How having more money can make you anxious

AnxietyPhoto courtesy of ASweeneyPhoto

People think that money can solve all of their problems. Yes, there’s the old saw about how “money can’t buy happiness”, but usually people see past that and think, “yeah, but it would certainly help“.

And that’s true. When you’re at the lower end of the income scale, more money can certainly help. If you are barely treading water financially, and you get a raise, even a small one, that money will likely go to making your life a little easier. Once you start piling on a bunch of “easier”s, pretty soon you can remove a lot of stress from your life.

But from the vantage point of those with low incomes, it can seem like that’s the end of the story.

It’s not.

More of the same

There is a point at which more money becomes decoupled with happiness. I hesitate to put numbers on these things, but in the U.S., it’s been stated that, roughly, a salary of $75,000 (given the age of the study, probably up to $100,000 now) is the limit beyond which, no amount of extra money is going to materially increase your happiness.

But people who are multimillionaires can feel like they don’t have enough money. There was a recent New York Times article about money stress with the wealthy.

Now, I don’t want to hear any of your reflexive “tiny violins”. Anxiety is a real thing, and we could all use a little more empathy, even for those different from us.

And that could be you one day.

More disconnection

Also, as you move up on the financial security spectrum, after a while something starts to happen.

It can get uncomfortable.

First, there can be the realization that you are much more comfortable and well-off than other people you know. This realization comes in fits and starts, like a comment about how you are able to do something (travel a lot, buy a house, etc.) that they can’t. Or people speak of tough experiences that you don’t identify with.

Note that this can happen without any ostentation. Even if you’re driving the same car as you have been for ten years and you still shop at Target and you don’t seem any different, your internal experience when you start to have money can affect your outlook. And that can mean that others’ experiences might seem very at odds with yours.

You would be forgiven for wondering if other people are noticing that you’re in a different place, and worrying how you might be judged.

More choices

I’ve already written about how having more money won’t simplify your life. You go from having lots of yes/no choices (“do I do this or do I not?“) to having lots of endlessly multiple-choice questions (“if I do this, which of all these different ways do I do it?“). The more money you have, the more choices you have.

Also, once you have money, you have responsibility. The more money you have, the more responsibility you have.

Can you see how anxiety-inducing this can be?

Let’s say you had earned $1 million. From your perspective, you might think only about going to Hawaii for a really long time. But if you’re serious and at all forward thinking, concerned about your own legacy as well as doing the most good, wouldn’t you want to steward that money as best as possible?

I’m not a millionaire yet, but even I can imagine the pressure of that. That is a pressure that one just doesn’t have if you’re struggling with not enough money.

In many ways though, this wealth anxiety is just what you bring of yourself to your situation. Most likely, you were always anxious.

Which is why it’s so important to work on your own anxieties. It’s never going to stop being important.

But enough about me. What money anxieties are you facing now?

Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey

I'm the founder and author of Unlikely Radical, a site to help people succeed with money, achieve their goals, and live intentionally.

I offer a free phone consultation to anyone who is interested in changing their financial narrative. Are you ready? Click here for details.
Mike Pumphrey
Posted on February 5, 2018