The Personal Finance Obsession Problem

So after two years of writing this blog and reading thousands of other personal finance blog posts I’ve come to an important conclusion: we are all obsessed with personal finance.  Ok, I know I’m stating the obvious, but let’s ask the next obvious question: why?

Why do supposed rational intellegent people fall into an obsession of paying off debt, saving for retirement or having a million dollars in net worth?  What drives us to examine our lives in detail looking for excess spending or ways to maximize low cost happiness?  Are we all sick with the same metal health disorder?

Perhaps the answer is as simple as: we like the numbers of it all.  The numbers sooth us and bring order to a section of our lives where emotion and chaos typically run the show.  The numbers provide a feeling of control and logic in one section of our lives.  Or perhaps the inverse is true: we are all scared to death of making decisions based on feeling rather than logic (despite the fact most of your life is done that way).

Perhaps we do it to distract ourselves from our own financial messes.  If I stop spending here because of this tip it is ok to keep ignoring the fact I’ve been paying high trading fees for years and high high MER on my mutual funds.  We dance around our own problems by examining other things instead.

Perhaps we do it because money makes us feel uncomfortable.  With billions living in poverty, how can we justify the way we live?  So if we use the money wisely it’s ok to ignore the rest of the world?  Or perhaps money is at the heart of a deep wound in our minds from our childhoods and now we are overcompensating for it.

Perhaps the truth of it all is we are all addicts, we do this to avoid feeling and looking at our own emotions.  If we play with retirement calculators we can avoid the fact that we dislike our jobs.  Or we can focus on paying off debt to avoid the conclusion that your spouse is a over spender and it is driving you to consider a divorce.  Or we create insane goals to hide the fact that otherwise our lives feel empty of meaning.

Or perhaps we are so programed to be consumers that we can’t examine our lives in anything other than the context of stuff and money.  We love and hate ourselves for it and can’t find a new reality context to give our lives substance and detail.

Is it all of the above to some degree? You know I’m not sure myself.  I see parts of myself in the above, what about you?  What is your answer to the ‘why’ of it all?

9 thoughts on “The Personal Finance Obsession Problem”

  1. It is an addiction.

    PF blogs are a way to indulge the addiction and a way to indulge my inner financial voyeur. I get a gimpse into other people’s financial existences and the opportunity to share ideas and strategies without having to admit to people in my real life how financially-fixated I really am.

  2. I just like it 🙂 I used to play video games where I would work for hours and days to get more gold coins and better equipment; now I work to grow my accounts (carefully avoiding gold because I like real returns) and find better investments. Maybe I stopped playing games because I found a bigger and better one. The only difference is in what it does for me in the end.

  3. Scott Adams, Creator of Dilbert, wrote that he wanted to write a personal finance book himself. After thinking about it for a long time he realized that he couldn’t write a book because the advice fits on a few pages.

    I think that’s true to a degree. Personal finance is dead simple on the surface. One or two books, or a few days on the Internet, and even the dullest knife would understand. Can’t talk about anything new on the idea front. But what we have an endless supply of are situations, and that’s why PF bloggers can keep writing.

    If another blogger posts, or a reader comments, or something happens in the news, then you have something to view through your PF analytical lens. Since these things happen 1000 times per day you will never run out of interesting topics.

  4. We simply don’t trust or want others looking after our affairs. We would rather do it ourselves; not have to worry about other people and what they are doing with our finances. Yes the numbers may not hug you at night but they can be soothing. The soothing factor of the numbers is knowing that we are doing what is best for us, the community, economy, and environment. By begin frugal and watching our spending maybe we can avoid the greed and fear that crippled our economy. Maybe we do personal finance because we are type A personality’s and maybe free time scares us.

  5. I think you’re on to something here. We humans operate under the illusion that we have the ability to control everything in our lives. The reality is there is so much we can’t control, but fixating on something that we can control (mostly), like our spending, saving, and progress toward financial goals, makes us feel more in control again.

    And then the stock market drops 47% and we are reminded that we can’t control that either!

  6. I’m not sure I fit into many of the above categories. I like numbers yes, but it’s not much to do with that and certainly not to do with deep childhood wounds or an obsession with money.

    For me it’s all about freedom, financial independence and just enjoying life to the full. Since I have started spending less, I have done more meaningful pasttimes as well as eating better, exercising more and just generally being happier.

    It’s all about life for me and a better one at that.

  7. Well to me its an other argument than all which are mentioned here already.

    From the age of 25 (I am male 49 now) I wanted to stop working wenn I am 50. This because I hate the stress and games which are beiing played in companies. Besides that, I wanted total freedom so that I (we) can do what we want in the real sence of the word.

    Money to me is simply an equivilant for time. If you have enough money you have time and total freedom!
    With only one year to go, I reached my goal of fin independence.
    The road I(we) followed (by not spending money useless on material things and saving by putting money not in stocks but simply at an account) made
    us very happy people. We enjoy/enjoyed wenn we spend money and living sober.

    Well, thats why we followed the path of PF!

  8. Goal Hunter,

    Excellent comment. I agree. The basics are all the same, but situations are interesting.

    Everyone else,

    Great feedback!


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