What you need to save
Fear of taking the financial reins
College, taxes, retirement, long-term care ... thinking about them can trigger a full-blown migraine when financial planning isn't your thing.
So you tell yourself you're too busy, too ignorant or too behind the eight ball as it is. And if ever you got bad service from a broker or advisor, you remind yourself you'll never do that again.
Then you do nothing. But you know nothing is going to bite you someday.
Try this: To overcome your fear of taking charge financially, "work up a hierarchy of baby steps that don't trigger the fear," said Dr. James Gottfurcht, president of Psychology of Money Consultants in Los Angeles.
The first step is to condition yourself to feel safe. So if you're not saving for retirement - or just putting all your money in a money market fund - because you're afraid of investing, just read an article about investing. If that doesn't wipe you out, you're desensitizing yourself.
Next, "reality test" a specific part of your fear. So if you're afraid to talk to a certified financial planner because you don't know what to do and are easily intimidated, send up a trial balloon. Call a planner who comes recommended and make clear you're not ready to make any decisions today but you'd like to hear some of his ideas, Gottfurcht suggested.
Ask a friend, spouse or anyone who makes you feel safe to act as a financial sounding board. br>
After you've increased your comfort level, approach your fear in a painless, low-risk way. For example, if you're afraid of investing, earmark a small amount of money - say, $1,500 - and set up an automatic transfer of $100 a month from your bank account into a low-cost, broadly diversified index fund with a low minimum requirement such as the Vanguard STAR Fund (VGSTX).
"Turn off and put it on autopilot," said certified financial planner Mari Adam. In a few months, chances are fair you'll have made some money. But if your balance has declined, consider two things. First, that $100 you invest every month will actually buy more shares when stock prices are down, which is a good thing for long-term investing success. And second, if your balance is lower, it only becomes an actual loss if you sell.
All these small acts taken together can start to whittle down your initial fear. So can remembering what novelist Andre Gide said: "There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them."