I just ran across a cute article by TODAY Financial Editor Jean Chatzky which really spoke to me as a hater of all things mathematical.
According to Chatzky, math anxiety, one of the biggest roadblocks to getting one’s finances together, affects half of all Americans at some level. It can result from any early numerical trauma, from a bad experience in school to overdoing things on your first college credit card. And it’s a recognized condition:
The phobia is so real, it has its own diagnosis code from the American Psychological Association: 315.1.
It’s a serious affliction, Chatzky says, because to do money, you need to do math. To get beyond the fear and into your finances, she offers some useful suggestions:
1. Take a refresher course – Noncredit courses at a local community college are a great way to dive back in. Not only will it improve your skills, but can help you develop positive associations with math.
2. Start a money group – Clubs can help you to overcome a math phobia and increase your learning in a fun, social way. I think investing clubs sound like an interesting way to get information and experience on a topic that might otherwise bore me to tears. Even Finance 101-type topics would be very valuable to me, so I think I need to follow Chatzky’s advice on starting a “money group” among your friends:
At one meeting you might cover the basics of investing, at another you’ll talk about sending your kids to college. This support system can be a huge confidence booster, but more than that, you’ll be able to feed off of each other’s strengths. If your friends don’t go for the idea, you can link up with an existing group in your area by visiting Oprah.com/jean and clicking on â€œmoney groups.â€?
I bet that Meetup.com has some groups in my area as well. Just as long as I can make sure I’m not lured in by an advisor with a personal agenda, I think this can be really helpful and enjoyable.
3. Use shortcuts – Calculators and estimating, especially when rounding up, can make things simpler since you’re not manually crunching every digit.
4. Learn by osmosis – Even if you don’t have time to focus on financial topics, listening to a radio show or perhaps some Jim Cramer or Suze Orman in the background might help you start to absorb more information. Personally, I’ve found I burn more calories on the elliptical trainer when Mad Money is on at the gym. If you find you’re more open to reading about finance, the local paper or personal finance magazines at the library are great places to start expanding your knowledge.
5. Set your kids on the right track – Discuss math at home so that you help future generations of your family to be more financially confident. Real-life examples help you monitor your progress towards financial goals as you educate.
Have math anxiety? It might hurt your finances [Today Show at MSNBC.com]
Image Credit: Silence of Night
Updated February 10, 2011 and originally published December 6, 2007.