Many people have experienced what is called the ‘3am moment’ when they wake up in a cold sweat and with their biggest worry spinning around in their head. That doesn’t lead to an uplifting and joyous day ahead.
In January this year, it was revealed that 84% of us frequently lay awake in bed at night worrying about money1. This surprising figure led us to explore why and what makes people worry so much about money and how we can all stop worrying and sleep better.
But first, we need to be clear about the difference between money ‘problems’ and money ‘worries’.
Money Problems – these tend to be urgent and leave you with two options: get more money (better job, promotion, extra job) or make do with less.
Money Worries – these are more aligned to your state of mind than reality because they are typically deep-rooted and psychological.
Oddly enough you can’t rid yourself of money worries by getting more money because really the worries have nothing to do with actual money. What money provides you with is buying power – but it doesn’t tell you what to buy. Many people want money to give them status, success, security, salvation or moral superiority, however, money alone can’t do that. Some of the things you might buy (an expensive duplex penthouse apartment) might confer a ‘sense’ of status, but never status itself.
Make no mistake, money is supremely powerful when it comes to how it makes us feel, and act. Consider the following study: when surveyed, nearly half of the US respondents said they’d prefer to live in a world where the average salary was $25,000 and they earned $50,000 than one where they earned $100,000 but the average was $200,0002.
Read that again. Nearly half the people polled would accept half their income so long as they were better off than their peer group, family and neighbours. In absolute terms, this is a terrible deal, but in relative terms, they ‘win’.
Our relationship with money is created over our whole lives, formed through our unique experiences and our ideology. It shapes our identity, attitude to others, and often our generation. Our relationship with money touches almost every aspect of our lives; how we view the world and react to certain situations, determining our levels of greed, generosity, need for freedom, desire, power, status, work, and possessions.
Benjamin Franklin once said “Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants”.
Even when you have reached that higher salary you thought would make you so much happier, the Hedonic Treadmill theory suggests that we quickly adjust to our new situation and our happiness returns to its original level all too quickly.
The British author and psychologist, John Armstrong3 suggests four key questions to ask yourself;
- why is money important to you?
- how much money do you need to achieve what’s important to you?
- what is the best way to acquire that money?
- what are your economic responsibilities to others during acquiring and using that money?
Developing the ability to distinguish between our wants and needs will help to gain a better relationship with our money. Understanding how much that new purchase will impact us and our life is crucial. Armstrong explains that sometimes we need to lessen our attachment to status and glamour in order to concentrate on higher things. This doesn’t necessarily take more money; it takes more independence of mind plus a healthy relationship with money.
Self-knowledge and personal resourcefulness are the foundations of controlling money worries. And they may just help you to get a good night’s sleep.
At Capital, we believe worrying never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy, so relax and enjoy life today.
- Express (2017) http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/life/755882/Money-woes-Brits-admit-lying-awake-worrying-about-cash-finance-pressure
- Solnick and Hemenway, “Is More Always Better?” (Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Nov. 1998)
- How to worry less about money (Armstrong, 2012)