When reading the title of this post you might think it is a bit odd for a personal finance blog to post that question. And I promise this isn’t anything tongue in cheek, but really is a question for most people are we afraid of money? And I think that answer is that we are afraid of it.
In some respects it seems counterintuitive because many of us are not afraid of what we can buy with money. For example, most of us are not afraid to buy a car with money or a home or clothes. Then why are we afraid of money? Part of the reason is that those items and others are tangible. We can touch them. We can see them. We can grab a hold of them. If we are talking about just money in general we can’t do that. And most of us wouldn’t want to walk around with $20,000 in our pocket because we are afraid to use it. That is probably why cash transactions are at all time low. It is more comfortable to use a card with a chip. We aren’t necessarily afraid of using the card. The card doesn’t hurt to use. And if we lose it we can simply cancel it. If you lose money it is gone. You most likely won’t get it back. So the stuff we can get with money being tangible and/or we don’t have to think about those transactions make us less fearful even though ironically they could lead to more disaster because you can overspend with your card or buy a house that is too much for you or whatever.
Beyond the intangibility with money is the larger questions that come with it. People are consistently, including myself, worried about whether or not they make enough money. Will they have enough to retire on? How much money is enough? How much money does it cost to go on a vacation? I mean if you run through the number of questions regarding money you head will swim with answers that will give you anxiety.
I fully admit to being afraid of money or more adequately the lack thereof. My fear stems from two categories. First, having enough money to live on later on in life. I have made no bones about the fact that my goal is financial independence. But what is that number? Is it a million? 1.5 million? $2 (not 2 million but $2). And how do we define what that means? Is it basically paying bills or is it something more. The anxiety or fear can be so big that it causes many people to have one more year syndrome (JOMYS–Just one more year). The idea is that if we work just one more year that we will have a cushion enough to be fine and comfortable, but that can lead to more years and it is perpetual until it is too late for other things.
My second category is more immediate and that is surviving the summer. Every year I wonder if my summer classes will make so that I will be able to pay the bills over the summer. Part of this stems from the fact that Mrs. ROB’s income goes down over the summer, while ironically mine goes up. And it goes up because of all of the little extra things I try to make more money: grants, summer teaching, advising, presentations, etc. Anything and everything I will probably do. Even though summer is supposed to be a time that I keep saying I will visit family or take a summer vacation I never have. I have taken a couple of days off and I did go to China last year, but part of that was for work. I have never just had a pleasure cruise during the summer. That probably should change. And it is because of this fear of money or lack thereof.
And there isn’t necessarily a cure for our fear of money. People that have more feel like they still don’t have enough or if they have it enough they fear it won’t last. People that don’t have money fear that they will never get it. Thus, there is perpetual cycle of fear.
So at the beginning of this post I asked are we afraid of money? I think the answer is clear that we are. We aren’t afraid of what it buys for us, but physical and abstract object itself gives us fear. Are you afraid of money? Why?