Man suffering financial anxiety and stress

Financial stress

Financial issues are consistently one of the top causes of stress for Australians, and financial issues have been even more widespread recently due to the current crisis. Experiencing cash flow problems, being in debt or feeling worried about providing for yourself or your family can cause, or contribute, to anxiety and other mental issues. Financial stress can also impact your relationships with others. Below we look at some causes and signs of financial stress, as well as ways to get help.


Causes of financial stress

Among many others things, some of things that may cause financial stress are:

  • Global factors – recession, high unemployment rate
  • Unemployment, redundancy or reduced hours at work
  • Health issues or illness (for you, or as a carer)
  • Supporting others financially, including children, friends or relatives
  • Investments that haven’t performed as expected
  • Gambling problems
  • Mental health issues
  • Divorce or relationships break up
  • Being in, or having left, a financially abusive relationship.


Signs you may be experiencing financial stress

You may: 

  • Have trouble sleeping
  • Feel anxious or constantly worried
  • Feel stressed, tense, angry or irritable
  • Find your housing security is affected. You may have trouble paying rent or mortgage or have already had to move from your home
  • Be relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms, like abuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Have late or overdue bills
  • Have a credit debt or unpaid loans (often multiple), with potential legal threats or proceedings associated with this
  • Be overspending (using credit) to cope with the stress of financial concerns
  • Feel guilty when you do spend money
  • Find your relationship with friends and family are strained
  • Be delaying much needed healthcare – such as putting off getting mental health support or medical treatments, due to cost or feelings of guilt.


Help is available

If you are experiencing financial stress, try to remember that blaming yourself isn’t helpful. Everyone can easily get into financial difficulty and there are many ways to get help – at any stage. Below are some short and long term suggestions.


Short term – Help now

If you are overwhelmed by financial worries –call someone for support immediately. Some places to start are:

  • National Debt Helpline for self-help guides, as well a free confidential financial counselling.
  • Financial counsellors can help you with any financial worries (big or small), such as being unable to pay rent or bills, or being under pressure from financial institutions or debt collectors. You can search for financial counselling options by postcode and they will help you come up with a plan.
  • Money Smart has some tips of where to get government assistance during COVID 19, as well as tips on how to get help with paying bills anytime.
  • Services Australia offers crisis and special financial help.
  • Household Relief offers loans without interest to help with bills and immediate costs.
  • You may need legal assistance for dealing with issues caused by debt or financial insecurity. A good place to start is a local community legal centre or legal aid office.
  • Talk to your financial institution. Australian banks have financial hardship teams who can help with things like deferring, reducing or freezing loan repayments, offering payment plan options, consolidating loans, or deferring or providing a moratorium on debt collections.
  • Many charities can help with bills, food vouchers, etc., including the Salvation Army and  St Vincent de Paul Society.
  • There are many options for emergency Accommodation or housing assistance if you are homeless or having trouble paying your rent or mortgage.
  • If your financial issues could be related to gambling, contact Gamblers Anonymous or other state based support organisations.


Longer term – Planning for the future

  • Employment assistance: There are many places that can help with looking for work, as well as government support if you are out of work.
  • Budget and track your spending: Planning what you are going to spend can be stressful, but it will help you get on top of things in the long term. There are many online budget websites as well as lots of businesses you can visit in person, that will help you learn to budget.
  • Savings: If you are able, putting away even a small amount for emergencies can help you to feel less anxious about unknowns in the future.
  • Avoid impulse buys: Keeping track of your spending might help with avoiding things you don’t need (in the short term, while you get on top of things).
  • Set realistic goals: You won’t solve your money problems overnight, but there is a lot of support available, and your financial counsellor can help you plan out small steps to slowly get back on your feet.
  • Manage the symptoms of financial stress: Feeling worried or anxious is completely natural and can have a huge impact on your life and relationships. It’s also important to talk to others about how you are feeling. Bottling things up can only add to your stress, and a lot of the time your worries will be eased when you share your concerns with those around you, or with a counsellor or GP.


If you need to talk, give one of our MensLine Australia counsellors a call on 1300 78 99 78 or access free video and online counselling.