Money Used to Give Me Anxiety—Until I Learned This

Financial health = mental health.

By Stacey Lindsay
Woman journaling at coffee table on iPad.

I used to view money like I did the Boogeyman when I was little: dark, horrifying, and beyond understanding. Money wasn’t always on my mind. But when it was, like in the lead-up to rent being due, I felt there wasn’t enough air to breathe. Overcoming financial anxiety seemed out of reach. I was trying to stay afloat in a world run by a monster. 

My fear-based outlook on money lasted well into my thirties. By then, I’d conquered incredible things—graduate school, living in multiple cities, landing a dream journalism job—but still, money had its grip on me. No matter the counsel I received or the money I made, I couldn’t run from my fear of it.

Feature image by Michelle Nash.

Woman drinking tea and journaling.
Image by Jenn Rose Smith

Until I met Hayley Dickson. A certified financial planner, Dickson helped me see money as an opportunity. A beacon, really. She’s keen to help women overcome financial anxiety, get fired up about the money we work so hard to make (no matter the number), and feel good about our finances. Working with her made me feel strong. Dickson’s insight also helped me realize I wasn’t alone in my need to overcome financial anxiety. “Money is one of the only things society has decided we’re supposed to know how to do without being taught how to do it,” she says. “We learn to solve the angles of an isosceles triangle in school, but not about how our 401Ks are taxed.”

I recently chatted with Dickson to unpack some of the most prominent money obstacles women face and the shifts I made—and we all can make—to overcome them.

Overcoming Financial Anxiety: 3 Things that Get in Our Way

After working with Dickson for more than two years, I’ve realized that unlearning things about money is as crucial as learning new tactics. These three things hindered me:

#1: The Wrong Money Mindset

I used to believe I needed to be more capable and worthy regarding money. Hayley showed me otherwise. “We carry limiting beliefs that prevent us from building wealth,” she tells me. Perhaps we saw our parents make poor money choices, or we came from a family with financial struggles. The money stories we witness early on can stay with us—but it’s never too late to rewrite our positive narrative, adds Dickson. “It’s about activating a new mindset, getting rid of your limiting beliefs, and creating a new relationship with money.”

Brunette woman sipping matcha in all-white kitchen.
Image by Michelle Nash

#2: Gendered Intimidation

More than 75 percent of financial planners are men. This underscores the cringeworthy truth that the industry is rife with mansplaining, furthering feelings of intimidation, fear, shame, and paralysis, says Dickson. “Too many women don’t feel seen or heard or nurtured by their financial partnership, and therefore real growth is stifled.” She aims for women and anyone in a marginalized community to feel included in the conversations around building wealth.

#3: A Lack of Confidence

I mentioned that I started working with Dickson in my late thirties. At the time, I would have bet everything that I was the only woman to be so late to the financial literacy game. Heck, I was wrong—and that’s part of the issue. Too many of us feel we’re too late, too in debt, or just too overwhelmed to make a money change. “There’s a kind of covert epidemic where everyone else thinks everyone else has it figured out,” says Dickson. “But actually, nobody has it figured out,” Dickson adds that so many of her clients are successful, educated, savvy, accomplished women who are riddled with anxiety regarding their finances. Money is community work. We must talk about it, be vulnerable, and help each other. 

Woman wearing a brown long-sleeved sweater dress picking oranges outside.
Image by Michelle Nash

Building Wealth: 4 Tips for Getting Started

I’m the first to admit: Positive talk about overcoming financial anxiety is excellent—but the work still needs to happen. So where do you start if you’re afraid? These steps helped get me to where I wanted to be.

#1: Get Real on Where You Are 

This was the most challenging part for me—and the most freeing. Dickson worked with me to take a close and honest look at where my money was and what it was (and wasn’t) doing. “Most people have no idea where they are, meaning: What are your assets doing? What’s your credit score? What interests are you paying? Do you have the right risk management coverage?” Dickson says to start by getting clarity on where you are. “I use the GPS analogy,” she says. “You must drop a pin of where you are to figure out how to get from here to there.”

Hayley Dickson CFP
Hayley Dickson, CFP

Hayley Dickson, CFP, is a wealth management advisor. With her ‘Financial Freedom Formula’ she is leading a revolution to help women and folks from the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities make empowered, confident, and clear choices so they can live the abundant lives of their dreams.

#2: State What You Truly Want

The topic of money used to keep me in a small and cyclical mindset: I’d work, get a paycheck, pay my rent, and do it all over again. Never did I think I’d be able to buy that dream cabin in Montana. But most of my work with Dickson is reaching for the stars and saying what I genuinely want aloud. Again: What I truly want—from property to lifestyle and everything in between. Dickson refers to this work as “goal management, not wealth management.” She says getting clear on your desire will help build the blocks to get you there.

#3: Have Faith

Too often, I would think: I waited too long, so what’s the point? I believed I had to push a boulder up a mountain to get to a healthy financial place. But Dickson always reminds me that all you need is a tiny bit of momentum. “It’s like Newton’s law,” she adds. “If you roll something small down the hill, it’ll pick up. We have to get out of our way.”

#4: Trust Your Gut

Everything goes back to this. Dickson says listening to your inner voice regarding money—and everything in life—is the key. “If women trusted their intuition even 10 percent of the time, we would all be in a more peaceful and joyful world.”