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“No matter how much money I have, on some level, it feels like it’s never enough.” Someone said this to me recently. But it wasn’t the first time I’d heard it.
Over the years, I’ve heard this a lot. It usually comes from one of two categories of people.
Do you ever feel like you never have enough, despite being financially stable? It’s not uncommon, and it’s something you can change.Credit: Simon Letch
The first category is people who are describing their actual financial situation: no matter how much income they earn, the money runs out before the next payday.
This category of people frequently haven’t got the skills, systems or strategies in place to manage their income efficiently and save consistently. They need help with the “how”.
But what if you know the “how”? In fact, what if you’re great at saving and investing? You have your ducks in a row. You earn good money, and you know, theoretically, that you’re doing pretty well.
Logically, you know you should feel secure, successful, and maybe even content. But it still doesn’t feel like enough.
You still find yourself chasing more, worrying about falling behind, nitpicking minor expenses, and unable to relax because you don’t feel like you’ve “made it.”
This is the second category of people. On all accounts, they’re doing great financially. But somehow, even though they can recognise it, emotionally, they can’t feel it.
This isn’t uncommon, and despite what many think, it’s not something that suddenly goes away once you hit a specific financial status.
In a Harvard study conducted on thousands of millionaires, participants were asked to predict the wealth increase they’d need to increase happiness to a “perfect 10″.
Financial anxiety can sound pretty rational. Doesn’t everyone want to be more financially successful?
The majority of respondents across all wealth levels, whether they had a net worth of $1 million or $10 million, said they’d need anywhere from at least a 100 per cent to 1000 per cent increase in wealth. It turns out that even many multi-millionaires feel like it’s “not enough”.
How do we make sense of this? And what can you do about it? In my experience talking to people about this, I see a few common patterns.
Sometimes, if you dig underneath the “never enoughness”, you may find anxiety.
This can be tricky to identify because anxiety can sound pretty rational. Doesn’t everyone want to be more financially successful? Isn’t frugality just being financially responsible?
It’s hard to tell where a healthy level of concern stops and anxiety starts, but here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do you find yourself nitpicking and worrying about small expenses that would make little material difference, even though you know you’re in a pretty good place financially?
- Do you struggle to make spending decisions? Maybe you spend too much time overthinking, over-analysing, or over-researching options? Maybe you feel paralysed by indecision? Or maybe you simply avoid spending money to avoid decision fatigue?
- Do you feel like you can never really enjoy spending money? You always feel guilty, even though you know you can afford to spend it?
- Do you feel like, even though you have plenty of money, you need to be careful with it because you never know what sudden, unfortunate event might happen in the future?
If some of the above rang true, then anxiety might be driving your feeling of never enoughness.
When it comes to money, anxiety can be tough to let go of because, on paper, it can seem as though the anxiety is driving good financial results. Thanks to anxiety, your spending is under control, you save more money than most, and you’re diligent with your finances.
But anxiety can also hold you back from taking good risks, result in procrastination, and rob you of the ability to actually enjoy your financial success.
The good news is that you can unlearn anxious thought patterns. It won’t happen overnight, but there are many tools that can help you reduce anxiety, like therapy, meditation, and journaling.
Another common driver for the feeling never enoughness is social comparison.
Wealth provides the perfect fodder for comparison because of how quantifiable and visually apparent it can be. It’s easier to compare bank accounts than life satisfaction.
This can lead to constant dissatisfaction with one’s current level of financial achievement because there’s always someone else who has more.
To some degree, this is natural. Humans are social beings so social comparison is inevitable.
But excessive social comparison can negatively impact our quality of life. It can lead to an exhausting, never-ending chase for more and a life that is lived for others instead of ourselves.
Social media doesn’t help, which is why today, while it’s harder than ever, it’s also more important than ever to cultivate practices that help us stay present to our own personal values.
In doing so, you’ll slowly stop allowing the world to define what you should aspire to, and start to realise that your definition of enough is entirely up to you.
Paridhi Jain is the founder of SkilledSmart, which helps adults learn to manage, save and invest their money through financial education courses and classes
- Advice given in this article is general in nature and is not intended to influence readers’ decisions about investing or financial products. They should always seek their own professional advice that takes into account their own personal circumstances before making any financial decisions.
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