7 Small Finance Tasks You Can Do To Minimize Your Stress

Finances alone can be stressful, but checking small items off your list can help put your mind at ease.

Whether it’s going out for a run, seeing a therapist, or drinking green juice, we all have things we do as part of a self-care routine to reduce stress. While integrating these things into our lifestyles might have felt uncomfortable in the beginning—once you start moving, talking about your feelings, or even learning to like kale, these things may actually start to make you feel good.

The same idea can apply to checking things of your personal finance to-do list. If tasks like checking your bank account balances or paying your monthly credit card bill make you cringe—know you aren’t alone. The results of a study that surveyed more than 19,000 adults in the United States showed that 60 percent felt anxious when thinking about their personal finances and 50 percent felt stressed discussing the topic.

“Financial stress has been seen as an unshakable part of adulthood for so many,” says Maia Monell, MS, co-founder of personal finance app, Nav.It. “Mounting debt, expenses, and an abundance of predatory financial actors all make mitigating financial health incredibly challenging.”

So, what’s the key to making money feel less stressful? Monell believes it involves creating a daily financial health routine akin to other self-care practices. “As reducing financial stress is key to unlocking long-term health, we must begin to practice good financial health regularly to build confidence in our ability to overcome challenges, navigate decisions and optimize our financial health outcomes to live our best lives,” she says.

Below, take note of seven small finance tasks you can do to help minimize your stress around money. Trying to accomplish all seven at once could feel overwhelming, so try to start with just productive finance task and build from there.Download a personal finance app

“The best way to deal with overwhelm is to increase your awareness around the problem at hand and take action towards changing the situation,” says Diana Yáñez, certified financial planner and registered life planner. “Start [with whatever] feels easiest and gentlest or most aligned with your goal—just make sure to start.”

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One easy step to take is to simply download an app. Whether it’s a personal finance app like Nav.It or just the free one that your bank or credit card company offers, it’s a step in the right direction. Having on-demand access to your financial information can feel empowering. You may also be able to sign up for notifications like credit line increases and fraud alerts depending on what your financial institution offers.

:Get Your Finances on Track With the Best Budget AppsWrite down your financial goals

Want to buy a house? Open up college savings accounts for your children? Or put money into a retirement fund? Monell recommends writing these goals down and then making a plan for each. “Begin by listing out short-term and long-term financial goals, then map out a monthly, weekly, and daily routine [to get you to those goals],” she says. Having a clear timeline planned out for your goals can give you a better idea of where you stand, and keep you from stressing over the unknown.Face any account issues immediately

Did you just receive a fraud alert text from your bank? Do you think you were accidentally charged twice for the same purchase? Was your card declined for a $5 cup of coffee? Things like this can happen to all of us from time to time regardless of how much money is in our bank account.

Even if you check your balances and cards regularly, if something comes up, you should handle it immediately. While it could be something more serious like identity theft, it could also be a technical glitch or, best case scenario, nothing at all. After all, while it’s certainly stressful to check your accounts at inopportune times, like at work or during brunch with friends—nipping a problem in the bud is much easier than untangling a web of identity theft when your account suddenly has a zero balance or spending hours on the phone with customer service.Check your balances regularly

“Because finances are such a source of stress, many people ignore their bank accounts and avoid having a monthly budget plan,” says therapist Justine Carino. “Avoidance makes the stress even worse because we lack awareness and begin to feel out of control of our finances. Avoidance is the most unhelpful coping mechanism for anxiety and stress, but it’s the most commonly used. If you can get into the routine of looking at your bank accounts weekly, you will be able to hit goals and feel less stress.”

So, make a plan and put it on your calendar. For example, check your bank account balance every Wednesday at noon and your credit cards every Sunday at 6 p.M. The more you do this, the easier it will get.Have a monthly budget

No one enjoys budgeting, but it helps you save money in the long run and gives you greater awareness and control of your finances. Whether you use an app, make a spreadsheet, or put pen to paper—figure out which way works best for you.

:Finally: Here's How to Create a Budget You Can Really, Truly Stick ToEducate yourself on money management

Want money to feel less intimidating and or to educate yourself on the best ways to maximize your funds? Check out a book on financial wellness from your local library or shop for affordable titles online. Commit to reading a couple chapters a week—or whatever works for you—and start to feel a bit more empowered in your knowledge of personal finances.

Not a reader? Hit the subscribe button to one of the many free podcasts out there about money and investing. Search for personal finance on your preferred podcast platform and try to find a host and message you connect with.

:The 10 Best Finance Podcasts for Beginners, Investors—and Everyone ElseTalk to an expert

Taking care of your finances alone can be scary and overwhelming. So why not get some professional help? Financial planners and coaches know how to maximize cash, minimize interest, and make the most of investments. “Talk with a professional money person through the Foundation for Financial Planning or start educating yourself through resources like The Financial Diet, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, or All the Colors,” says Yáñez.

:Do You Need a Financial Planner? Here's How to Know—Plus How to Find One

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Indonesia Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Among Candidates For Top Central Bank Job – Sources

FILE PHOTO: G20 finance ministers, central bankers and senior officials meet in Bali

 © Thomson Reuters FILE PHOTO: G20 finance ministers, central bankers and senior officials meet in Bali

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati is among candidates being considered to be the next central bank governor, replacing the current chief whose term ends in May, according to five sources familiar with the matter.

CONSTELLATION BRANDS, INC.

The former World Bank managing director is a well-known figure in the global financial community and has served two stints as finance minister under two presidents, the latest starting in 2016.

She has won plaudits for reforming the taxation system and for her role in steering Southeast Asia’s biggest economy through the pandemic.

But Yustinus Prastowo, a special aide to Sri Mulyani, said there was no discussion in the finance ministry on her potential candidacy as the new Bank Indonesia (BI) governor.

Current BI chief Perry Warjiyo was also being considered for a second and final term, four of the sources told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity since the matter has not been made public.

The head of the Indonesia Deposit Insurance Corporation, Purbaya Yudhi Sadewa, and BI’s senior deputy governor, Destry Damayanti, were also identified by sources as potential candidates.

A lawmaker in the president’s ruling coalition said Sri Mulyani was favoured to take the job. But another source said the short-listing process was still underway.

“It’s not down to one name yet,” the source said.

When asked about her potential candidacy, Sri Mulyani on Tuesday said her focus was on her current role and said the mechanism to select a new governor would be based on law.

Warjiyo and Purbaya, also on the panel for the news conference, did not answer the question.

Purbaya declined to comment on his potential candidacy when contacted by Reuters on Monday after local media Detik.Com and Kumparan.Com reported the names.

In a television interview broadcast late on Tuesday, President Joko Widodo was asked about possible candidates for the new central bank governor and said he was undecided.

He said the candidates would need to have long experience in dealing with monetary and fiscal issues.

The current governor, Warjiyo, who will conclude his five-year term on May 24, is a career central banker who has played a key role in reforming BI’s monetary policy mix.

He has overseen BI’s pandemic response, which included unconventional policies such as buying bonds directly from the government, rather than just in the secondary market.

BI has lifted interest rates by 225 basis points since August as part of the central bank’s post-pandemic tightening cycle.

Under a recently revised central bank law, the president must submit at least one name to parliament by February, to allow time for lawmakers to conduct a fit-and-proper test for candidates before selecting the best person for the job.

(Reporting by Stefanno Sulaiman, Ananda Teresia, Gayatri Suroyo; additional reporting by Kate Lamb Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Ed Davies, Martin Petty)

Secrecy Is A Scourge On Finance. How To Bring Hidden Wealth Into The Light.

Text sizeThe U.S. Has taken action against financial secrecy before. It’s time to do it again, writes Raymond W. Baker. Dreamstime

About the author: Raymond W. Baker is the founding president of Global Financial Integrity, a think tank in Washington, D.C.

Drug traffickers, counterfeiters, corrupt government officials, and tax evaders all have one thing in common: they know how to hide their money in shell companies and secret accounts. Estimated in the trillions, this hidden wealth is often invisible to government authorities, threatening their ability to control what goes on within their borders, and even the very functioning of democracy itself.

In recent decades, secrecy has rivaled profit as the main motive in the way we practice capitalism. An entire financial secrecy system—comprising tax havens, secrecy jurisdictions, disguised entities, falsified trades, and more—has been built to conceal revenues, hide wealth, abet crime and corruption, and avoid taxes. A key building block of this secrecy system is anonymous companies. These entities with unknown beneficial ownership number in the millions. More have been created in the United States than in any other country. 

The U.S. Government has taken modest steps to address the problem. The U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN, proposed new regulations in 2016 requiring U.S. Financial institutions to identify beneficial owners of legal entity customers. The 2016 action came at the end of a tortuous five-year period of exchanges by the Treasury Department with the banking industry, which tried to water down the impending due diligence requirements. The requirements came into effect in 2018. They are an improvement but still deficient. Beneficial interests need be recorded only for owners of 25% or more of the entity opening the account, meaning that five equal owners could avoid revealing their identities. Even more worrisome, banks have to confirm only that the identified individuals are in fact real people, not that they are related to the account. Concentration accounts, such as those maintained by law firms on behalf of multiple customers, are not covered under beneficial ownership requirements. Trust accounts are also not covered. The rules allowed many customers of U.S. Banks to remain in secrecy.

In 2020, Congress passed the Corporate Transparency Act. The law requires information to be reported to the Treasury Department on each beneficial owner of most companies. Beneficial ownership is defined as holding an ownership interest of 25% or more or having substantial control over the company. Companies with more than 20 employees, more than $5 million in revenues, and that operate from a physical office in the United States are exempted. Information filed with the Treasury Department under the new rules remains primarily for government, not public, use. The legislation leaves out several types of entities including trusts, partnerships, some hedge funds and private equity funds, money service businesses, and more; and does not stop foreign shell companies from doing business with the United States.

Requiring beneficial ownership to be made public is the single most important step in moving toward transparency and accountability in capitalism. It would not be technically difficult. Nor would it be unprecedented to ban a key element of the financial secrecy system. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States government immediately went after terrorist financing. And it worked. Movements of money by terrorists outside the United States have been largely—not quite completely, but largely—pushed out of the legitimate financial system. This success well demonstrates what can be accomplished with political will and dogged determination. 

A key part of the success was the anti-money-laundering legislation included in the Patriot Act, which gave the U.S. New tools to fight money laundering. Among these measures is a flat-out ban on transactions through foreign shell banks, which functioned in the thousands without identifying their owners. The Patriot Act says that no U.S. Bank can receive money from a foreign shell bank, defined as a foreign bank that does not have a physical presence in any country, and no other financial institution in the world can send money to the United States that it has received from a foreign shell bank. These prohibitions apply even to wire transfers that might hit New York correspondent banking accounts for a split second before flitting off somewhere else. If any such transfers intentionally or accidentally occur, the money can be seized from the foreign bank’s correspondent account. Instantly, shell banks went out of business all over the world. Thus, a major element of the financial secrecy system was almost completely taken off the table.

The same should be done with disguised corporations no matter who owns them. Whether structured as anonymous companies, shell companies, shelf companies, cell companies, portfolio companies, moneybox companies, intermediary accounts, or any other iteration, we must end this practice. Most shell companies can be eliminated in the same way with legislation based on the Patriot Act: No U.S. Financial institution could receive money from a shell company, and no financial institution in the world could send money to the United States that it received from a shell company. All owners with 5% or more of shares or ownership rights should be identified, which is consistent with requirements of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for identifying owners of listed companies. There would be no burdensome investigations or mounds of paperwork. Instead, financial institutions would simply require accountholders to provide the names of natural persons who are beneficial owners and managers, with updates whenever changes are made.

Exceptions may occasionally be necessary. Some foreigners of good repute have money deposited in foreign shell companies in order to escape economic, political, or personal harassment by dictators and despots. In such cases, the U.S. Treasury Department could permit a longer period of perhaps three to five years before beneficial ownership information is required or the account is closed.  

Publicly available beneficial ownership information would shine light on the secrecy problem at the heart of modern capitalism. Many countries are already building registries of shareholder information, and such registries, public and online, should become the global norm. This effort, however, hit a setback in November, when the European Court of Justice struck down an anti-money laundering directive that required beneficial ownership information to be made public in all cases. The court cited the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data. But the court’s ruling fails to distinguish between privacy and secrecy. I would like my bank accounts to remain private. This does not mean cloaked in secrecy. If someone with a name similar to mine is suspected of a terrorist act and authorities need to investigate possibly relevant account activity, I have no objection. My financial privacy is not above our collective personal security. 

Governments and societies have an interest in deterring disguised entities, which are readily available for use by criminals, kleptocrats, terrorist financiers, and of course, as always, tax evaders. With secrecy firmly entrenched in modern capitalism, our economic system is functionally beyond oversight by anyone. Eliminating secrecy in the form of anonymous companies is a necessary step in strengthening the democratic capitalist system. 

This essay is adapted from Invisible Trillions: How Financial Secrecy Is Imperiling Capitalism and Democracy—and the Way to Renew Our Broken System, published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Guest commentaries like this one are written by authors outside the Barron’s and MarketWatch newsroom. They reflect the perspective and opinions of the authors. Submit commentary proposals and other feedback to [email protected].

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