Posted by Tim Stobbs on November 16, 2009
Personal finance is an interesting place to spend your time in study. There’s the obvious side of things, the cold hard numbers of what we should do. It’s the place of interest rates and savings plans on neat spreadsheets. Then there is the emotional side of the numbers, the illogical and strangely self reflective part that will either keep you saving more than you should or spending more than you earn regardless of what the spreadsheet says you should do. That second side is where the heart of personal finance really is and that is where I recently determined: I’m ashamed of being wealthy.
Yes, it’s true. Well sort of, actually I’m ashamed of appearing too well off. I can handle being wealthy, but I dislike showing that I am to anyone. It’s an interesting insight for me to realize since it really does guide a lot of my reluctance to spend money on some things, even when I do need or want it. It’s the reason why I own a small car and wear my clothes until the actually start to wear out and why I’ve delayed buying an ebook reader for four months when I could pay for it today with barely a dip in my monthly savings.
So where did this shame come from? Well I’ve personally watched a few people in life that have been well off and the problems that came with being well off and having others know about it. In one case it caused a family rift between two relatives for about five years over a loan that one co-signed for the other and then the other defaulted on. In another case I literally watched someone be driven out of their hometown over being well off and everyone knowing it. The person in question was constantly being bothered to give people money outright or invest in stupid business plans. The constant stress of bad loans that were ruining relationships was too much and to solve the issue he moved away.
Up until recently I didn’t consider how those moments in other people’s lives have affected me. Yet it obviously it has since I’m reluctant to show too much wealth to anyone. This small fact drives a number of behaviours for me including:
- I dislike brand name clothes. I won’t buy them, but I will wear them if someone else buys them for me.
- I have an aversion to being in upper management since I dislike wearing a suit. Despite looking good in one and being able to afford a suit.
- I’m guarded with my face to face conversations with money. I’ll discuss the logical side of it, but I won’t mention my own situation like how I want to pay off my mortgage in the next few years. So as an outlet I discuss money on blogs including this one.
Yet I’m trying to achieve financial independence which can potentially be one of the bigger displays of wealth out there. So what gives? Well that is a bit easier to understand. You see if you doing something that appears to be a job, regardless of how poor you do, will outwardly explain the income. People often don’t look past the obvious. So this explains a bit of my drive to have something of a ‘job’ post retirement, yet at the same time I don’t plan for making any money at that job in my retirement plan.
It’s interesting that in personal finance we like to say you should suppress your emotions in a lot of decisions, but it’s your emotions that direct a lot of your behaviour in the non-obvious parts of your life. So in my case my shame of showing wealth drives a lot of my low spending habits which in turn feeds my savings rate. At the same time that shame can prevent me from enjoying my money to a degree if I’m not aware of the issue and try to over ride that response once in a while.
So do you know what emotion drives you with your money? If you know, please share.