The U.S. House and Senate have avoided sending the country off the “Fiscal Cliff.” Well, at least for now.
This means that the $8 a gallon milk and the huge income tax increases expected for all Americans have been averted. Well, at least for now. (Read House staves off fiscal cliff, but more money squabbles lie ahead via CNN.)
But just because we didn’t fall off the fiscal cliff, doesn’t mean everything is sunshine and roses. Payroll taxes are slated to increase at least 2 percent. That means that someone earning $30,000 annually will see $50 less in their wallets each month. And the fact that the government still hasn’t actually dealt with all of the spending cuts it needs to address our looming debt means that more fiscal cliff-type situations could be ahead.
All this gloom and doom is enough to wear a person down.
It’s good to be concerned about your money. But it’s not good for us to be in a constant state of fear. I know I spent more time than I should over the holidays contemplating what $8 a gallon milk and a $3200 income tax hike would do to our budgets. I know retirees who fretted over every twitch in the markets worrying if this uncertainty was going to wipe out their nest eggs.
And I’ve decided that there is something all of us can do to get a handle on our financial worrying.
Stay informed – the smart way
Recognize that much of what the media puts out is not actually news, but commentary. Stick to the facts and what you do know, and don’t get worked up about what some TV analyst said. You want to know what how your government representatives are voting? Tune into C-SPAN instead.
Accept what you can’t control
You can’t possibly know what the future will bring. You don’t know what our leaders will decide. You don’t know how the country will react to those decisions. Learn to accept that fact and let go of the worry.
Control the things you can
We might not be able to avoid tax increases, but we can control our discretionary spending. We can work to pay off debt and set budgets and stick to them. We can cut costs and find ways to bring in extra money. As I’ve often told my son when he is worried about what his younger brothers are doing, “You worry about you.“ You have a great deal of control over how you spend your money, so work on that.
Connect with others
You don’t have to face your fiscal challenges alone. I’ve found that talking with others about your worries can help you recognize what things you can control and what you can’t. It’s also a great way to problem-solve. Bounce new ideas off a friend or co-worker. Chat with someone from your church or talk with a parent. You’ll feel better and be better equipped for whatever is down the road.
One of my new year’s resolutions is to spend more time working on my finances with my spouse. I’ll be sharing some of those conversations here. It’s part of what I’m doing to take some of the worry off my shoulders.
I’ll also be sharing information on how you can get your budget under control and find new sources of income. The worst possible reaction to worry is inaction. Don’t hide from your worries. Face them.
What are your money worries? How are you handling them?