If you ask people what stresses them out the most, you’ll usually get one of two answers: money or work. Fundamentally, they are the same thing. Work is something that the average person endures to get money – and they wouldn’t do it otherwise.
When you think about it a little more deeply, though, the fact that we worry about money is a little strange, especially in a society in which the average person is now capable of achieving an astonishingly high standard of living.
Economists have worked out how long you’d have to work earning today’s average wage to be as wealthy as a middle-class person living in 1900. The figure is a mere eight hours – or one day per week.
The calculation is an indication of just how much wealthier we are today than we were 120 years ago, thanks to the march of technology and the accumulation of capital. Despite what you might read in the media, the average person is far better off than their counterparts from 1900, no matter their income category. What’s more, we now have opportunities that even the wealthiest people back then couldn’t get.
So what’s going on here? Why are people still so stressed about money even though everyone is much better off?
The first reason has to do with the need to appear as if you are wealthy. Like it or not, we live in a culture that demands that people have a high income and lots of money. Unless you’re turning over six figures, it can feel like you’re missing out on the best that life has to offer. You want to keep up with the Joneses and have what they have, even if you can’t afford it based on what you earn. Most people can’t afford to go on holiday five times a year and go to the spa every weekend, but we feel as if we should.
The second reason has to do with continually spending beyond our means. We may have plenty of money to provide for the basics in life, but there’s a yearning in our hearts for more than that. We can’t content ourselves with a roof over our heads or food in the cupboards – we want all the expensive things that marketing experts try to flog. We then buy them, only to discover that we can’t make ends meet.
The modern money environment, therefore, affects our mental health on two fronts. Our fear of missing out combined with the need to keep up appearances leads to distress.
The trick to getting over this is to take a step back and realise that most people aren’t really interested in what you have. They’re more concerned with chasing their own pot of gold. Payday loans are something that you can use when times get tough. You still have options.
But that fact shouldn’t mean that you spend all day focusing on what other people have. Concentrate on what matters to you and then go for it.