10/14/2013 2:45 PM ET|
Are you afraid to spend money?
Here's a look at chronic savers who stockpile cash while forgoing everything from food to doctor visits.
Too much of a good thing, we're often told, is a bad thing. This is why there are sexual addiction therapists and an obesity epidemic. But, still, can anyone really have too much money?
In a way, yes. There are people out there – both extremely rich and poor – who are afraid to spend money. They fear spending to the point that they feel financially paralyzed, with money safely socked away in the bank yet they won't pay for doctor visits, vacations, clothes or the electric bill.
"I've seen plenty of clients like this. They don't spend money on beauty supplies, haircuts, vacations, entertainment or even their health," says Adam Hagerman, a financial coach based near Baltimore who does some work for a government agency and has encountered a number of chronic savers who receive his help free of charge. In fact, he adds, "I have never had a chronic saver pay for my services."
Hagerman says such clients also typically have trouble spending money on food, and when they do, it's as inexpensive as possible (and often not nutritious). "These chronic savers also seem to just have this pile of money. It's never allocated to anything. It's just there. I'm not saying that that's a bad thing ... However, it's just about the number to these savers," Hagerman says.
Most of us probably don't have this problem – just wish we did – but for those who think they might and want to do something about it, here's our two cents to add to your pile.
This comes straight out of your college freshman psychology textbook. You may simply be cheap, of course, but many chronic savers have deeper issues, says Erica Curtis, a marriage and family therapist and a professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. "In my professional experience, one of the underlying reasons for chronic saving is underlying negative thoughts, such as 'I don't deserve to have things,' or feelings such as, 'I'm anxious because we don't have enough,' even if they are financially secure," Curtis says.
She says these negative thoughts and feelings usually stem from earlier experiences and are stored in the brain in such a way that current events in a chronic saver's life can trigger them. We usually have no idea that the turmoil we're feeling now is connected to the past, Curtis adds.
Your saving might be costing you more money. "I'm a big advocate of being frugal, but there's a difference between being frugal and being cheap," says Clare Levison, author of "Frugal Isn't Cheap: Spend Less, Save More, and Live Better."
Levison adds: "I've seen people argue over a couple hundred dollars during home sale negotiations until they end up losing the deal."
She also recalls that when her husband was told he needed to lower his cholesterol, and he began complaining about the higher cost of healthy food, she shot back that buying the food was less expensive than paying for a heart attack.
Indeed. David Bakke, an editor at the personal finance blog MoneyCrashers.com, has a close family member who learned this lesson the hard way. "She refused to spend money on certain things following a pay cut," Bakke says, adding that his relative's primary care physician advised her to go to the hospital, "but she refused to because she was worried about having to pay her $5,000 deductible."
That's understandable, of course. But as Bakke says, his family member was ultimately rushed to the emergency room, and her health care expenses now seem likely to cost far more than $5,000. "She was in the hospital for close to two weeks, and is still in the process of recovering," Bakke says.
You can't take it with you. It isn't only broke people who are afraid to spend money. Bakke says he has a friend with deep pockets who is fixated on saving for retirement, despite being far ahead of where most of his peers are. "He doesn't go out, rarely buys new clothes and still shops at garage sales and flea markets. He hasn't taken a vacation in years, and whenever anyone asks him about it, he starts going on about the uncertain future of Medicare and Social Security. It's truly sad because he has enough money so that he should really be enjoying life."
Maria Cornelius, a high-net-worth wealth manager in the Washington, D.C., area echoes those thoughts, saying she has encountered her share of wealthy people who are equally squeamish about spending.
Cornelius had a wealthy client who was over 80 years old and loved the opera, but she always took the subway to the show – and then, worried about the crowds afterward, took the subway back home during intermission. She never seemed to understand that she could afford to take a taxi there and back, or that she might want to pay for a friend's ticket, to have the company. Then she could get more bang for her buck by seeing the entire show.
Budget to spend, not save. Some people – like Bakke's relative who received a pay cut – have good reasons for being afraid to spend money. If you don't have much, you might understandably become paralyzed with indecision, or try to stretch your dollar by stretching the time between physicals, car repairs and such.
Others, the ones who have more than they know what to do with, probably elicit eye rolls from friends and family more than sympathetic looks. But if you do have plenty of income and truly struggle with spending it, Hagerman suggests writing down a list of goals, from car or home repairs you never make to a long-desired vacation, and then allocating some of your pile of cash to those goals.
Then start spending some of that cash, even if it's in relatively small amounts. With any luck, as you start to enjoy eating better, wearing new clothes and generally enjoying your new life, you may get to the point where you have a healthier balance between saving and spending.
"I then try to get them to start spending on themselves in small increments," Hagerman says of his chronic-saver clients. "For example, maybe they go to the movies once the first month. Then the next month, maybe they go to the movies again and then out to dinner after the show. This seems to work because they are taking small steps. It's just like learning to budget."
More from U.S. News & World Report:
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
Afraid to spend? Spend What? Salary minus FOOD, TAXES, GAS, HOUSE, CLOTHES, UTILITIES, PHONE, DENTAL BILLS, MEDICAL BILLS, PHARMACY BILLS, = ZERO.
note to govt: Private Citizens can't just run up a personal deficit and charge it to China.
I'm not afraid to spend money, I'm afraid of being in debt. Sometimes, I send in so much extra as "apply to principal" on my mortgage, my checking account balance gets a bit low. I never dip into my savings account, so I'm then stuck trying to be even more frugal in other areas to keep the checking account balance from getting too low until the next payday fluffs it up again. You know what happens that payday?--I pay down more of the mortgage and it becomes an endless cycle. I hate-loathe-despise debt.
I don't live paycheck to paycheck.
I live "apply to principal" to "apply to principal" :)
...interesting how the responsible behaviours of living within ones means and saving money are now being framed within in mental illness context - granted, extremes of any kind of behaviour raise questions.
How many will read this article and quietly wonder if spending behaviour is healthier psychologically than saving behaviour?
Let the games begin!
After going through 2 years of being unemployed, going bankrupt, and barely being able to survive, thanks to the Great Recession, you can bet on it that we are stashing as much cash as we can into our savings account now that my husband and I have finally found good jobs. We learned the hard way that having cash on hand is a must, especially if another recession starts and lay-offs result. Bills still have to be paid and food still has to be bought, job or no job. Our savings goal is to have a minimum of 2 years worth of all of our expenses in savings should a recession like this hit us again.
They can call it whatever psychological disorder they want, but I call it looking after Number 1 (me and my husband). Saying that savers have "psychological disorders" is non-sense. The people that wrote this stupid article are just annoyed, because savers don't spend a lot and that means less profit for everyone else. Sorry folks, it's about us from now on.
Regardless of how you might think they are not enjoying life, someone who saves more than they have to, enjoys life the same. People enjoy life when they are comfortable. If living on very little and saving the rest makes you comfortable, more power to you.
Personally, I'm not comfortable unless I'm wearing clothes that look decent, driving a newer reliable vehicle, and have time away from work doing things I enjoy. Some dont care about that stuff because they have no one to impress, ride a bicycle, or have the time in the day to walk where they need to go, and enjoy working enough that they dont care to get away from it.
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