Some things in life are constant. Death and taxes seem to top the list. But there are others. Worrying about money, I’ve learned, is one of them.
Regardless of occupation, age, or net worth, people worry about money.
For some, the worry is immediate and visceral. For others, the worry is distant and philosophical.
It seems that worrying about money follows a life cycle for most individuals. As soon as we are on our own, we become preoccupied with figuring out how to get more money. Then, we take on debt and we worry about paying back the money we borrowed. At some point, we start wondering if we are saving enough money and investing it appropriately. Eventually, we are concerned about taking good care of the money we have. And in the end, we worry about what to do with the money we accumulate.
Now, I’m not saying people experience the same level of anxiety about money at each stage. After all, ask anyone in the early stages of the life cycle, trying to scratch together a couple of dollars, and most would gladly trade their lot in life for someone worrying about what to do with all the money they have amassed.
But the worry never goes away. It just changes shape and texture.
Some people never complete the cycle. They get stuck in one stage or another. That can be due to factors under their control or outside of their control.
There are obviously spendthrifts who cannot seem to rub two nickels together without getting the urge to spend one of them. Those types are perpetually stuck in the first stage, worrying about how to get more money.
I have also seen people buried in the second stage, trying to pay back debt. And for some of them, it was through no fault of their own. For instance, medical bills for an unexpected health event can set people back and smother them in debt that is difficult, or impossible, to repay.
On the other hand, those who are fortunate enough to sail through the ‘getting more’ and ‘paying it back’ phases are usually well positioned in life from a financial perspective. But their worry shifts. They begin to dwell on saving and investing, ensuring they will have enough to live the life they want – now and in the future.
Spend enough time in the saving and investing phase, and inevitably, people’s worry morphs into taking care of the money they have.
This stage can be thorny. For some, it plays tricks on their minds. They become excessively concerned about protecting what they have, believing they cannot afford to take much risk. The opposite is usually true. Most of these people are in a great position to significantly grow their wealth by taking calculated risks. But it takes the right mindset.
Finally, even with more money than they will ever need, people cannot seem to shake the worry that accompanies money. At this stage, individuals – most of them in their 60s and older – get more philosophical and retrospective. Questions about the next generation – and those after that – fill their minds. Who should get the money I have accumulated? What is the best way to give it to them? How will the money change those to whom it is given? What is fair?
Say what you want about those being first-world problems, but they absolutely induce apprehension for people.
So, as it turns out, money is always on our minds. That never goes away.
If you worry about money, join the club. We’re all in it.