If fear of making the "wrong" choices about your finances has left you mired in indecision, imagine how people who think they have no choice at all must feel. John Caskey, an economics professor at Swarthmore College, interviewed residents in two of America's poorest communities. "They instead talked about the stress," he said. "In many cases, people didn't save not because they actually couldn't, but because they believed they couldn't" [source: Snyder].
When you're late on the rent and can't keep the utilities on, the idea of opening a savings account may seem as far-fetched as a picnic on the moon; but the truth is that all of us, even the poorest, have financial choices. Finding those choices may feel impossible: the second you get ahead, you're defeated by relatives needing loans, kids wanting designer sneakers, downsizing, layoffs, unexpected medical expenses and a myriad of other obstacles.
The trick to ditching your defeatist attitude is finding a way to believe that somehow, even in the most untenable of circumstances, there is hope. Organizations like America Saves exist to help you find that hope. Simple things like making a gratitude list or visualizing yourself free of financial stress can also help you feel more hopeful.
Now that you're feeling decisive and undefeatable, you're almost ready to receive practical strategies for lowering financial stress. But first, let's discuss how to overcome another mental obstacle to lowering financial stress: your life partner.