The downsides of financial security

Kelly Smith

Ever heard the saying “more is better”? It could be knowledge, experience, fortune or money. Let’s talk about money. 

We all know the obvious dangers of having a lot of money and cherishing every minute of it. We see examples all the time simply reading a paper or turning on the news. But is it only the rich and powerful who fall victim to traps like this? Do you have to be extraordinarily wealthy in order to have the wrong attitude about your money? Of course not. In fact, all it takes is a little overconfidence to get you into trouble. 

Think about it. No one wants to be poor, so the more money we have, the better life will be because more is better, right? Well, it’s not that simple because there are some drawbacks to having more than enough money to support yourself. One of the most obvious is becoming ignorant in your spending. I remember coming into my freshman year with about $800 saved up that I had access to when I needed it. I didn’t have a job, so I’m sure you know what ended up happening. When we feel too safe in our professional or personal budget, we start wasting money. 

But there’s another big problem with being too financially safe, and I think that this is something that everyone needs to be aware of. What if you woke up one day and found out that all the money in your savings account was suddenly gone? Think about the stock market crash of 1929 and all of the talk about the way our economy is looking today. How much safety do you feel from your financial situation? 

If there’s something I can say about 21st-century Americans in general, it’s that we don’t know how to be poor. I recently took an SWS course called Critical Interpretation (COM 202). One day, we read a reading which touched on this very topic, and we had a discussion about its meaning. One of the main things that jumped out at us was how differently people react to poverty based on their prior experience. Someone who’s lived in poverty for most or all of their life knows how to survive it, while people who are unwillingly thrown into it for whatever reason don’t. If you’ve never had to live paycheck to paycheck—or worse—you can’t honestly say that you know what’s like to be in the shoes of someone who has. So you see, those in more fortunate financial situations lack two critical things: the experience of living a life of deficit and true empathy toward those who have.

So is it better to not have financial security? Not necessarily. With the country and world we live in, having the money needed to take care of ourselves is very important. I just think it’s important to bring attention to the less pleasant side of personal finance because ignorance isn’t bliss in the end. The economy’s in pretty bad shape right now, so how well would you handle yourself if your financial safety net suddenly vanished from under you?