It is Saturday, the sun is shining and we’ve just come back from a long, playful walk with Suzi the Dog. Why am I sitting at my desk thinking about money fears?
Couple of days ago I read a post by my friend Ricky (aka SkintDad). It is about debt (more specifically Ricki’s debt) and his plans to see it on its way. Naturally, I’m so much with Ricki on this one – anyone who is licking his/her debt butt is in my good books forever; and can ask me for any support they need.
Debt was not what I couldn’t get out of my mind. What keeps coming back is Ricky’s longing to be able to give his family opportunities: a garden where his daughters can play, a secure home, holidays and travel to experience the world.
This reminded me about something that can be easily lost in personal finance.
You see, we talk about money.
We talk about how to spend/save it.
We talk about how to earn it.
We talk about how to invest it.
Even our fears have become about money itself. We seem to forget a very important point:
Every time we seem to worry about money, we are actually worried about our life.
You don’t believe me?
One fear many people share is that they won’t have enough money. It may be today when going to the shops, it may be for life or simply in old age. Thing is, this fear is not really about money – it is about ‘enough’. And enough is always about money sustaining your life.
Did you know that over half of the women in the US fear that they’ll become bag ladies? Neither did I, until researching it. This is a bit more complex but again it is not about money, it is not even about how healthy your bank account is. I believe this is a fear about not being able to survive in crisis; it is about vulnerability.
And on it goes. According to different money fears surveys these include: not having saving, having too much money, not understanding money and having your identity stolen (and your cash with it).
You have to know your money fears if you are to overcome them. ‘Cause ‘scared money makes no money’, you see.
Looking back, my money fears were nothing like the ones coming through the surveys.
Here are my top five money fears from five years back:
#1. My son won’t have enough to eat. Silly, I know. Given my earning history, employment and education level this should have not been a fear. Still, every night when the light was off, my belly knotted in fear and my brain raced through possibilities. This is why we build a store cupboard and I started freezing meals: knowing that if the sh*t really hits the fan we have food for a month allowed me the space to focus on what matters.
#2. We’ll be homeless and destitute. I know I sneaked two things here but they were the same fear. On this one, I had to go to ‘ground zero’ and imagine what would be the absolutely worst thing that will happen if we do. It turned out, we’ll have to live in a smaller house which made this fear ridiculous.
#3. Fear I won’t be able to help my parents. Now, this was serious. I always knew that the financial support of my parents will fall on me. They didn’t have much to live on through no fault of their own: they had a lot of money saved and the devaluation of the early 90s ate it all. My education was my Dad’s best investment.
#4. Fear I won’t be able to see a play; ever. Very middle class this one. It doesn’t make it less real or less serious. As it happens seeing plays is possible again and a three year break wasn’t such a hardship.
#5. Fear we’ll drop out of our friendship circle. This concerned me at first. Soon I realise that this is not an issue of money or debt; it is an issue of friends and what you share with them.
Now I have no money fears. Do you know why?
Because I’m a tried and tested money disaster survivor. After facing, living with and paying off £100,000 ($160,000) worth of debt in three years there are few matters of personal finance that can scare me.
Most importantly, I know that money fears are about life; hence to conquer them I had to change my life.