Investing 101

Avoid Financial Destruction by Facing Money Fears

It’s the holiday season.

And like many of you, I’ve been getting cards, letters and emails from family and friends wishing me and mine their best.

Though, recently, one of these bothered me.

It was an email to a close-knit group of friends from one whom many of us hadn’t seen in several months. The note itself was pleasant enough. There were the usual updates on kids and family. But one sentence in particular saddened me: “We’re just trying to survive like so many of you…”

My wife and I both had the same reaction to reading it. It was likely true.

Even our closest friends – many of whom are doing quite well income-wise – are just trying to “survive.” They’re caught in this cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. It’s a vicious circle so many people can’t seem to break free from.

And during the holidays – despite the mania of joyous spending – it seems like so much more of a burden.

The problem is so many people struggle because of self-inflicted wounds.

And the worst part is it’s hard to convince them to stop. It’s like there are these self-destruct sequences programmed into us that are nearly impossible to disarm.

Growing up poor, I was told that money couldn’t buy happiness.

I don’t know if it was a self-defense mechanism. I don’t know if it was an actual realization.

But it was always implied that the wealthy people living in those big houses on the nice side of town weren’t really happy. That they were somehow immoral at their core. We’ve all heard that “The love of money is the root of all evil.”

This idea gets instilled in us, especially if we don’t come from money, that if we somehow have more than we need, we are or will be corrupted.

But what if I told you it’s these perceptions that are the root of our financial struggles?

Studies, like those from financial psychologist Dr. Brad Klontz of Creighton University, show the more negative your attitude is toward wealth and the wealthy, the more likely you are to have a lower income.

Basically, a hatred of the rich and money ends up making you poor.

This is a practice called “money avoidance.”

Essentially, this is financial self-sabotage.

It ranges from overspending to an unwillingness to educate yourself on money matters. It lures people into the trap of not planning for retirement or even developing an irrational fear of money.

This is why 70% of lottery winners go bankrupt within five years. And why people who receive a large inheritance blow through it just as quickly.

The concept of money – what it really means – is lost on them.

I never developed a hatred or a love of money.

What I did develop was an understanding of what money truly meant. At least to me. And that’s freedom.

Freedom to do whatever I want. Freedom to be as generous as I want. Freedom to not be stressed about money and the future. Freedom to walk off into the sunset whenever I feel like it.

And a lot of it begins with our necessities.

No matter your income level, no matter what “percent” you’re a part of, we all must pay for necessities – homes, clothes, food and even our retirements.

According to a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, more than half of employees are stressed out about their finances.

Meanwhile, 42% of baby boomers have nothing saved for retirement. And of those who do, 38% have less than $100,000 squirreled away.

It’s a dangerous financial situation. And more and more older Americans are being forced to work later and later in life. Not because they want to. But because they have to.

We’re all going to need money. But our income-earning days will eventually come to an end.

We can’t fall into the traps of money avoidance – of just “surviving” another year.

That’s not living.

We have to face our fears and misunderstandings about money and wealth…

And we have to recognize if we’re guilty of self-sabotage.

If we are, it’s never too late to change.

Good investing,