If you let fear, obligation, or guilt control your decisions about money, you’re stuck in the Money FOG.
What does that mean? Essentially, instead of making thoughtful financial choices that help you achieve your long-term goals, you make more impulsive financial choices based on these three negative emotions.
Fear might tell you not to negotiate for a higher salary, even though you spent the past week practising your negotiation strategies.
Obligation might tell you to contribute to every GoFundMe that passes through your social media feeds, even though you’re currently paying off your own medical debt.
Guilt might tell you that you need to keep your kids enrolled in dance class, even though you’re putting the lessons (and costumes, and tickets to see your own kid perform) on credit cards.
As Lazetta Rainey Braxton, founder and CEO of Financial Fountains, explains, women are more likely to find themselves surrounded by the FOG. Here’s what Braxton has to say about fear, for example:
The “Bag Lady Syndrome” — the thought of being homeless and penniless — ranks as one of the biggest money fears for women. Surprisingly, BLS impacts women at all economic levels. It appears in women who question their spending habits and debt levels, the size of their retirement nest egg and the amount of money left to them as a widower or divorcee.
Financial-related news also intensifies fear in women who don’t feel savvy about financial concepts such as investing. Stock market crashes and “Bernie Madoffs” set off mental alarms that often smother their interest in financial literacy.
Real facts — such as the gender pay gap, the lack of gender diversity in the workplace (including the C-Suite), and a low representation of women on corporate boards — also invoke fears of unemployment, job loss and stagnant careers. Sexism threatens to reduce a woman’s chances to earn the money in ways that support her financial and life goals.
How to escape the FOG
Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a deep breath. Reminding yourself of your goals and values can help you better evaluate a potential financial decision. If one of your goals is to earn more money this year, for example, it’ll be easier to commit to that difficult negotiation conversation.
Setting budgets and boundaries also helps, especially when your goals and values are in conflict. You can value helping others and stick to the goal of paying off your own debt by creating a monthly “giving” budget. Yes, it will be hard to scroll past a good friend’s GoFundMe when you’ve already spent your “giving” money for the month — but the decision now becomes whether you want to dip into next month’s “giving” budget to show your support, not whether you want to reduce your debt payment to help out a friend.
Lastly, you can avoid the guilt by reminding yourself that saying no to something means saying yes to something else. Saying no to the dance classes you can’t afford means saying yes to a balanced budget and more time spent together as a family.
How often do you find yourself caught in the Money FOG — and how do you get out of it?