The Financial Health Institute defines financial stress as a condition caused by financial events that create anxiety and worry, often coupled with physical responses. And chronic stress has long-term effects on health, making drivers more likely to suffer from heart disease, digestive issues, sleep issues, and a host of other problems. Between the low pay and long hours, truckers are especially prone to suffering from financial stress. When an owner-operator is not driving, they are not earning money. This leads many drivers to overwork and exhaust themselves to make ends meet. This also means less focus and slower reaction times, making trucking more dangerous. It is crucial for drivers and owner-operators to find ways to manage their finances and cope with stress.
So, How Can Truckers Manage Financial Stress?
- Make a Budget – Determine your income and assess your necessary expenses. It may be helpful to create a spreadsheet or download software to organize this budget. Try to stick to it, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you aren’t always able to, as this could lead to even more stress. Do your best and don’t give up!
- Track Expenses – Keep track of everything you spend your money on. This will let you know when your expenses are not meeting the budget. Those gas station snacks can add up over time; it can be helpful to see just how much. Once you figure out where your money goes, decide which costs are crucial, and which areas you can cut back in. Then, make adjustments.
- Save Money – This one is obvious, but can be difficult. If you are able to find spaces in your budget after monitoring expenses, try to put that money towards savings. Consider setting up automatic savings through your bank to make saving money as quick and painless as possible. Ideally, you should have savings for goals (like adding a shiny new Peterbilt to your fleet), and an emergency fund in case of the unexpected. Even if you don’t feel like you have enough to save, know that even a few dollars here and there is better than nothing at all.
- Make a Plan with Finances – Envision growth for yourself and your business. What goals do you have for the next five, ten, or twenty years? Keep these in mind as you budget, spend, and save. It may help to write them down somewhere and revisit them often. Try to be realistic with your goals, and break them down into small, manageable pieces. Don’t forget to take your truck’s maintenance costs into account and plan for emergencies!
- Don’t forget to Take Care of Yourself! – While managing finances is a key to managing financial stress, drivers should also develop methods to cope with feelings of stress. Try to stay active, eat well, and get enough rest when you can. Find ways to stay in touch with your friends and family, and go to them when you need help or support. Look at things in a positive light as much as possible and make an effort to be conscious in your daily life. Make time for your hobbies, whether it be sports, music, or anything else. It’s good to focus on your interests instead of stressors once in awhile!
Your money should work as hard as you do. As an owner-operator or driver, you may often feel overwhelmed by work and finances. Taking the time to make a budget and saving money will help you lower financial stress in the long haul.
Authors: Kathy Moseng and Connie Marlatt – JX Financial F&I Executives