Obsessed With Money
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While I was growing up, my parents never shielded me from subjects that could be considered “adult business.” These matters included financial subjects such as late bills, taxes, and bank problems. This exposure contributed to the creation of my obsessive desire to become rich when I was just a kid. My reason for wanting money was to take care of my family so that I would never see them stress or worry ever again. But at a young age, I should not have had to worry about providing for anyone. This money-driven mindset also contributed to my anxiety around growing up and affected my schoolwork and friendships.
It became worse when I started to notice the financial disparities between me and my peers in school. I fixated on the backpacks they had, the shoes they wore, the lunches they brought, and everything that could financially differentiate them from me. I was constantly comparing myself to other kids who I thought came from well-off families. Around that time in elementary school, I started saving up for college because I was paranoid that I would not be able to afford to go to school. I wanted to start working as soon as I turned the legal age. All of these anxieties in my mind were very self-destructive and unhealthy, and when I look back at that period of time in my life, I see how harmful knowing about my family’s money struggles was.
Like myself, most Stuyvesant students want to go to a prestigious college and have a successful career. Many of us envision a version of ourselves who is productive, healthy, and well-off in the future. Dreaming about having money is common, but associating success with money is harmful because it can lead to patterns of money disorders, such as money worship. Other potential consequences include addictions to gambling and compulsive spending, both of which are dangerous to people in vulnerable states. However, young people are extremely unprotected when they are taught about money and are therefore subject to misinformation about financial situations.
Money worship is a type of money disorder in which the affected individual believes that the only way to progress in life is to become rich. There are many causes to a person developing this belief system. One of the most prominent ones is growing up with scarcity, leading individuals to think that there is not enough money for them and that they need to save as much as possible to be financially secure. Those with money obsessions may relate to the phrase “money makes the world go round.” It gives you a place to live and food to eat—all necessities someone needs to enjoy life. On the other hand, the habits and thoughts that the obsession creates can be extremely destructive. It produces pressure to work as much as possible, so even if someone is earning money, they have little time to appreciate it.
Some may argue that a money obsession is a great motivator, but if someone is thinking about the pursuit of money to the point of obsession and ruined relationships, it becomes a detrimental addiction. People may start off as financially responsible but then fall into bad habits that they hide from others. They may become stressed about attaining wealth and overwork themselves to earn more, believing that money is their key to happiness. When people have a healthy mindset around money, they keep track of their finances to an extent and budget reasonably. Noticing when someone is crossing the line is important because they may develop long-lasting values that are unsafe for their mental health.
Many people’s mindsets about money stem from their childhood exposure to financial stress. The Mental Health Foundation in the United Kingdom found that over one in four schoolchildren between the ages of 10 to 15 are worried about their families not having enough money. Not only is this statistic heartbreaking, but it can also lead to the same problems I faced. The pipeline from poor to money-obsessed is a slippery slope because children are a product of their environment. If kids are worried about their economic status, then later in life, they will be more likely to value wealth over their relationships. The pursuit of wealth has been linked to immoral behavior and creates a higher risk for substance abuse. Research has also shown that children focused on money become less empathic and more competitive, especially when materialistic goals are involved.
Parenting is not easy, and I definitely do not blame my parents for my unhealthy mindset with money. However, low-income children should not have to feel alone when they are surrounded by stress and fear about their family’s economic situation. They should have someone who can talk to them, validate their feelings, and help them. Friends and family should also try to notice the signs when a child is anxious or stressed and ask them about it. Being emotionally intelligent is an important factor in preventing money obsessions from escalating.