My husband and I are both working adults. With three kids at home and trying to care for some extended family here and abroad, I am increasingly struggling with financial anxiety. Now the holiday pressures are making it worse. Please help me deal with this!
Family Financial Stress
Dear Family Financial Stress,
You obviously have a big heart … maybe bigger than your budget can afford.
The Bible says that we are to provide for our own immediate families (1 Timothy 5:8). This is a responsibility that the Lord has entrusted to us. When you add extended family members, here and/or those living in a different country, it is no wonder your stress is great.
Immigrants or children of immigrant parents face pressures that differ from many in the general population. Learning the language, navigating the culture and the burden to succeed create tremendous stress. In my travels, I have seen how parents in some nations sacrifice greatly to give their children an excellent education. Once in the working world, these children are then expected to sacrifice for their parents. The pressure for a couple to support four aging parents along with their own children can be financially and emotionally crippling.
Researchers at the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center at George Washington University and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation found that prior to COVID-19, more than half of American adults experienced financial anxiety. The report shows that anxiety occurs in thinking about or discussing money (This is without the very real pressures you and your husband are shouldering). Women, young adults, those with financial dependents, and those who are low-income, unmarried and unemployed feel most anxious. Respondents reported that too many expenses and monthly bills, especially medical expenses, were major factors contributing to high anxiety.
First, establish a budget that primarily takes care of your immediate family. Meet with your husband, and discuss the appropriate distribution of the surplus funds that you discover in your budgeting process.
Next, set priorities for whom your budget will allow you to support, and then, determine how much can be allocated to them as the Lord provides.
Communicate to those whom you may not be able to support on a regular basis that you are sorry that you cannot continue. Let them know that you will help them establish a budget and encourage them to try and take care of their needs themselves.
For those that may be totally dependent on your financial support and are unable to work or care for themselves, set some goals for what you may be able to do should the Lord provide an increase in your income, but live within your budget without compromise.
Make or improve your plan. If grandparents are living with you, possibly they can be asked to make some contribution to the needs of the family, like babysitting, doing household chores, shopping for discounts, cooking, cleaning, or running time-saving errands. Don’t rule out that some family members may be capable of generating income under the right circumstance or opportunity. A friend who operates an online business has his parents that live with them answering emails, praying with customers and even filling orders.
Consider creative ways to give meaningful gifts that do not cost money. Often, a handmade card, a day spent together, or a poem or song will convey your love far more than a gift that comes in a box.
Reduce financial anxiety
God’s Word gives us financial principles for our good. When we fail to know and live by God’s financial principles, we actually create circumstances that increase our stress. He also told us how to deal with anxiety. Here are some tips that have helped me:
- Acknowledge Him as your Provider. He is a God of abundance, and He is faithful.
- Live one day at a time. That means to keep your mind and emotions on today (Matthew 6: 25-34).
- When you are afraid, learn to pray and seek God’s guidance.
- Cast your cares upon the Lord.
- Practice gratitude. Give thanks to the Lord for three things everyday (Philippians 4:4-9).
The key to breaking the anxiety loop is faith exhibited by a deep trust in God’s character and an assurance of His promises.
Faith is a muscle that grows under tension. It is an exercise that must be practiced. Remember the words the apostles spoke to the Lord? “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5 ESV). Or remember the father who brought his boy with an unclean spirit before Jesus for healing? “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 ESV).
Invite the Lord to intervene and give you peace in the midst of your trial. Ask Him for wisdom to make the right decisions and the words to talk winsomely with your family.
If your pain is from debt, stop all borrowing. Are you in need of a raise? Improve your skills, meet with your boss and ask for feedback on how to qualify for an increase. Have you mishandled money in the past? Get on a crisis budget and ask all family members to help.
Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Seven Gray Swans: Trends that Threaten Our Financial Future. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.