What's our relationship with money? What are the potential sources of worry and, most importantly, how do we address them? Here are some tips from an expert.
"Everyone attaches a certain value to money," says psychologist Camillo Zacchia, anxiety specialist. The good news is that a certain amount of worry is healthy.
"Anxiety is an alarm and sometimes we need it. If I drive in winter the way I do in summer, problems can occur. On the other hand, someone who's overly cautious about money may die with substantial wealth, without having done the things they'd saved for."
Money: agent of happiness?
Dr. Zacchia, who's been in practice for more than 30 years, mentions certain research that confirms his observations: "If we're worrying about the bills we have to pay and we can't ever go out to eat or travel, that can become a problem. But beyond a certain threshold, how much we make a year doesn't change anything. Because the cause of happiness lies mainly in the quality of our relationships."
A matter of balance
For Zacchia, the key to a healthy relationship with money is all about balance. It's important to be careful with our finances, but not too much: "Anxiety protects us, but it also limits us."
For some people, the source of worry can often be attributed to seeking social status, where "money becomes a confirmation of their place in society."
On the other hand, he notes that those who are naturally prone to worry (about their health, for example) will be more susceptible to financial anxiety.
That said, worry can sometimes by caused by particular situations. "If someone has declared bankruptcy or comes from a family where money was a source of worry, anxiety can show up more often," says Zacchia, mentioning patients "who are very well-positioned for retirement, but who fret a lot."
Where does leniency fit in?
For many people, a big investment in their home or an impulse purchase can trigger worry. He encourages a certain amount of leniency here: "Sometimes, we think we're a poor student based on a bad mark. But when we step back, we realize that one bad mark doesn't make us a bad student. "
This distance helps us evaluate our real needs more accurately. "If we go to a buffet, we tend to eat more," he says, observing that many people may be on auto-pilot when it comes to their eating habits.
« One bad mark doesn't make us a bad student. »
- Dr Zacchia
Tips and solutions
Zacchia says that so called spendthrifts are generally aware of their spending patterns: "It's like smokers: they know they have to quit, but some of them have an automatic tendency to minimize the cost."
He says that making a budget and taking a step back to visualize results is part of the winning solution. Most importantly, he suggests developing the reflex of putting time and distance between need and action, to "slow down the buying process."
As for those who are in the habit of regular checking on their finances, he offers another analogy: "Sometimes in winter, it can be +10 and -10 degrees on the same day. But if it's +10 in February, does that mean we take off our snow tires? If we pay too much attention, we perpetuate the worry cycle. So we have to try to let go and get a realistic look at our finances, without feeding our fears."
Money and couples
Zacchia readily admits that the situation with some couples isn't always very good. Once again, it's important to seek financial harmony: "The purpose of a relationship is to contribute to each other's happiness." He believes its essential that in addition to shared expenses, each partner has a discretionary budget.
To reduce sources of conflict, he advises against making one person solely in charge of expenses and to create an environment where both contribute their fair share, based on each partner's income: "The idea is to apply the same amount of effort to shared needs, while still being able to spend without guilt, according to their means."
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