Do you know how much debt you have? What about your credit score?
Do you know how much you’re saving for retirement? What you’re invested in?
Can you report how many subscription services you’re currently paying for?
Do you review your finances regularly?
Do you have a financial plan for the future?
If you answered no to many of these questions, you might suffer from a bout of financial apathy.
What is financial apathy?
Financially apathetic people are indifferent to money matters. They put little time or energy into learning about money and don’t strive to better their financial situation. They may complain about their finances but aren’t motivated to do anything about it. They don’t even seem to be concerned about it.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “uh oh, that sounds like me,” or, “hmmm, that sounds like my husband / girlfriend / daughter…”, don’t worry. Financial apathy is not a life sentence. There are simple steps you can take to get out of your financial rut.
Why do people suffer from financial apathy?
There are many reasons people fall into a state of financial apathy. Some of the main reasons people become apathetic about money include:
Feelings of overwhelm
For many, they’re overwhelmed by money and the world of personal finance. Working through the barriers to financial success feels unreachable and far too complicated. Rather than talking about it or asking for help, they push down their concerns and hope they go away.
You know how that goes. Ignoring things just makes it worse as one bad financial decision stacks on top of the other and eventually collapses under its own weight.
Financial problems don’t go away when ignored; they compound.
Feelings of fear
Many people are afraid to take on the money-related tasks necessary to achieve financial success. For instance, investing.
You’ve probably heard someone say they’re too afraid to invest because the stock market is “like gambling” or it’s “too risky.” It doesn’t matter that this belief flies in the face of the fact millions of everyday people rely on the stock market to fuel their retirement and college savings plans.
Truth is it’s easier to hide behind our fears than it is to do the work of understanding how investing works and determining if those fears are warranted.
Trying to keep up
The pressures from social media (and those around us) can also cause financial apathy. When you look at the “perfect lives” of friends, and even complete strangers, all day, every day, it’s easy to want the things they have.
If you just buy that bag, that dress, that car, that house, then maybe you will be as happy and perfect as they are … right?
More like, “yeah, right.”
People spend beyond their means trying to keep up, and they fall deeper and deeper into debt. Too much debt often leads to an “I’m just not going to look at it” mentality.
Rather than dealing with their financial issues head-on, they push it to the back of their minds, cross their fingers, and hope it’ll all just work out.
Lack of education
One of our education system’s more profound failings is the lack of financial education provided to our young people. Unless you grew up in a household where money talk was commonplace, you’ve had to figure out this personal finance stuff on your own. For most, this isn’t easy.
People rarely engage in activities they find difficult even if those same things are good for them (i.e., exercise, healthy eating).
Learning about money can be a frustrating and challenging road and all too often people simply give up. A lack of financial knowledge is one of the leading contributors to financial apathy.
How to overcome financial apathy
If you’re ready to stop making bad money decisions, or no money decisions, and get your financial life in order, here are some tips to get you started.
“My name is X, and I am financially apathetic…”
Okay, that sounds a little over-the-top, but you get the point.
The first step in overcoming financial apathy is to recognize and admit to it.
This is a big step.
Becoming financially literate is one of the best things you can do to combat fear and apathy.
Find financial bloggers, podcasters, or YouTubers you enjoy listening to and spend some time getting familiar with them.
Also, don’t feel like you need to learn everything all at once. Start small by getting the basics down and then stack new knowledge on top. Before you know it, you’ll have a solid foundation from which to build upon and address more complicated financial concepts.
If you don’t like to deal with the day-to-day tasks associated with managing your money, and let’s be honest, who does, then you can use automation to “set it and forget it.”
Automating positive financial behaviors such as investing for retirement or paying extra on your mortgage is often the easiest and most effective way to manage your money.
Overcoming financial apathy doesn’t require a lot of time if you harness the power of automation.
There are tons of useful fintech apps available to help you quickly manage your finances. You can use banking apps to set up alerts and reminders to tell you when your funds are getting low.
There are budgeting apps like You Need A Budget to help you develop a simple budget and financial management apps like Mint to get real-time feedback on your bank accounts, credit cards, and investments.
Note: As per my ‘Budgets Are Bull****’ blog, I’m not a fan of traditional “budgets,” but these tools can help you understand where your money goes, which is a critical component to making smart money decisions.
Say goodbye to financial apathy
Succumbing to financial apathy is always easier than doing something about it, but it’s hardly better. Deep down, we know our money issues won’t just “work themselves out.” We know we need to be active participants to secure our financial future.
Getting over financial apathy is about not hiding from your money issues; it’s about taking action. Push yourself to learn about the financial topics that scare you, find your money mavens to guide you, and use fintech to make managing your money as easy as possible.
Financial apathy is real, but it’s also entirely within your control. It’s been said, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. When will you take your “first step” on your journey out of financial apathy? Why not make it today?