Halloween is coming up, and instead of being frightened by ghosts and goblins, many people are scared to face difficult financial situations in their lives.
Maybe you’ve heard, time and time again, that you need to get your credit report or check your FICO credit score, but you’re too afraid to see what they look like.
Perhaps you have a large or overdue tax bill, and just thinking about the IRS sends shivers down your spine. So you’ve ignored your tax issue, silently hoping it will somehow go away.
Or maybe you’ve been investing and you know the stock market has been zigzagging every which way, and now you’re scared to take a look at how your investments have performed. In fact, you don’t even want to know exactly how much money you may have lost in your 401(k) plan.
Whatever your personal situation, here’s how to overcome your fears and move forward with confidence about your finances.
Are Your Fears Healthy and Rational, or Excessive and Irrational?
First of all, you have to recognize that at some level fear is nothing more than your own internal “red alert system.” In other words, some of the fears or anxieties you’re feeling about a given topic are a warning sign to you.
They are a way of telling you that something is or could be amiss. Such fears serve as a nagging way of bringing to the surface deeply rooted problems or issues you have buried. So at some level, you should listen and pay attention to the general fears or doubts you might have.
However, when your fears are excessive or irrational, that’s when they move into the danger zone, because those type of fears are counterproductive and immobilizing.
If your fear causes you to fall into a state of inaction or immobilizes you, then your goal should be to convert that fear into positive action.
How to Convert Fear Into Positive Action
Start by doing these three things.
1. Write down exactly what’s bothering you.
Are you worried about your credit? About your job? About your lack of savings? About your future retirement or economic security for your family?
Whatever it is that’s troubling you, write it down. Look at it. Face it. Put it in black and white and don’t run away from the problem.
Sticking your head in the sand and playing the role of an ostrich is not going to get you anywhere. It’s time to confront what’s bothering you.
In your head, you may be dreaming up and imagining all sort of worst-case disaster scenarios. But once you write down all of the things that are troubling you, you’ll start to find that these financial boogeymen probably aren’t as scary as they might have seemed.
(If you really want something to be scared about—for those of you who have a thirst for drama, mayhem and financial horror stories—read these scary things that can totally wreck your finances.)
Here’s how you’re going to start conquering those financial monsters, defeating them one at a time.
2. List three things that are in your control that you can do today.
So again, if you’ve been worried about your credit report and you’ve been too fearful of facing the music and seeing exactly what your FICO credit score is, your task is to take the plunge and confront what you’ve been avoiding.
It’s really easy enough to do, since you can simply get online and obtain your credit reports free of charge at AnnualCreditReport.com. At that government-mandated site, you are entitled to get one copy of your credit report from the big three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
That will show you exactly what’s in your credit files. The picture may not be pretty, but you know what? At least you’re facing the truth. At least you’re seeing exactly in black and white where you stand in terms of your credit reports.
That’s an important step in moving forward and improving your credit standing.
Ditto for getting your FICO credit score, if credit has been the issue that you’ve been fearful about facing. You can get your credit score from MyFico.com. Again, once you see the number, you’ve conquered that beast. You’ve beat back that demon. And you’ve pushed past the fear.
Your score is going to range somewhere between 300 and 850 points. Obviously, the higher your score, the better off you’ve been doing from a credit management perspective.
But whatever it is that you’ve been fearful about, list those things that are within your control. Do something positive.
Take a step today that is feasible, realistic and attainable, something that you can actually do that would help the situation, even if it’s only helping you to face the situation.
3. Reach out for help.
After you write down what’s been bothering you and list three things that are in your control that you can do, I want you to reach out for help.
So many times we feel that the financial problems we face are insurmountable. But that’s truly not the case at all. Sometimes it’s just a matter of going to an expert for advice.
It could be a nonprofit credit-counseling center. You might need to make an appointment with an accountant about the tax issues that have been haunting you and keeping you awake at night.
Or you may be able to read a book about investing or go online to research and learn something that you didn’t know.
Whatever the situation is though, don’t feel like you have to suffer in silence.
If a financial problem has been plaguing you and you feel overwhelmed by it, or you don’t understand it, you could almost certainly benefit from some professional help.
So do reach out for that help.
If you take these tactics and these steps that I’ve outlined, I promise you can conquer those economic fears. You can beat those financial demons back and you can thrive, not just financially, but in your entire life.
This article originally appeared on AskTheMoneyCoach.com.