with your goals – GICs or savings if you value safety most, dividend stocks if you want income and a diversified mix of stocks and bonds if you want growth. Don’t get into stocks unless you anticipate not needing your money for five to 10 years at least.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.


Today’s financial tool

The Canadian Bankers Association on how to spot online shopping scams, and what to do if you’re victimized.


The Money-Free Zone

Force of Will, by Brian Jackson. A mellow vibe from a new album by an artist known for his collaborations with the poet/musician Gil Scott-Heron back in the ’70s.


What I’ve been writing about

More Rob Carrick and money coverage

Subscribe to Stress Test on Apple podcasts or Spotify. For more money stories, follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and join the discussion on my Facebook page. Millennial readers, join our Gen Y Money Facebook group.

Even more coverage from Rob Carrick:

🎧 Catch up on Stress Test: Is the middle class dead for millennials and Gen Z? • Gas prices are soaring. Are electric vehicles an affordable solution? • Crypto is booming, but should you invest? • How are young Canadians dealing with soaring rents? • Inflation is squeezing our finances. What can we do about it? • Is a hot housing market squeezing Canadians out of their small towns?

Are you reading this newsletter on the web or did someone forward the e-mail version to you? If so, you can sign up for Carrick on Money here.

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