Now that influenza season is upon us, you’re no doubt taking precautions: getting a flu shot, washing your hands frequently, taking vitamins to boost your immune system. But what are you doing about the “other” flu?
The flu that I’m referring to has no season, but can strike—and endure—year around. There’s no vaccine against it. And it affects not your body, but your spirit.
The malady known as “affluenza” is as real as the physical flu, and potentially more devastating. Why? Because it can prevent you from enjoying life.
Merriam-Webster defines affluenza as “an extreme materialism and consumerism associated with the pursuit of wealth and success and resulting in a life of chronic dissatisfaction, debt, overwork, stress, and impaired relationships.”
Also known as “bag lady syndrome,” it seems to most often affect women, even those with plenty of money. And in my experience, its cause isn’t greed, but fear.
So many women live in constant fear of winding up penniless and homeless. This is true even for wealthy women: no matter how much they have, it is never enough for them to feel secure.
As a result, these women may seek financial security elsewhere—by pursuing men for their money, even compromising their authenticity--or by working so much that they place their health and relationships at risk.
And when they do take a break, they can’t enjoy themselves. They are too busy fretting over the money they are spending or should be earning to savor their wealth and success.
Fortunately, although there is no vaccine for affluenza, there is a cure. It starts with knowing yourself, including your true financial situation.
5 steps toward healing
Curing yourself of affluenza may be easier than you think. Here are five simple steps you can take that should get you well on your way:
- Admit you have a problem. Are you never satisfied with the size of your bank account or with the number of things you own? And when you spend money on something you want, do you feel uneasy or even anxious? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” you may have affluenza. And no, earning more money is NOT the cure.
- Share your insecurity with a loved one. Telling someone about your anxieties can help relieve the pressure that you’re holding inside. Chances are, they’ll reassure you that you have nothing to worry about, or that they are there to help you if ever you need it. They can also provide support if you decide to seek help.
- Talk to a therapist about your fears. A professional therapist won’t judge you, but will be your advocate, helping you to understand why you feel financially insecure and how to deal with fears when they arise.
- Use your money with love. “Perfect love casts out fear” is a proverb that resonates with truth. Saving some of your cash is a way to love yourself; spending on something, or someone, you love can spread that love around, and help you to associate certain kinds of spending with pleasure.
- Talk with a professional financial advisor to get help viewing your situation from an informed, objective perspective.
The foundation: a financial plan
Having a plan for anything can work wonders for your confidence. This is especially true for financial planning. A financial planner can help you devise “what if” scenarios—What if you took that vacation? What if you retired next year?—and help you to understand the effects on your wealth.
Worried that you will run out of money? Financial planners can work from a scenario in which you live well past 100 striving to make sure that your finances support you all the way.
Concerned that the economy will nosedive? We can project a bear market and slumping economy in our planning, aiming to help you live your best life even under the worst case.
The one thing that won’t solve the affluenza sufferer’s money problems is more money. Why? Because fear and anxiety, not money, are the issue.
With a pro-active financial strategy and advice from a trusted professional, anxiety can oftentimes melt away, freeing you to release yourself, experience more joy, and use your resources to do more for yourself and your community.