Why do I feel guilty for not having more savings?

“Money should be purely individual.”

If I had a dollar every time I looked at the amount in my savings account and felt anxious, I would be a millionaire. I’ve been working since I was 14 and back then I was taking as many hours as possible to make sure I had enough money to spend on Supre’s latest fashionable clothes as well as a little money left over to be placed in my savings account.


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I am now 27 years old and have been in the working world for over a decade. You would think I would now have mountains of money in my savings account, waiting to be used for something special – but that’s not the case. Every time I open my savings I feel a different feeling in my stomach. If the amount is higher than I remember, I’m delighted. If it’s less than I expected, then I feel what many millennials and Gen Zs call savings guilt.

What is saving guilt?

Saving guilt isn’t exactly a new concept, but it’s something that many young people feel more frequently. You may have felt some savings guilt if, like me, you’ve looked at the amount of money in your savings account and wondered why you don’t have more. Why don’t you have enough savings for a security deposit like your co-worker? Why aren’t you saving as well as you should?

Despite what many baby boomers will tell you, Millennials and Gen Z generally don’t have bad saving habits because we are spend more over iced coffee. We are just dealing with an increasingly expensive world that is far less financially stable than it was in their day.

Young people today earn 34% less than young people in the 1980s, inflation has increased dramatically Cost of life and we are facing our second “once in a lifetime” recession, thanks to a small virus that took over the world in 2020. 6.5% of workers in Australia (or about 900,000 people) are now working multiple jobswhile unemployment in australia recently increased to 3.5%.

This is all pretty disheartening information, but despite knowing how the current financial landscape can affect our daily expenses, many young people still feel guilty for not having more money in their savings accounts. I have felt the guilt of saving full on many times. The worst case was when I was fired twice in six months. I worried about how I was supposed to pay my bills and support myself while I searched for work in an increasingly competitive industry and felt guilty when I had to transfer money from my savings just to pay my rent.

In talking with a few of my friends about saving guilt, it became pretty obvious that we had all experienced different levels of it at some point. A friend said he was currently going through a period of saving guilt before his one-year sabbatical in 2023. To get this long paid leave, he had to sacrifice half his salary for about two years and said that he had found it extremely difficult. to save anything after paying bills and shopping.

Another friend of mine told me that she had experienced savings guilt when she recently took a week off to focus on her studies for an upcoming college exam. She currently works casually while studying full time and said that although she was now glad she did, at the time she was really anxious to have a small paycheck and less money. to save while she focused on her studies.

What causes savings guilt?

When discussing the concept of savings guilt with a financial therapist Jane Monica Jones, she explains that building a solid savings balance is definitely more difficult for young people today. And that’s not just because of the ever-changing nature of the financial world, but because we’re part of a strongly consumerist society.

“The cost of living is rising, which means we have less to save. Salaries have plateaued, people at the top earn a lot more, but individuals have plateaued for the last 18 years or so. As a consumer society, we have also highlighted consumption as a very terrible mental health strategy, like retail therapy.

“We’ve linked it to boredom or stress relief and we’re trying to get that dopamine hit because things are tough, and we want to get that little happy high. Things like spending can have a downside. -effect because you might get a high in the moment, but then it impacts your cost of living and things that need to be covered.

She also says there’s societal pressure to compare our savings balances to our levels of achievement, creating a culture that cares more about how much money you have, rather than who you are as a person. “As a culture, we measure levels of success by how much money we have. It doesn’t matter if we’re a great contributor to our community, or a great parent or friend. Success is often measured by to the amount of money we have in our accounts and it is a cultural or social index.

While society and the financial world can have a big influence on our ability to save, Jane says our cross-generational perception of money can also play a big role in developing the guilt of saving. “If you were raised in a family where everyone only made money as an accountant and you want to go out and be a lion tamer, that might be frowned upon in your community. Let’s say that if you were raised very, very wealthy and you decide to go become a monk, your family and friends might judge you. You may be feeling the influence of your peers. The influence of peers and family on what we do as individuals is enormous.

How to deal with your savings guilt

When it comes to money, asking for help can be extremely difficult. Not only can this negatively impact your self-confidence and illicit feelings of shame, but not everyone is comfortable discussing money, which Jane says can only bring guilt. more intense savings.

“There’s not a lot of psychological safety around money. We have a lot of social cues that say we’re not allowed to talk about money, or that it’s not polite to talk about money, or that we shouldn’t be emotional about money. [and] all of these things keep us pretty isolated if we feel challenged in any way,” she tells me.

When it comes to addressing savings guilt or any other financial issue, you might want to dig into a stack of finance books and start building a solid savings plan. It’s definitely a good idea – everyone deserves to know how to manage their money.

But while it’s important to learn how to take care of your finances, Jane says you should also consider your personal financial values ​​and situation when developing a new savings plan. “A lot of times when we get advice about money, it’s that you have to follow someone else’s plan, or the way they did it, regardless of your goals, your values , your needs and your current or past experiences. [are]. Social media is kinda terrible for that too. Do not prevent yourself from following a financial education, but use your discernment.

“There are a lot of wealth gurus and financial books out there, but you’re probably not the same as this author. You won’t have the same goals and so the way they did it won’t necessarily work .You can thrive with what you have going for you now.You don’t have to dismiss what you do and do it someone else’s way.Amplify your strengths rather than looking at someone else’s. another.

It’s not just a matter of numbers

Saving guilt can overwhelm anyone. You might be the most financially literate person in the world, with a strong investment portfolio and enough money to book a flight to Italy tomorrow, and you’re still looking at your savings balance and wondering why. you don’t feel as secure financially as you would. As. At times like this, Jane recommends asking yourself why you might think your savings balance isn’t enough.

“If we say should, there’s a bit of judgment in that. Rather than pass judgment on this number [in your savings] should be, be curious. Curiosity is a fabulous antidote to judgement. We don’t have a rule book for how to live life and we certainly don’t have a rule book for how our own psychology is going to affect our relationship with money. So be curious as to why you’re not reaching that savings goal or why you have that particular perception of money.

Jane also suggests thinking about your own personal financial goals when you feel guilty about saving. Remembering why you’re saving can help you feel more confident about your savings account balance and build a sense of financial independence.

“We often think that money is just numbers, that being good with money is being good with numbers. It’s kind of, but it’s also about confidence levels and levels of feeling empowered We are not explicitly taught about confidence, empowerment and stress management as children Depending on your experiences, you may not feel as confident [with money] but we have to stop thinking that money is just numbers. We have to look at it very holistically.

“There are so many factors that influence our financial well-being and comparing ourselves to others, and their finances, is really the last thing you should be doing. If your goal is to be 21 and you just want to have fun, so let yourself have fun.

As Liza Minelli sang once, “money makes the world go round”. It’s a sad truth; having enough money to spend on the things we need to survive is a constant pressure we have to deal with. When, on top of that pressure, you add the pressure of having a healthy savings account balance, you’re likely to feel anxious and guilty every time you have to dip into that precious pool of money.

We all struggle with the guilt of saving, but the good news is that with a bit of financial knowledge, a pinch of self-reflection, and a pinch of confidence, guilt of saving can only become a small jolt in your overall financial journey. Because really, your life should be measured by more than just a number in your bank account.

For practical advice on managing your money, go here.

About Madeline Dennis

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