Most Americans feel that the best things in life are definitely not free, and the most dangerous attitudes about the all powerful dollar are generally held by young singles, according to a new academic study.
Researchers took a look at how Americans feel about finances, and what those beliefs are doing to their mental health and sense of well-being, and the findings were not pretty.
The study is entitled "Money Beliefs and Financial Behaviors: Development of the Klontz Money Script Inventory," and was published in the current issue of The Journal of Financial Therapy.
It groups attitudes about money into four categories of "Money Scripts": Money Avoidance, Money Worship, Money Status and Money Vigilance. The latter, Money Vigilance, is probably the healthiest category, and the people in it are disproportionately non-white.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the Money Worship and Money Status categories are the least healthy. If you're completely honest with yourself, you'll probably find you share most of the characteristics with those in one of these four categories:
Money Avoidance: Money avoiders tend to either believe that money is bad or that they don't deserve it. Members of this group often view money as a force that stirs up fear, anxiety, or disgust. They may also self-sabotage their financial success and avoid spending money on even reasonable or necessary purchases. Alternatively, they may unconsciously spend or give money away in an effort to have as little as possible.
Members of this group are more likely to have low annual incomes, as well as a low net worth. Demographically they tend t be young and single. The good news is that there's a good chance they'll grow out of this attitude as they age and their incomes increase.
Money Worship: People in this category believe that "more money will make things better." They're also very likely to carry balances on their numerous credit cards. They're certain that money can indeed buy happiness, and are generally young, white, and single.
Additionally, they tend to have lower levels of income and net worth, paired with higher levels of debt. Members of this group do have a point, however: if they use their money to get out of debt, it can indeed make them happier. Unfortunately, few of them realize that, and even fewer are likely to change their spending habits accordingly.
Money Status: These people see a direct correlation between self-worth and net-worth. They tend to be competitive and want to acquire more than those around them. Research shows that being over-concerned with financial success and materialism is often associated with lower levels of well-being, self-actualization, vitality and happiness. Again, this group is mainly made up of young singles, although they tend to be less educated than those in other groups.
Money Vigilance: This is probably the healthiest of all groups, and tends to have the most mature members. The good news is that people often move into this group, after they've been around the financial block a few times.
Members of this group are often alert, watchful and concerned about money, and are prone to saving and frugality. In the extreme, however, as the authors of the study point out, "excessive wariness or anxiety regarding pending financial danger keeps someone from enjoying the benefits and sense of security that money can provide."
But don't break your arm patting yourself on the back too hard if you fit into the latter category. It seems that our ideas about money are most influenced by what we experienced in the home as kids. So many of the younger members of the Money Vigilance group are acting out the values they learned from their parents.
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