Finding Balance to Reduce Financial Stress


I witnessed many new beginnings in 2023 for some of the oldest members of Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2012). These included college graduations, new jobs, and marriages. Some bought new houses, while others decided to move back into their parents’ homes to increase savings (nothing wrong with that!).

These reflections turned to consideration of the challenges faced by those just beginning an ‘independent’ financial life. Personal finance can be overwhelming. So much information is available. Several approaches focus on very careful financial management using labels such as minimalism, frugality, and FIRE (financial independence, retire early).

These movements typically involve minimizing small purchases as part of a broader strategy to save money. The aim is to provide individuals with a structured and disciplined approach to achieving financial goals. At the same time, however, obsessing over every small expense can lead to stress and diminish the quality of life. If money and financial independence are supposed to help you stress less, these programs might be counterproductive.

I was intrigued when I heard about Jared Dillian’s latest book, No Worries: How to Live a Stress-Free Financial Life. Having been a follower of his newsletter for years, I appreciate his refreshing take on major financial decisions, like choosing the right career, investing wisely, and managing debt effectively. He emphasizes the profound impact of these areas and contrasts that impact with the fixation on trivial day-to-day expenses and indulgences. Here are a few takeaways from Dillian over the years:

  • Manage “fixed” costs carefully, especially costs relating to homes and cars.
  • Choose a career that aligns with one’s skills, passions, and income ambitions (and potential).
  • Make strategic decisions when planning for retirement, including how much to save and where to invest, and set clear goals for a financially secure “retirement” (or for other options later in life).
  • Be flexible and adaptable, given life will always generate changes that require adjustment of financial strategies to ensure progress toward financial goals.
  • Maintain a healthy balance between financial discipline and enjoying life. Dillian cautions against strict deprivation and encourages individuals to allow themselves small indulgences. Depriving oneself of life’s pleasures can lead to stress, which is counterproductive to the overall goal of financial well-being. I wrapped some small indulgences under the tree this year for my children, and the bear hugs were definitely worth the splurge!

The overarching theme in Dillian’s approach is finding a balance between financial discipline and enjoying life. While major financial decisions should be made with a long-term perspective, it’s important not to sacrifice happiness and fulfillment in the process. As we look forward to a bright 2024, let’s remind our newly-minted adults that financial well-being is about more than just numbers; it’s about creating a life that brings joy, fulfillment, and peace of mind. Cheers to a prosperous and balanced new year!

Caroline McInerney