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My Best Financial Tip: Stop Being Afraid

Get Mad at Your Fears

When Grayson at Debt Roundup put out a call to all bloggers asking for our best financial tip, I thought of lots of helpful and necessary things like spending less than you make, having an emergency fund, and setting up a budget. If you spend more than five minutes reading financial posts, you will see these basic steps repeated over and over. Unless you were born into royalty, you can’t have financial independence without them. If these steps are so easy to find, why doesn’t everyone practice them? I honestly can’t answer for the masses, but for my own situation, I would say that fear was the biggest thing that held me back for so long. To live the life you aspire to, you have to stop being afraid.

What Are We Afraid Of?

If you find yourself in debt, reason would say that you need to stop spending money. Sometimes it isn’t that simple. Are you afraid of what people will think? How often do we feel the need to buy something new to keep up with the expected norm? Society wants us to spend money. That’s great if you have it, but if a purchase has to go on credit to come home with you, it likely isn’t necessary. In our case, we couldn’t remember most of the things we bought on credit, but we did remember the interest and payments that lasted long after the purchases.

If your friends or family expect you to keep up a certain lifestyle, you might have to explain yourself. When we cut out our land line a few years ago, my Mom thought we were really broke and in financial straits. If I was a doctor, why shouldn’t  I have a land line and a cell phone? Couldn’t I afford both? It took lots of explaining about how we were trying to cut expenses so that I could eventually stay home more with our daughter. People expect you to have things with a certain job or income level, and they may think you’re odd if you don’t. You can’t be afraid of being viewed as different.

Are you afraid of change? We get so stuck in our routines. Pauline at Reach Financial Independence summed it up perfectly in her guest post at Club Thrifty. In response to a comment about missing her family since moving to Guatemala, she responded that her friends and family are so busy going to work, commuting, watching TV, and then falling asleep to repeat the whole cycle again the next day for the next 30 years that they didn’t have time to visit when she did live close. Look beyond today. What do you want? If you want to work 40 hours a week, collect a check, and retire in your late 60’s, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you hate your job or the fact that you have to spend so much time away from the things and ones that you love, then make steps to do something else. Don’t quit on a whim, but  start making plans. Too many people, like Joe at Retire by 40, Sam at Financial Samurai, and Andrea at So Over This, have done it. Lots of other bloggers are on their way. You certainly don’t have to be like them, but shape your own life. You only get one. Make it count.

Are you afraid to see the total picture? At the height of our $30,000 in credit card debt. I made the payments as quickly and brainlessly as possible so that I wouldn’t know how much was owed in total. I knew it was bad, but I was afraid to admit how in debt we were. It is easy to convince yourself that you’re doing OK if you can make the payments. We still contributed to retirement and paid the mortgage on time. It couldn’t be that bad, could it? It was, and it was incredibly hard to add up all those balances and see how much money was going to interest payments each month. It kept me awake at night, but a funny thing happened after we faced the fear. We got mad. If you ever want to be free, you have to get mad at the reasons that hold you back, and find ways to change. Slay the dragon, kill the elephant, go kamikaze. Whatever you want to call it, just get mad at the fear, and take steps to get rid of it.

What are you afraid of? If you are not making progress toward your ultimate goal, why not? Is fear holding you back? Before the end of the year, I challenge you to come to a conclusion on why you aren’t where you want to be. If you don’t know what you want to accomplish in the next year, five years, or ten years, you’ll never get there. You could very likely wake up old one day and wonder what happened. If the tragic school shooting in Connecticut can have any sort of positive impact, I hope it makes everyone realize that time is precious, and we shouldn’t ever let fear hold us back. My best tip for finance and for life is to stop being afraid.

Has fear stopped you from achieving a goal? How did you overcome it?


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I recently made a huge decision that is terrifying to contemplate but it’s a case of “will I regret NOT doing this more?” And being debt free is definitely a factor in being able to do so.

  2. Great Post Kim – I think it is easier said than done though! I thought to myself last night ‘If the world does end tomorrow, what would I regret’ And let me tell you it was quite a revalation – Stay tuned to find out 😉 !

    • Looking forward to it. We spent last night at the elementary school Christmas program, and if it had all ended right then and there, it would have been OK. Glad I have a little more time though.

  3. A few years ago I felt really stuck – and thinking about having big financial independence goals seemed so far beyond what I could contemplate. Getting past that was a huge step, and although we were doing a lot of the same activities financially before, mentally so much has changed since then it’s quite empowering.

  4. Great post Kim! I could not agree more. Fear was the biggest factor we dealt with in deciding to run our own business. What would our friends think and what would our family think ran through both of our minds. The thing is that we don’t just want to be the norm, we have a vision of what we can do and what we can make and it’s unlimited. Don’t get me wrong, the fear is still there but you can’t let it control your life. If you do, then you’re limiting yourself and your opportunities.

  5. Thanks for including me in the post Kim. I took me a little bit to get ahead of my fear, but after I broke the fear down, I was able to accomplish some amazing things. You can’t let fear hold you back!

  6. You hit the nail on the head: fear is what is at the core of most people’s financial problems. Fear of the unknown can paralyze us into our routines, even if a change can be beneficial.

    • Those who can’t change are the ones who are in the worst shape if something bad like a job loss occurs. Others see it as a temporary setback, as scary one, but one that can be used as an opportunity.

  7. I love this post. We have let fear stop us in the past…but we are starting to let go. We should be able to take the plunge and step away from our 9-5s one day….it will be scary but I am more than ready!

    • Me too. I have run the numbers a hundred times and it should work fine, but taking that step away from what I’ve always done is hard,and I’m still planning on working my regular job 2-3 days a week!

  8. Awesome post Kim!! I think a lot of the times fear can come from several things:the unknown, not having a plan, failing, etc. At the height of the recession, I wasn’t where I wanted to be financially and was thinking about going back to school, starting all over again. I was very afraid, thinking I would never get back on track. But I pushed on, gritted my teeth and managed to survive.
    Next survival skills to be learned: owning and maintaining a house!

  9. True, fear is a huge barrier to greatness. I believe we can do anything, just by looking at what you did under hypnosis, people diving 300ft deep with no tank, or surviving plane crashed with no food for a week. Compared to that, shaping your life to accommodate a bit more of what you like to do seems so easy.
    Merry Christmas Kim, and thank you so much for the mention!

  10. I try to not succumb to fear. My approach to fear is recognize it is just being nervous. My nervousness comes from wanting to do well. It motivates me to think through my decisions more, examine more alternatives and plan better. I do more preparation and that overcomes my fear. It works for me, because I set some pretty big goals and achieve most of them.

    • That is an excellent point about preparation. I had to do a lecture in front of a room full of doctors during my residency. Just thinking about it made my knees knock together. My excellent supervisor made me practice a few times a week for many weeks before hand and he drilled me with questions. By the time of my presentation, I was nervous, but killed it. I am a terrible public speaker, but with enough work, anyone can get over their fears.

  11. Fear is a crippling emotion. Financially speaking, I am not letting fear get in the way of someday being debt-free!

  12. I was not only afraid, I was happily ignorant. Thanks to software like Mint, I can no longer hide from myself. That’s a good thing, I think!

  13. I do my best not to let fear take control of any situations. I get more anxious than anything and that’s simply when I don’t have control over something. It’s tough to overcome fear though because the ‘what if’ game can be really difficult roadblock to hurdle.

    • I am terrible at what if’s. Usually though, if I can think of the worst possible outcome and see that it’s not so bad, I’m OK. It’s hard to sit and make yourself see that sometimes.

  14. Fear has prodded me to try for more goals. So far, I’ve failed at all of them.

    • I don’t believe that at all.

      • I guess it depends on what you call a “goal.” There are things that I have set out to do, consciously or unconsciously, that I have completed without putting much thought into. College is one example. I went back to college to finish my degree not because I made a goal of completing my degree, but because it was expected that I should. But goals of trading my seasonal job for a career, goals of specific amount of money, they have all gone by the wayside.

  15. This is a great post and an awesome challenge to us all to look fear in the face and squash it! I believe fear is the #1 thing that blocks us from moving forward. So much of our fear is irrational in that we cannot foresee or control the future. We also can’t control what other people think. But we get so wrapped up in these unknowns and other people’s opinions about us that it locks us down. For me, my passion for helping others was greater than my fears of starting a blog. That’s what helped me push through.

  16. I’m afraid of not doing enough while living. As we age, time goes by quicker. I’m afraid I’ll look back and not be proud of what I’ve accomplished b/c I was too afraid to make a move.

    Living in America is EASY compared to so many other parts of the world. I grew up overseas for 14 years and frequently visit India, China, and other countries since. I will never take my life in America for granted.


    • I’ll be 39 in a month and I certainly feel the same way. It’s now or never if I want to be able to be home more while my daughter is young. I used to want to see the world, and now I want her to experience it and know how lucky we are so that she won’t take that for granted. I am certainly afraid of failing as a parent, but I’ll give it my best shot.

  17. I was afraid that my wife and I would never get out of debt. I was able to overcome it by sitting down with my wife and putting together a game plan to pay it off in 18 months. It is amazing how effective putting a time-frame on a goal can be.

    • Having that conversation was about the hardest thing we’ve done as a married couple, but it was very freeing and I wish we’d done it sooner. Fear kept it from happening.

  18. Fear does stop anyone of us from doing so many things. But so often what we fear never really happens. My family and friends are like this too: “People expect you to have things with a certain job or income level, and they may think you’re odd if you don’t.” And as my husband and I work through out debt and work towards building the business of our dreams, they don’t get it, so we don’t even bother sharing details with them anymore.

    • That’s sad but I feel the same way. I don’t share any details with may family either. We talk about the weather and what my daughter is doing and that’s about it.

    • Sometimes I feel the same way, like friends and family don’t “get” what I’m doing or why I’m doing it. That’s probably why I started blogging. Most people in my off-line life don’t want to talk about money.

  19. You are totally right. Fear is paralyzing in many ways and in many situations. Even creating a blog was scary; who will want to read my stuff? Why do I have something so great to say?

    Fear separates the great from the okay. GREAT post!

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