The fear of being broke (and how to use it)

Use your fear of running out of money to motivate yourself to spend wisely, make goals, and stay on track for the future, Hamm advises.

Brian Snyder/Reuters/File
Graduating students wait for the start of their commencement ceremony in Cambridge, Mass. in 2009. Fear being broke? You can use that to motivate yourself to spend wisely, Hamm says.

I’m afraid of being broke.

I’m afraid of not having enough money to be able to pay for simple extracurricular expenses for my children, like a band instrument.

I’m afraid of working out of fear of losing a paycheck rather than the desire to create something and help others.

I’m afraid of having to constantly choose between needs and to have to choose mediocre solutions because that’s all I can afford.

I’m afraid of having to put skimpy or unhealthy meals on the table for my family because that’s my only choice.

When I sit down and rationally look at the numbers, I know the fear is utter foolishness.

When I actually look at the financial progress I’ve made over the last seven years, I know, without a doubt, that being afraid of being broke is just nonsensical.

When I look at my monthly budget, I know it’s foolish.

When I forecast the next several years of our lives, even assuming that either Sarah or I make absolutely no income over that period, I can see that our good choices have paid off and I can see that I don’t have to fear being broke.

Yet, I still fear being broke.

It’s not the “keep me up all night” fear that I once had about my money. I don’t have this overwhelming sense of doom with every single action that I take.

Instead, it’s a feeling that crops up whenever I make a spending decision or when I think about my future. I picture what things would be like if I started overspending or if I started making poor financial choices. I picture those fears that I describe above.

It’s a subtle little nudge that keeps me on the right track.

For me, this small kind of fear balances very well with a goal-oriented and optimistic perspective about the future. Most of the time, my goals and general sense that I’m on the right track are enough to make me not even think about making the poor decision, but in the moments where that fails, that little twinge of fear is enough to keep me on the right track.

Fear can be a powerful motivator in the right context. It needs to not overwhelm you and not keep you from taking chances that have a potential positive outcime, but it should be there in the background, guiding you away from the poor choices.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.