By Rick Kahler
NEW YORK (AdviceIQ) -- Two economic indicators suggest that the U.S. economy is recovering from the recession. The housing market is almost back to 2006 levels in most areas of the country. We also see frequent near-record highs for the Dow Jones stock index.
Yet according to a recent survey by Money magazine, many people still feel anxious about their finances. They may be more optimistic about their own current circumstances, but still worry about their future or about the economy in general.
This continued anxiety, despite a rosier economic outlook, may not seem logical. When you take a closer look, however, it makes perfect sense.
For one thing, people who suffered job losses, foreclosures or other financial setbacks during the recession didn't necessarily recover emotionally even if they recovered economically. Like other traumatic life experiences, painful financial experiences can leave lasting emotional damage.In addition, even those that the recession did not directly harm financially were affected emotionally by the alarming economic headlines. Our brains have evolved to react to threats with immediate action, so these news reports triggered a fearful urge to "do something now." don't affect the vast majority of us on a daily basis. Unless you are buying or selling a home, you don't really notice or care about real estate values. Gas, food and consumer goods prices affect the average household the most. The same is true for the stock market. Some 53% of Americans don't have any money invested in stocks at all. Even if you do, an increase in the overall value of your retirement account isn't likely to change your immediate cash flow. And if you haven't received a raise in several years or can't find a good job, your reaction to news of a record stock market high is likely to be: "So what? Things still aren't that good for me." To reduce anxiety, then, what we really need is an improvement in our personal circumstances. That change may be a tangible financial one like finding a better job or getting a raise. It also can be a change in focus. You might choose to pay less attention to things you can't control, like news reports about the economy. This gives your brain less exposure to information that feeds its fear. Another option is to focus on what you can do: building up an emergency fund, paying down debt or cutting spending to contribute more to a retirement account. In that way, you can turn anxiety in your favor, using it as a motivator to improve your financial situation. -- By Rick Kahler, CFP, president of Kahler Financial Group in in Rapid City, S.D. AdviceIQ is a network of financial advisers that writes insightful articles for the public about investing and wealth management. All articles are edited by AdviceIQ's editor in chief, Larry Light. AdviceIQ certifies that all its advisers have no regulatory infractions. To subscribe to AdviceIQ's RSS feed for personal finance articles written by financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors, click here. Follow AdviceIQ on Twitter at @adviceiq.