- For Love & Money is Insider’s bi-weekly column answering your questions about relationships and money.
- This week, a reader whose household earns $ 250,000 asks how to reset her relationship with money so that she feels like she has had enough.
- Our columnist advises changing your habits, choosing new goals and considering therapy.
- A question for our columnist? Write to For Love & Money using this Google form.
Today’s question is a little different than usual: it is not directly related to the reader’s romantic relationship. We run it anyway, because their struggle with feelings of scarcity is something that many of us can relate to no matter how much we earn.
Expensive for love and money,
I am a 33 year old healthcare communication professional. My husband is also 33 years old and works in a software company. We started our careers in 2010, and it was a terrifying time to start in the workforce. In the first few years, we only earned $ 39,000 a year and had two toddlers to feed. Needless to say, our budget has been very tight for many years.
Now we are making more money than I could have imagined, but we are working in non-passionate careers which are pretty mundane. We earn $ 250,000 per year combined.
I grew up in a relatively lower middle class home. My parents were constantly talking about our struggles with money, and I took on much of that stress as an eldest child. As a result, I feel like I have a pretty strained, scarcity-based relationship with money that I can’t shake. I never feel safe, and a friend even asked me if I “felt like I had enough”.
The thing is, we’re big savers, and it’s not that I want to spend the money (we spend around $ 90,000 a year), it’s just that I’m afraid we will. were missing. Are there any books or resources to “reset” my relationship with money? I think it really had an impact on the way I pursued my career (only looking for ‘safe’ opportunities) and the way I think about saving (only investing in less risky index funds with bonds, rather than real estate or riskier assets). I also just want to be a normal person who doesn’t check their Mint.com balance every day for reassurance and for a dopamine surge.
Fear of spending
Dear fear of spending,
I’ll start by answering the question your friend once asked you: “Will you ever feel like you’ve had enough?”
If nothing changes, you will never feel like you have enough money. Because your relationship with money is marked by fear. Money and fear is a complicated mix because, on the one hand, fear is how your instincts protect you from harm, but on the other hand, fear is also all your past traumas and pains that keep coming back for a long time. another bite. Listening to the first is wisdom, and listening to the second is anxiety. Since you admit that the reality of your finances does not match your fear, I think it is clear that you are suffering from some financial anxiety.
By continuing to put money into your bank account, choosing safe forms of income, and trying to neutralize your fear of “running out of money” by checking your Mint app, you are in fact negotiating with a terrorist. Your anxiety makes a promise it won’t keep, that it will go away if you earn X amount of money, have a certain amount of savings, or achieve the ever-elusive “financial freedom”. But in reality, each time you meet the demands of your anxiety, it grows stronger and holds you back a bit more.
The alternative? Stop negotiating, stop listening to the voice that tells you “If you’re not careful, you’re going to run out of money,” and start arguing instead. So, first: stop checking your Mint app every morning. Make a goal of only allowing yourself to check in once a week. The voice in your head will only get louder at first, like most things do when a previously successful strategy doesn’t work, but stop feeding her and she will starve to death.
You ask about the books and resources, and I encourage you to check out Ramit Sethi’s book and podcast, both titled “I’ll Teach You How To Be Rich,” which focuses on tackling scarcity. I also encourage you to consider therapy. This suggestion may sound drastic, but your anxiety is clearly stealing a lot of your mental and emotional space, and that’s reason enough to seek therapy. In fact, recognizing that you can pay for a service you need without running out of cash is a great way to start fighting your anxiety.
That brings me to my next suggestion: replace unhealthy goals that fuel your financial anxiety with goals that will reset your relationship with money instead. For example, you could make a goal of going on vacation with your kids this year. Then, of course, save to get there, but your goal is not to hit a certain amount before it is safe to buy plane tickets. Rather, it’s about showing your kids the redwood forest this year, no matter what. You can also set a goal three years from now to have a job that you are happy with, and then focus your mental energy on achieving that goal rather than accepting that your financial anxiety is too great for it to happen.
Whatever goals you set for yourself, I hope they prioritize joy over fear. Because as I read your letter, I imagined you as a child sitting in the back of your parents’ car listening to them worry about the mortgage payment and bad checks, and I felt so much compassion. I hope you do too, and I hope you honor this version of yourself by looking inside and whispering, “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. “
Rooting for you,
For love and money