A Money Coach in Canada

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If so, I can assure you you’re in good company. It’s not something I’ve ever had to deal with myself, but lots of my clients have. And it’s very specific – a fear that when they are old, they will not have enough to meet their basic needs. That they will end up eating cat food or trudging around with a shopping cart, living in abject poverty. It’s time to declutter your mind from this kind of thinking about your financial future!

These fears are a form of distorted thinking and this one is called Catastrophizing.

It can take two forms.

One occurs when something negative or unpleasant happens to you financially (say, you go into debt, or you don’t get a raise, or you overspend) and your mind quickly exaggerates that into worst case scenarios: I’ll never get out of debt so I’ll get kicked out of my home, I’m never going to have enough in my RRSP/pension so I’m going to have to work ’til I die, I can’t handle money and won’t have any left when I’m old.

Another occurs when you hear bad news about the economy, or someone who really is facing severely difficult times. Your imagination runs wild and you envision all kinds of horrible circumstances for yourself in the future: If they were a decent, middle-class person and that happened to them it could happen to me! The economy is going to collapse and I’m going to lose everything too!

The effects can be crippling – you feel doomed before you even try to ensure your old-age is reasonably secure! You lose sleep, you may suffer full-blown anxiety attacks, and you may divert energy towards a panic-driven reaction to a future that hasn’t even happened yet. It’s exhausing!

If you are prone to catastrophizing, here are some steps you can take to help.

1. Name it as catastrophizing. Pause your imagination, and remind yourself that it is a known phenomena and it is distorted thinking.

2. Ground yourself in the present. Take several deep, slow breaths. Feel your feet on the ground and your hands by your sides and your head on your shoulders. Take note of your surroundings – the sounds, the smells, the people around you. Bring yourself fully back to your present, which is where you belong.

3. Ask yourself silly questions –> Did I inherit a crystal ball? –> Is it true that everything I think is going to happen always happens? Do I have that super-power and someone forgot to tell me? –> Should I call CNN and tell them what is going to happen? Of course, ask these questions with a gentle affection for yourself!

This is the second of our financial decluttering series which focuses on our messy thinking. Last week we explored the distorted thinking pattern called filtering. Check it out if you are prone to thinking the worst of yourself and your finances rather than appropriately acknowledging the good aspects of you and your money. And come back next week for ideas on combatting another form of distorted thinking.

photo credit: AnnieGreenSprings

About the Author

Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com


  1. Pigbitin Mad

    If all this thinking is so silly, then why are there so many homeless people. They can’t all be crazies that were let out of the institution. If it can happen to very rich women it can certainly happen to me. I worked my butt off and did a good job. Guess what, they still fired me because I was older. And now I cannot get another job because I am considered over the hill. How can you say this cannot happen.


    Nancy (aka Moneycoach) Reply:

    Distorted thinking is not “so silly”, and obviously people can and do become homeless. But just because it’s a possible outcome doesn’t mean it’s probable, and the point I’m speaking to is ungrounded, panicky and sometimes obsessive (not of which are silly) fear that prevents people from making thoughtful, grounded responses to their present (and real) situation. Does the fact that you were fired mean you are therefore going to end up a bag lady? Not at all. Does the fact that you are struggling to find another job mean you will end up a bag lady? Again, no. It *could* happen, but it probably won’t and I hope to hell it doesn’t. If you are willing to, I’d be interested in hearing from you again as things unfold in your hunt for employment.


    Apr 04, 2011
  2. Pigbitin Mad

    Stumbled back across this post and it has been two months and still NOTHING. If something were to happen to my husband, I will become a bag lady. Of course, the first time I did not realize you were in Canada (not the United States of Greed). This makes a big difference since the morons who live there are sure to reward people who want to totally dismantle their safety net. I seriously believe a civil war is necessary. Even if the North loses this time (because the South has all the guns)we might at least kill off 20% of the population which should create some job openings.


    Jun 14, 2011
  3. Pigbitin Mad

    OOPS meant to say “the morons who live HERE” meaning the USA. Canadians are generally better about not wanting to slit their own throats.


    Nancy (aka Moneycoach) Reply:

    ouch. That’s a pretty violent response to a desperate situation. I do sometimes scratch my head about some of the politics and approaches to socio-economics in the States though, I have to say. And this often seems to come from those who would be most disadvantaged by the policies. I think it’s the dark side of the wonderfully fierce sense of independence.

    Pigbitin Mad, I wish I could make things better for you and all others in the same tension-making situation. I’m sorry to hear that 2 months later things are still rough. Thank God you have a life partner to share the load with. I am also going to try to write a series of posts for people without the basic income they require to meet their needs. If you have suggestions for topics, I’m listening.


    Jun 14, 2011

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