Worrying about money is a significant drain on feelings of well-being.

Concern over money is the number one stressor for adults, and half of Americans say they lose sleep over it. (1) No one wants to be trapped in a cycle of debt and overspending, yet a majority of adults feel unsure how to manage their finances effectively.

Thankfully, it’s never too late to learn and begin making better choices. Building the skills and confidence to manage money well may take some effort, but it will be effort well spent. These five steps are an excellent place to start.

Educate Yourself on Finances

Educate Yourself on Finances

Only 15% of college students report feeling prepared to manage their finances. (2) If your financial education was lacking, be proactive and seek out what you need to know.

Making and following a budget, finding the best savings accounts, and understanding investments and retirement planning are essential life skills. Take a class, find a financial advisor or look for online courses to build your money skills.

Spend Less than You Earn

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be the most challenging piece of financial wellness. For some people, their income is insufficient to support their family’s needs, while for others, their self-control is insufficient to reign in their spending. Whatever the reason, living within your means is critical to every other piece of financial health.

If you are an over-spender, start with a budget and cash system. If your issue is income, that may require a longer-term goal. You may need to build skills that will get you higher-paying work or get a raise at your current job by increasing your value to the company.

Your unique situation may vary, but find what keeps you from living within your income and take steps to address it.

Finances: Only Apply for Credit You Need

Only Apply for Credit You Need

The more credit cards you have, the more you are likely to spend. The average American has four credit cards and carries about $6,200 in debt. (3)

While a credit card can help in a true financial emergency, many people would be better off closing most of the ones they have. Carrying excess debt is a strain on your mental health, and it can even hurt your financial future by negatively impacting your credit score.

Create a Budget

Living off a monthly plan that balances your bills and spending with your income is the best way to ensure good money management. It can be as simple as making a list of essential bills and monthly expenditures, seeing how much additional money there is each month, and then planning appropriate saving and spending amounts.

If budgeting is a new skill, online tools can help, or perhaps you can enlist a financially savvy friend. Whatever you do, be realistic and continually work to spend less than you earn.

Build a Safety Net

Saving money is an investment in future security. It should be a non-negotiable part of your monthly money flow. If you’re not saving anything right now, start small. As your safety net grows, more options become available to invest and let your money work for you.

Prioritize Peace of Mind

In the end, how we manage our money isn’t about the things we can buy. It’s about feeling secure and stable in life and prepared to face the unexpected.

The peace of mind that comes from sound financial management is more valuable than any possession. Every good money decision you make improves your well-being today and lays the groundwork for long-term financial wellness.