Keeping Up With the Jones’ – Money Anxiety Strategies

by Jason

stressed about money

I went out the other night with two of my closest friends for what has become a semi-annual, traditional getogether.

All three of us have started our own families in the last few years and the pace of work and life keeps us away from eachother most of the time.

Although I only see them every six months or so (we’re all very busy with our lives), the conversation picks up every meetup without missing a beat.

Things generally return back to three areas of common interest, our families, our work and our life aspirations.

Being in our 30s makes this a time where rubber meets the road and action is taking form in our finances.

The three of us couldn’t be more diversified in what we do and earn.

I work as an engineer in information technology and make a healthy living, although certainly not wealthy by any standard.

My other friend Adam works as an investment banker and does phenomenally well. He’s long surpassed the million dollar mark of net worth and realistically aspires to making tens of millions of dollars in life.

Finally, my third friend, Sumit is continuing his medical residency as he works towards his final placement as a neuro-radiologist. A position that will ultimately land him in the 400K – 500K salary range and growing.

Having dinner with these overachievers immediately activated my own feelings of low self-worth.

I began to internalize negatively, a habit many social anxiety sufferers participate in – the habit of comparing yourself to others.

There’s More Pressure Than Ever to Become Successful

We live in a society that’s more materialistic than ever and it’s become ever more difficult to avoid a comparison mentality when engaging in ANY kind of activity in life.

Movies and television are flooded with images of the uber-wealthy. Commercials and advertisements are continually promoting images of what our lives “should” look like – a polished and perfect existence where your teeth are snow white and your wallet is overflowing with endless purchasing power.

So, when you actually have to engage in the real world, having these expectations placed upon you by media and social values, it can feel very disappointing not to measure up.

Retrain Your Focus

There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of money and it’s actually very positive to use money as a way of reaching for greater materialistic wealth.

That said, when the game of money getting becomes more of an anxiety trigger than anything else, it’s time to slow down and reprioritize your perspective.

This is coming from real experience.

I’m not some dude with piles of money telling you that money isn’t that important or won’t make you happy.

In fact, when you can’t do anything on your weekends because you don’t have enough money, it can be quite upsetting and be a let down that’s hard to bounce back from.

My dinner the other night was a quick reminder that the realities of my own purchasing power is a quick kick to my ego when standing next to more well off individuals.

So what’s the solution? Make poorer friends? I don’t think so.

At the end of the day, whether your friends, neighbors or family make more money than you or not, your comparison is only with the expectations you place on yourself.

The success of my buddies wasn’t what was making me have low self-worth. The misperception of my life’s value was what was making me feel bad.

When you place money above everything else, you’ll always have a reason to feel bad. However, when you can individualize your success based on what makes YOU happy and comfortable, you can always find a way to get there.

For example, I may never have 20 million dollars in the bank. But, I can have a beautiful garden, a plethora of websites that satisfy my creative outlet, an amazing wife and family, a home where I can hang my hat etc.

The list can be unique to you.

When pressure to keep up becomes a money anxiety of it’s own, you can’t enjoy your materialism because the bigger, more expensive toy will always be calling out to you, telling you that you’re not good enough.

It’s All Relative – Find Your Equalizer

Possessions and expenses are relative to the incomes of the people who own them. For example, my monthly nut (expense) for everything in life – from my grocery bill, to the mortgage, to the bus passes I buy for my commute is $7400.

That’s the number I have to make every single month to survive and provide everything needed for my 4 person family. To me it seems HUGE but to my friends at dinner last night, it would be the easiest life, that anyone could afford on the planet.

Relativity plays to finances depending on what you’re pulling down. When you can stabilize your expenses and minimize them as much as possible, your income growth no matter how minimal will feel like success.

That’s because you can easily handle the cost of life and know that you can afford the things it costs to enjoy your material wealth.

You may not be able to buy an Audi A6 to drive but you can certainly send your kids to Summer Camp and know that you’re not putting yourself in the hole to do so.

Keep your life affordable to your income, build a life you love and feel passion for and you’ll always feel fulfilled by what you have.

Be Grateful For Where You Stand

If you’re living in a first-world country, particularly the United States, recognize that chances are, you’re better off financially than 90% of the world.

I know it’s hard to do that when people all around you act like it’s the norm to buy luxury goods but the fact is, it’s not.

You have fresh, clean water, food available less than ten minutes way and doctors who can care for you.

The only way to take advantage of these basic goods and services is to appreciate them for what they are and stop focusing your money on the extras before covering your bases.

Find gratitude in the “mundane” materials you can already afford and recognize that your self-esteem should not rest with a label. It should rest with your love of life and this incredibly short opportunity to experience consciousness and possibility.

The topic of money anxiety is far too extensive to cover in this single post so I’ll have to break off for now.

I want to know if YOU have comparative anxiety when it comes to wealth? What are your feelings about money anxiety and how do you rationalize yourself back to material satisfaction?

Everyone deserves to be happy and I want to hear how you find peace in your own finances no matter how much you make.



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