Worrying about money

“Life is hard, it’s really tough,” lamented an acquaintance the other day.

“Yeah. It is,” I agreed empathetically.

My acquaintance works in the oil and gas industry which is going through tough times because of the slump in oil prices. The big companies are cutting jobs and this gets passed down to the people on the ground level, like him.

A Malaysian, he came to work in Singapore for its strong and stable currency. He supports his wife and daughter. He wonders if he can keep his job. He worries about money.

Having worked with hundreds of people on their finances, I’ve found that the worry about money is universal, though the fear behind that worry isn’t.

Some people worry about not being able to provide for their family.

Some people worry about not being able to become financially independent.

Some worry that their money is not being ethically invested and that the investment vehicles available are not aligned with their personal values.

Some worry that their money kept in the bank isn’t beating inflation.

Some worry about investment losses.

Some worry about not being able to pay their staff.

Some worry about not being able to send their kids to university overseas if they don’t qualify for a local university.

Some worry about paying medical bills — their own or their family members.

Some worry about what other people thinks of them if they are seen not driving a car.

Almost everyone, regardless of income level, worries about money. Most of the time, the worry is primarily about not having enough. But that worry disguises the true fear.

Sometimes the fear is about status.

Sometimes it is about pride and the inability to provide.

Sometimes it is about lack of opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.

Sometimes it is about integrity, being true to ourselves.

Sometimes it is about filial piety and responsibility.

Sometimes it is about feeling trapped.

Yes, life is hard, and almost everyone worries about money. But that doesn’t mean the underlying feelings are about money.

After all, if we’re not grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’ll be happy with more?