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I don’t have a fear of heights (within reason) but I still don’t look down. Although, heights aren’t the issue here. The issue is my compulsive obsession with scrimping and loading up on money knowledge at every chance.
I used to have a big problem with constantly checking my retirement accounts, savings accounts, and other accounts. I would check them several times a week, daily, and whenever I had downtime. It was a bad habit brewing stronger every day.
My handy dandy smartphone didn’t make it any easier.
Reaching for my phone was simple, though. With mobile apps for banking stuff and lifestyle, checking up on my money and figuring out more ways to get better became dangerously easy. I started to question and micro-manage everything.
Why is the rate of return so low on this?! Should I sell it off?
Maybe I should invest in some new funds. *obsessively researches for the next half hour*
Let’s see if I can save a few bucks doing it this way vs. the other way.
The obsessive checking happened when I was watching TV, trying to do blog work, or even errands. The ridiculousness went into overdrive when the money reading turned into recurring subconscious money thoughts and one too many dreams about me and my FIRE ambitions.
The most memorable dream included visiting Antartica in a penguin costume immediately after retiring at age 40. Weird…although something I wouldn’t rule out. 🙂
It seemed harmless at first. Reading personal finance info and checking my accounts several times a week gave me a feel good “responsible” vibe. It became second nature and that wasn’t a good thing.
When I signed up with Wealthfront for my Roth IRA, I downloaded their mobile app to stay up to date with my investments. Even though Wealthfront is a robo-advisor and handles the managing of my portfolio, I would periodically check in via the app. It felt like a good way to not be too passive about my investing.
Well…I checked the app constantly. Every night, curled up in my bed, with my body patiently waiting to fall asleep, I would open up it to monitor what had happened. In my mind, some big stock market crash would have come out of nowhere in the timespan of the 12 hours since I had last checked.
Without even realizing it, I had developed this apocalyptic mindset. I would question different sorts of small purchases and how my investing account was doing. My hand developed an automatic movement of reaching for my phone, check things to ensure all was good. My money scarcity mindset came back to me. I needlessly questioned everything and started to consume more and more information. It became exhausting.
As I like to think of it, I was spending too much time looking down.
Personal finance, to me at least, is about keeping your eyes up, focusing on the things right in front of you, fixing them, and moving on to the next. Doing small actions one at a time towards bigger goals. There’s a lot of information down below you. A lot of money “shoulds”.
These money “shoulds” feel immediately necessary when you read about them. I should build up a 10k, 15k, 20k, etc emergency fund, I should be checking my brokerage account a lot, I should be doing this, that, and so on. Sometimes we like to focus on way too many things when getting started with just one is the better case.
Emotion reveals itself in damaging ways. Not in the stereotypical hysterical crying, eat all the ice cream, type of way (Although if you do, I would make sure it’s Ben & Jerry’s, gotta have the good kind of ice cream at least).
Checking my accounts constantly wasn’t doing any good. It grew my sense of worry about whether I was doing everything right. It prompted me to seek out way more information than I needed.
Insecurity and comparison syndrome set in. Being “good” at personal finance felt like some elusive clique that would take forever to reach. Rather than just focusing on the one piece of information I needed to get going, I wanted to fix and monitor everything in one big swoop.
The habit has been mostly remedied. The former compulsive tendency looked a lot like what happens when you go to WebMD to find answers for your sickness. You type in your symptoms and suddenly you think you’re going to die by next Tuesday.
There’s a lot of information, good information, down below but I’m learning to not always look down. Big changes result from small actions. Small actions happen when you keep your head up and plug away, slowly but surely.
Little by little I’m building up my savings, learning more and growing more. As long as I’m making progress, I feel good.