Does Worrying About Money Make You Better at Money?

Money MelangeAttention K-Mart shoppers! Worrying about money does not make you better at money. I repeat, worrying about money does not make you better at money.

The act of worrying actually hurts, not helps. … worrying about money hurts your ability to think clearly about everything else in your life. In a separate study, researchers found that financial worries affect cognitive abilities.

The article goes on to call fretting “a useless habit” that you might be able to curtail by asking yourself simple questions, like, “What am I really worried about? Is it something in my control?” and “If it’s not in my control, do I gain anything by worrying about it?” To which I say: … maybe. Some people are anxious! It’s a hard habit to shake and sometimes it goes deeper, into how we’re wired. But even leaving chemical imbalances aside, most of us who worry do not expect to gain anything by worrying; we worry because it’s how we interact with the world and the seemingly gleeful way it throws surprises at us.

Still, it can be freeing to hear Science say, in that resounding, definitive voice Science uses, that worrying doesn’t help. It allows us to say, “Why bother?” And then maybe say it again, with a smile, and again, until we begin to believe it. It’s kind of like how hearing that doing exercise you hate doesn’t make you thin. WHY BOTHER WHY BOTHER WHY BOTHER have an ice cream sandwich and take a yoga class instead.

Image via Lewis Minor

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7 Comments / Post A Comment

Worgchef (#6,838)

If the opposite of “worrying” is “ignoring”, then this is silly advice.

If the opposite of “worrying” is “only worry about things you can effect”, then okay. That’s the serenity prayer.

Elsajeni (#1,763)

@Worgchef I think it goes beyond “things you can affect,” a little bit — I have anxiety problems, and certainly letting go of things I can’t actually change is part of how I cope with that, but I also try to think about:
– Is this something I’ve already made a decision about? (Yes, choosing my utility provider is hard! But I’ve already signed a 12-month contract, so how about I stop second-guessing whether I’m really saving money and have a cookie or something.)
– Is this something that actually matters? (Yes, I could probably save more money by going to the further-away sandwich shop for lunch, but the difference would only be like $2. My budget can easily absorb $2. Quit worrying and enjoy the sandwich.)

nnlsbin (#5,447)

I feel like telling people not to worry doesn’t really help. I worry about things all the time, and as soon as I get told not to worry I start worrying that my worrying is upsetting others and it just makes it worse.

BillfoldMonkey (#1,754)

I’m reading this post against this quote from the previous post:

“When I was in graduate school and I went into a store, I was always looking at the prices. I was constantly calculating. You ask yourself, “Can I afford to buy this box of cereal?” You think, “If I buy more of this, maybe I can afford less of that.” You’re making these tradeoffs and you’re constantly aware of these ­tradeoffs. And it’s tiring.’

Even if Science says it’s better, not worrying about money seems like an incredibly privileged thing. If you have kids and a minimum wage job? How do you NOT worry? The very fact that what you’re worrying about is almost entirely out of your control is worrisome.

Marissa (#467)

If we want to reference the “Are you a Bert?” muppet post from the other day, I am a Telly Monster. Worrying is my M.O. I think in ways, being a little more carefree is beneficial (especially for one’s sense of well-being), but my inner Telly has taught me to be a good saver because you never know what could happen.

moreadventurous (#4,956)

I was actually just thinking about this…

I’m naturally a frugal person, and when my life is going along at its normal pace, I tend to save without really thinking about it. Now, I just took a trip where I spent a bit (ok, a lot) more than I anticipated and am feeling stressed about money. Honestly, although I’m thinking about being frugal now, and making the cheaper choices, I’m not spending that much less money. Instead, I’m freaking out anytime I spend ANY money, which is stupid because I have to eat and stuff. It’s an unfortunate fact that living costs money, and being stressed about it almost makes me worse at being responsible. I do think this would change if my default mode was not one of saving and frugality…

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