What Is Financial Burnout and What Can You Do To Alleviate It?

Cropped shot of an attractive young businesswoman standing alone and feeling stressed while going through her finances in her home.
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You may be familiar with the concept of burnout, but what about when it’s being caused by your finances?

GOBankingRates spoke with Emily Koochel Ph.D., senior financial planning education consultant at eMoney Advisor, about exactly what financial burnout is, and what you can do about it.

What Is Financial Burnout?

Financial burnout is similar to job burnout, but its causes and symptoms are different.

“General symptoms of burnout include fatigue, irritability, insomnia, a sense of incompetence, excessive stress, anxiety and depression, which have been linked to more serious physical illnesses such as high blood pressure and heart disease,” Koochel said. “Financial burnout, however, generally presents itself as being despondent about our own money management.”

Koochel outlined some of the signs that you may be suffering from financial burnout:

  • Just thinking about your financial situation makes you feel anxious and/or overwhelmed.
  • You’ve stopped checking in on your spending and savings goals because sticking to a budget just takes too much energy.
  • You are generally ignoring your monthly finances, not looking at your budget and not opening your finance apps that help keep track of your financial life.
  • You have stopped making or are skipping payments.
  • You feel hopeless, as though you will never get to a place of financial stability.
  • It feels like at this point, no one can help.
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“Most people have experienced some level of financial stress, but higher levels over extended periods of time may manifest beyond general feelings of uncertainty and present physically,” Koochel said. “Commonly, those who are experiencing financial stress may also experience financial anxiety — all of which can be debilitating.

“Financial anxiety can result in difficulty controlling worry, sleeping or even physically through muscle tension and fatigue,” she continued. “Financial stress is our inherent physiological response to threat. Physiological stress is essentially the body’s reaction to the fight or flight response. When the brain receives a stressor signal, it tells the body to prepare for physical activity — to fight or flee.”

Prolonged periods of financial anxiety or financial stress can lead to financial burnout.

What’s Causing Financial Burnout?

Although financial burnout can impact you at any time, it tends to be more prevalent during times of financial crisis.

“Many Americans are still feeling the aftershocks of the fiscal consequences of the pandemic — they are no strangers to financial uncertainty,” Koochel said.

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Worries about inflation, recession and job uncertainty can also lead to financial burnout.

How To Alleviate Financial Burnout

“Financial burnout can be debilitating,” Koochel said. “Even if you were once someone who had every dollar organized in the perfect spreadsheet, you are not immune to feeling symptoms of financial burnout.”

When you start noticing symptoms of financial burnout, Koochel recommends taking the following steps to alleviate it:

  • Start small. “Ask yourself, what is one thing you could do today that would help alleviate some of your stress? It’s easy to get overwhelmed when we try to take on every financial decision at once, so start small and build up from there,” she said. “For example, maybe you start with paying overdue bills, managing next month’s spending and then look to increase your retirement contribution. You don’t have to do all of that in one day.”
  • Find a money management system that works for you. “Assess your cash flow (how much money you have coming in and how much you have coming out) and then categorize your spending and savings,” Koochel said. “Once you know where your money is going, you can start making more informed decisions about how you would like to manage it. If you are comfortable with your budget, set up automated payments to reduce the burden of making manual payments.”
  • Check in on your credit score. “If you have missed any payments or increased your spending due to feeling burnout, your credit score may have been affected,” Koochel said. “Set up a debt management plan if you need to or cut future spending.”
  • Set a monthly money appointment with yourself. “Once you have your plan in place, be sure to check in,” Koochel said. “It can be easy to lose sight of our finances, so set a date on your calendar each month that you dedicate to yourself and your future financial self.”
  • Talk to a professional. “Remember, you are not alone, and you don’t have to have all the answers,” Koochel said. “In fact, many of us don’t. Trusted professionals such as financial planners, advisors, counselors and coaches are there to help. Do your research to find who is best for you. If you or anyone you know is feeling prolonged feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, please consider seeking help from a mental health professional.”

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