Global Crisis/Innovation Blog

Stressed Out? Hard to Make Ends Meet? There Is A Simple Answer: Kick the Money Habit

By Shlomo Maital

 The results of the American Psychological Association’s 2010 Stress in America survey are now out. *  The results compare a) the causes of stress yearly, from 2007 (pre-global-crisis) to 2010 (post-crisis, post-joblessness), and b) the physical symptoms of stress, yearly.  

  I am hugely surprised by the results (for reasons way different than the APA).  Despite the earthquake of the financial crash, recession, loss of jobs, loss of homes, foreclosures,  Lehman Bros., etc. – Americans are stressed by the same things in 2010 as they were in 2007, with insignificant differences.  And the symptoms caused by stress also remain the same. 

    Here are the results:   In order of importance for 2010:  76% are stressed by money issues (73% in 2007), 70% by work issues (74% in 2007 !);  58% are stressed by family issues (60% in 2007).  The results of stress:  45% show irritability or anger (50% in 2007), 41% show fatigue (51% in 2007 !), 38% lack of interest or energy (45% in 2007), and 36% feel nervous or anxious (44% in 2007).  Surprisingly: 24% in 2010 showed NO symptoms of stress, compared with only 16% in 2007. 
















I have a modest suggestion.  If money is a cause of tension, and so is work (working at jobs we don’t like, so we can earn money and spend it on things we don’t need),  why not tackle the issue head on?  Kick the money habit.  Start to reduce your spending.  Cut it by 10 per cent (of course, on discretionary items) this month. See how you feel.  If you feel OK, do the same in six months. Make it like a permanent diet – not a one-time crash that leads to weight gain almost at once, but a permanent change in behavior, a GRADUAL one.  Attack the primal cause of tension  by learning to do with less money, almost as addicts kick the drug habit by doing without it, cold turkey.  

    What, you say, will happen to the economy if everyone starts doing this? We’ll have a Depression to end all depressions.

    Not at all.  The capital markets will be awash with savings.  The money will be borrowed and used to build infrastructure, technology, education, environment, alternate energy.  We will replace spending (selfish and self-defeating, for those now alive) with investment (selfless, for those who will live in future).  We will all feel much better.  Over time, we will work at jobs we love rather than jobs we work at, for the paycheck.  And then, man, will that APA stress survey take a hit!  

* APA Monitor Jan. 2011, pp.60-61.