Get a financial advisor or coach. Make sure they are independent and a fiduciary. This means somebody who is not incentivized by commissions or by selling their own firm’s products. This is important to trust-building. An independent perspective on your finances could help you discover alternative paths to moving forward if you are stuck with financial anxiety.

With all that’s going on in our country, our economy, the world, and on social media, it feels like so many of us are under a great deal of stress. A time of high inflation, a recession, or unemployment, can be particularly stress-inducing. We know chronic stress can be as unhealthy as smoking a quarter of a pack a day. What are stress management strategies that people use to become “Stress-Proof? What are some great tweaks, hacks, and tips that help reduce or even eliminate financial stress? In this interview series, we are talking to authors, business leaders, and financial experts, who can share their strategies for reducing or eliminating financial stress. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing James Langabeer.

James Langabeer, Ph.D. is a decision scientist, behavioral economist, and financial decision-making expert. His latest book, The Quest for Wealth (2022), offers six simple steps to become more mindful regarding our money choices. He is a tenured professor at a major university and founded Yellowstone Wealth Advisors in Texas to provide specialized behavioral financial advice and coaching to individuals and small businesses. James writes a monthly column on decision-making for Psychology Today and regularly contributes to Forbes Magazine. He has been featured in Oprah Daily, Fox News, Slate, NBC, CBS, NPR, Money Geek, and NerdWallet.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to know how you got from “there to here.” Inspire us with your backstory!

I grew up in a military family, with my dad being an Air Force officer and a Certified Public Accountant and auditor. He was strict, disciplined, and highly focused on precision and numbers. This helped me become interested in finance and money from an early age. I went on to earn an undergraduate and multiple graduate degrees in business administration and was certified as a financial advisor (ChFC) and management accountant (CMA). But I also strongly focus on human behavior and cognition, with a doctorate focused on human behavior and decision-making. A behavioral lens to finance helps illustrate how our biases and emotions play a trick on most people’s ability to make sound financial decisions. I founded an independent investment advisory (Yellowstone Wealth Advisors) to help guide people through wealth-building and take emotions out of money decisions.

What lessons would you share with yourself if you had the opportunity to meet your younger self?

The main lesson would be, “It will all be okay, don’t worry”! Worry, stress, and anxiety seem to plague most of us, especially me when I was younger. I constantly worried about not having enough money for retirement, not being adequately prepared, or being unable to balance everything going on. I’d love to go back and enjoy more of the business trips that took me to all parts of Europe and take some time to relax and savor those days. While my journey to success and wealth was earned by hard work, I would remind my younger self that it’s just as important to have more fun along the way.

None of us are able to experience success without support along the way. Is there a particular person for whom you are grateful because of the support they gave you to grow you from “there to here?” Can you share that story and why you are grateful for them?

I have so many people for whom I am grateful for their support and encouragement. Two great mentors in my life stand out, however. One taught me how to become a leader at the ripe age of 22 and put me in charge of hundreds of employees who were significantly more experienced and probably more qualified than myself. My lesson from him was, “You got this”. If I took the initiative, I learned I could work things out without looking to bosses for answers. The second mentor put me in the right places to experience growth. He assigned me to the right teams and projects. He helped me lead a large SAP implementation, perform analyses on multiple mergers and acquisitions, and let me manage large global groups that allowed me to travel to South America, Europe, and all over the U.S.

My advice for everybody, especially those who just starting out, is to find yourself a mentor. Find somebody who is focused on helping you get on the right project or the right team. This is important to help you do great things and gain momentum.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think it might help people?

I always have a new project underway. Projects help you grow and learn. One of the things I’m currently working on is a simple app that helps people make smarter money choices. I am adapting a decision tree logic to help people solve common financial questions, such as whether to own or lease a vehicle, buy or rent a house, save more money, or pay down debt. I hope to help consumers make better money choices to reduce their debt load and find their path to wealth.

Ok, thank you for sharing your inspired life. Let’s now talk about stress. How would you define stress?

Financial stress is the constant state of worry and anxiety when you struggle to make ends meet or make a difficult economic choice. How do you buy something without taking on more debt? How do you get rid of that debt and start investing simultaneously? How do you pay for all the necessities and still put away some money so you don’t live paycheck-to-paycheck? These are the types of issues that cause people to feel financial stress.

We have to separate our worries and fears from our financial behaviors, by putting in more mindful money practices, getting second opinions, and making the best choice available at the time. This means, don’t accept the only alternative that is in front of you, but do research and seek out the optimal choice.

In the Western world, humans typically have their shelter, food, and survival needs met. So what has led to this chronic stress? Why are so many of us always stressed out?

Uncertainty and fear are what create stress — the lack of knowing decisively what the right or wrong path is. Uncertainty about where the market is headed or what will happen if your job gets eliminated are common sources of stress. Stress is inherited and genetic in most cases. We are born with this, although some people have fewer triggers than others. Our stress results from constant thought processes, where we focus too much on obstacles, difficulties, and “what if” situations. We spend a lot less effort on positive things. Chronic stress is rampant, especially around money. When most Americans find themselves with less than $1,000 in savings, no investments, and a ton of mortgage or consumer debt, it is no wonder we are stressed. We all want to live this incredible life and have beautiful cars and houses, but we often can’t afford them. Yet deciding to live a simpler, less expensive life is often difficult for most people to accept, which is why they end up further in debt, with more and more stress! We must learn to make more mindful, thoughtful money choices that move us in the right direction to reduce stress.

What are some of the physical manifestations of being under a lot of stress? How does the human body react to stress?

Some obvious signs of stress are sweating, agitation, shallow breathing, and a “monkey mind”. This means we have too many thoughts and emotions racing all over the place, causing us to feel restless and lacking in control. Besides the physical manifestations, our executive decision-making function suffers. Our brains don’t work well under stress, so we tend to short-cut (or use heuristics) and let our innate biases and beliefs guide us rather than thorough research and contemplation. Rapid, highly emotional, impulsive, or rash reactions are common under stress and usually do not have optimal results!

Is stress necessarily a bad thing? Can stress ever be good for us?

Well, stress can be good. It alerts us to potential dangers. But rather than most hazards being physical, stress that results from hypothetical situations and over-thinking are far from helpful. This type of stress does help us stay focused on problems, but rather than being creative with solutions, repetitive thoughts about stress keep us bogged down in details, unable to escape. But stress, or pressure and anxiety, does help to create action. If you feel an enormous degree of stress, this might propel you to get a second job or do something to change your financial position. So, while stress can be positive or neutral at times, when it comes to financial strain, the only thing helpful is that it does tend to motivate people to take steps forward.

Let’s now focus more on the stress of a challenging economic time. This feels intuitive, but it is helpful to spell it out to address it. Can you help articulate what causes financial stress?

The cause of financial stress is often uncertainty and a sense that we are not in control of our outcomes. Let’s talk about what makes it challenging economically right now. We have much higher interest rates than we had for the last decade. Although they are still near the 50-year average, they seem high for most of us who have been used at lower rates. High interest rates mean higher car, credit, student loan, and mortgage payments. Another challenging aspect is high inflation rates or higher pricing for goods and services. Things are more expensive to buy. The stock markets are also highly volatile, moving up and down with huge swings.

Most importantly, while jobless rates are pretty low right now, many people feel they must take multiple jobs to keep up with their spending. Since uncertainty, fear, and loss of control are what creates stress, the current economic uncertainty is challenging for us all. We have to learn to master our emotions and control our financial destiny.

Here is the main question of our interview: Can you share with our readers your “5 Things You Can Do To Reduce Or Eliminate Financial Stress?”

I have many hacks to reduce stress. Here are five of them.

  1. Become more mindful. Being mindful means to be present, to become aware of your behaviors, thoughts, emotions, and actions. To become more mindful, simply slow down. Don’t multi-task when making a tough financial decision. Focus and simplify should be your motto. Make a detailed list of what is bothering you or what you are experiencing that is negative. Try asking yourself “What about this makes me so stressed?” If you can isolate the specifics about what is making you feel anxious, it might help you to calm yourself in those times. I had a client who literally spent no time examining why she was stressed all the time. When she finally made a list, and put it on paper, she realized there were really only 2 things that constantly held her attention. Knowing this, we work on those items, rather than the big unknown.
  2. Try some relaxation and breathing exercises to slow down and relax your brain and body. Before you make a rash decision, step back and give some space to the decision. Maybe create a practice that before any financial decision you will wait 24 hours before committing to it. Although I love cars, I have a guideline I stick to that I would never make an impulsive choice to buy a new car without pondering that decision over night.
  3. Know what options exist. Before making any financial choices involving buying or purchasing something, do your research and make a list of at least 3 alternatives (or options) that you could pursue. Having options helps to make us feel less “boxed in” and constrained and frees our mind to consider alternative paths.
  4. Apply a framework to your money. For example, regardless of how much money you earn, you might consider a budget that allocates a specific percentage towards spending of all forms, a percent towards debt repayment, some for charity and donations, and an allocation towards saving and investments. But rather than starting with spending first, allocate the first percentage towards your investments. These are your priorities for wealth-building. Make sure each month you hit that goal. If you determine you do that and can’t make the credit payments, you need to focus on making more money!
  5. Get a financial advisor or coach. Make sure they are independent and a fiduciary. This means somebody who is not incentivized by commissions or by selling their own firm’s products. This is important to trust-building. An independent perspective on your finances could help you discover alternative paths to moving forward if you are stuck with financial anxiety.

Can you help address some of the potential obstacles that get in the way of implementing your ideas? What can be done to clear the way and remove those roadblocks?

The biggest obstacle I have seen in the practice of working with clients is this — when we feel sick, we go to a doctor and get some medical advice. But when we get stuck financially, only about 1 in 10 people ever seek out a financial advisor or financial coach. We think we can fix things on our own. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple to address the root cause and emotional issues behind your spending or finances without a second set of eyes looking at things. Your own thoughts and feelings create behaviors and actions, and if these aren’t pointing in the right direction, you need to re-align these. Don’t let “you” be the biggest obstacle to your success! Bring in an advisor to help.

Thank you for that. We are nearly done. Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have inspired you to live with more joy in life?

My favorite book lately was written by Chris Gardner and called Permission to Dream. Chris was the author of The Pursuit of Happyness, which was turned into a movie starring Will Smith. Permission to Dream is an excellent book that helps provide a roadmap to finding yourself and allowing yourself to dream big. He helps us stand back and examine what we really want in life and how we can get it. I also enjoyed listening to him speak at a conference, and he is a fantastic storyteller.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most good to the most people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think it would be to help people just slow down and practice mindfulness in their money management! Slow down your busy life and stop making rapid decisions without contemplation while doing two or more things simultaneously. Impulsive behaviors are the enemy of sound financial decision-making. I recommend people use an app or timer that counts down hours or minutes before making a decision. Set the timer, contemplate your choices, and wait and see if you still make that same choice. This would help reduce our use of heuristics, guesses, and rapid-fire impulsive choices.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

I’d love to hear from anybody interested in addressing their financial behaviors and outcomes. Readers can either look at my articles on Psychology Today (How to Make Better Choices) or email me on my website. Sign up for my newsletter, or even pick up a copy of my book, The Quest for Wealth, on Amazon or Barnes and Noble!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.