Opinion October 13, 2015 | 9:52 am

Top 5 money fears – And how to tackle them

For the eighth consecutive year, the American Psychological Association (APA) identified money as the number one stress trigger, with 72 percent of Americans reporting stress about money and nearly 1 in 5 saying they had skipped or considered skipping going to the doctor due to financial concerns. As for relationships, almost one third of adults with partners reported that money is "a major source of conflict."

The following are common money stresses, and tips to tackling them.

You’re just one paycheck away from financial disaster. The Corporation for Enterprise Development’ recent Assets & Opportunity Scorecard reported that over 40 percent of American households are "liquid asset poor," meaning that they have less than three months of savings to help them absorb a financial shock like a lost job, medical emergency or other unforeseen financial expense.

Tip: Build an emergency fund. After learning how to budget (http://www.practicalmoneyskills.com/budgeting), building an emergency fund (http://www.practicalmoneyskills.com/emergencycalc) is the next essential step in financial planning. Saving and investing for other goals are equally important, but they should follow the creation and annual review of a healthy emergency fund.

You’re lost financially. A 2014 survey by economists from George Washington University and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania states that only 30 percent of Americans could accurately answer three basic personal finance questions dealing with savings and investment returns. Respondents from other major developed countries – including Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and Australia – scored roughly the same. It’s a global problem.

Tip: Identify your biggest financial problems. Does every dime you make go toward paying bills? No savings or investments? No emergency fund? Once you’ve identified your main money blind spots, get help. Reach out to a trusted friend or relative with good money habits or a qualified financial advisor who can help you see where you stand, establish realistic goals and restart your financial education.

You’ll never catch up. Bankrate.com’s March Financial Security Index said that nearly half of Americans aren’t saving enough for emergencies or retirement. Only a quarter of middle-class households earning between $50,000 and $75,000 were savings champs, putting away more than 15 percent of their income.

Tip: Forget the past and begin today. Start by figuring out where you stand financially. Then address your expenses and whether there’s an opportunity to boost your income so you can make up for lost time.

Your money troubles are putting your closest relationships in jeopardy. Money issues affect all relationships, but couples can be hit the hardest by money secrecy or so-called "financial infidelity."

Tip: Face the music. Get qualified advice, quantify the extent of the problem, make a plan and share the details face-to-face with loved ones or business partners who need to know. Assume you won’t be able to control their response, so focus on solving the problem and vow to end your secretive behavior for good.

You can’t face financial paperwork. When you can’t face bills, statements and other financial calls or communications, it generally reflects financial uncertainty in some form.

Tip: Get help. Pull the information together and get help if you need to. Put payments and other financial decisions on a paper or digital calendar with reminders to act.

Bottom line: Fear about money issues can affect your health and relationships. Diffuse that stress through education, assistance and positive action to improve your financial future outlook.

Nathaniel Sillin directs Visa’s financial education programs. To follow Practical Money Skills on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PracticalMoney.

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