Money Fears: Most Nurses Have a Few . . . What’s Yours?

Nurses make decent money today.  Hourly rates will vary upon which part of the country you work in and your specialty is a factor. Before benefits, most nurses make in excess of $50,000 per year.  It’s not uncommon to hear about $90,000 and up.  This is good news.

The average nurse works 10,000 days during her career (that’s 40 years if you do the math).  How much time are you willing to commit to figuring out what to do with the money you make? Or how to make it grow? And what about determining what you need to support you when you step away from your nursing career?

No one is born with a fear or attitude about money, yet you have some.  Fears and attitudes—be they good, bad, or ugly—develop over time.  No doubt, your upbringing is a major contributing factor.  Past experiences—successes and failures—also play a critical role, as does society and your surroundings—the media, friends, family even how the government spends, creates and takes away moneys and programs are factors.

The Current Money Fiasco

Since last year, millions have felt some form of financial squeeze.  For some, it was an unbelievable financial disaster that caught then totally off guard.

Thousands daily lost their jobs, their homes, their life savings—here yesterday, gone today.  Poof … it felt like it was an overnight happening.

Fat 401(k) accounts were slashed to a fraction of what they were just months earlier; homes that many counted on to yield a hefty part of their retirement seed plummeted in value; and the credit markets turned venomous. The perfect storm. Financial scandals, scams and corruption fermented everywhere. And fear … unbelievable fear.

The Fear Factors

Understanding your money personality, your spending habits, your needs and wants and what may be hindering you from achieving your goals are critical factors in creating financial independence.  Dealing with money fears that are blockers to success are a key ingredient to building assets.

The Fear of Being Broke

At the top of the list is the fear of being broke, “Will I have enough to buy the foods I want, the medications I need or be able to pay for the things I want to do when I stop working?”

Years ago, a client had asked me if I would take the time to go visit his mother.  He told me that she had some investments, lived mostly off the dividends, interest and her monthly Social Security.  He asked that I just check in with to see if she was getting a decent return on her portfolio. 

I made the appointment and spent a pleasant two hours getting to know Martha.  She was in her early sixties at the time and healthy. She believed that she was a good steward of her money.  With financial data filled out, I promised to get back to her within the week with an update on several stocks and suggestions for any changes to her portfolio.  As I got up to leave, she said, “What about my stash?” 

She pointed the corner of her living room.  All I saw was a big green, over-stuffed chair.  “My stash . . . in the chair. . . and drapes.” 

My new client had stashed in excess of $30,000 over the years in her over stuffed green chair with matching draperies.  She had lived through the Depression—never again would she, or her family, be without food if bad times hit again.  It took me over a year to convince her to move her moneys to a money market fund that would earn her interest. 

Did she move the entire amount?  Nope, she insisted on a stash of $5,000 in the house, money that she could tap into for “whatever.”

The reality is that whether you are rich, poor, or in-between, the person that you are going to have to depend the most on to keep you from the poorhouse is you and your smarts.

The Fear of Losing Money

At some point, everyone loses money.  It can be from a bad investment, misplacing moneys, inflation erosion, failure to act or make a decision on your investments, making the wrong decision, losing a job or other resource of funds.  It happens.

One advantage that many men have over women deals with attitude—women are more likely to be fearful of not being able to “make up” lost money; men more often believe that they can make it up/replace it the next go around.  All is lost, it’s part of the “game.”

The Fear of Talking About Money

Upbringing is a key factor that shapes your money practices.  Most adults “wish” that they had had training and guidance about money and investing as they grew up.

If you grew up in a family that openly discussed money and its many facets, you’re in the minority.  Not all of your friends will be on the same wave link as you are in money matters.  Your awareness, and possibly non-intimidation to the topic, may actually intimidate them!

The Fear of Making Mistakes and Failing

Everyone makes mistakes.  I wished I had $10 for each one I’ve made over the past 50 years plus.  Mistakes that lead to a money loss can be personally and professionally crippling.

They happen.  You get to choose—will they handicap and paralyze you?  Or will you look at them as a learning and growth experience?

What you have to guard against is the reaction that the fear of failure and making mistakes can generate paralysis . . . getting stuck mentally.  Making money mistakes and experiencing failures won’t destroy you.  Your key to resurrecting yourself is determining—

  • What happened?
  • What factors could you control, influence or alter?
  • What factors could you not control?
  • What did you learn, the pros and cons?

The Fear of Creating and Sticking to a Plan

Twenty-five percent of the American population believes that they will fund their retirement years by winning the Lottery!  Fat chance. 

Your best bet is to create a plan.  Put it in writing for easier tracking.  Financial plans are guide tools that start you on a path that will lead you to your stated money goals.  They are not, though, set in granite.  Times and circumstances change.  So do investments and opportunities.  That means that you don’t create and stick it in the drawer.  Your plan should be reviewed annually.  It should be flexible.  Life changes. You change.

The Fear of Borrowing Money

Wouldn’t it be great to pay cash for everything, including your home? Few can.  Sometimes, it makes sense to borrow money.  But, over-borrowing and too much credit is quite common. 

A credit card is used over 600 times every second of the day; over 36,000 times a minute; over 2 million times an hour; and over 52 million times a day.  The average household owing in excess of $9,200 in credit card debt.  What’s yours?

If you are contemplating, or already have, borrowing money for a large item— a home or an education loan—increases your pay back amount by 10%.  Why?  Simply this—you will reduce the time your loan payoff paid by approximately one-third.  That means you save big dollars and limit the time you “owe” someone. 

In determining whether you should borrow or not, ask yourself if you need the item or do you want it.  If you want it and can’t (or aren’t sure) you can pay off the amount over the designated time, don’t buy it.    

The Fear of Investing

When it comes to investing, there are no guarantees.  The value of the initial money you invested can increase, decrease or remain stagnant in value.

Investing takes time and patience. Don’t focus on what your investment is worth this week or even this month.  Concentrate on the long haul—what are you saving for five or ten years from now?  And when it comes to investing, invest in what you know and understand.  Health care offers a huge range of possibilities. 

The Fear of Not Trusting Yourself

Gender differences surface in the trust department with money and investing.  Men are less inclined to stick with an advisor whose advice has gone sour and they don’t abdicate financial decisions to someone else as easily as women do.  Advisors can help . . . but don’t discount your own experiences and intuitiveness.

So, What Are Your Fears?

Everyone has at least one.  It’s time to confront your deepest financial fear and get them in the open.  Whether it’s the fear of the soup kitchen or of making a mistake that is financially catastrophic, you can become inhibited from taking action. 

Identify them.  Write them down.  Just the mere fact that they are on paper opens the door for you to commit and confront them head-on. Ask yourself,

  • Are my fears realistic in today’s environment?
  • Are they relevant to what I currently do?
  • Do they hinder me from moving on?
  • Are they life threatening (to my spouse, partner, kids or job, friends, me)?

There will always be some type of fear.  Cartoon character Pogo said it best, “I have seen the enemy and the enemy is us.”  By bringing up your awareness level, identifying which fears influence your money decisions, you will achieve the first level of having money smarts.