As an ER doctor, I spend a lot of time dealing with addicts. It turns out when your life is consumed by a chemical dependency you will eventually have a health problem that brings you to my door.
I can spot an alcoholic from a mile away. I know their look. I recognize their rehearsed lines. I am impressed by the depths of their denial. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t battling my own addiction. It may not come in a bottle, but it is every bit as powerful. Today we’re going to talk about an addiction many of us share.
My name is Side Hustle Scrubs and I’m a money addict. Here are 10 ways your money addiction is like being an alcoholic.
You underestimate how much you think about money
When an alcoholic tells you how many drinks they have a day, a good rule of thumb is double that number and then add a few. 4 beers a day means 10. 3 shots a day means 7.
How many times a day do you think about money or consume some type of personal finance media? 5? Does that count the two blog posts you read in line waiting for coffee? You forgot to add that podcast you listened to on your commute. Don’t forget that when the news said the market was down you went to CNN Money, then Wall Street Journal and then checked your account balances. Chances are you don’t even know how often you’re consuming.
You start your day with a money eye opener
Do you have to start your day cracking open a new money story? A little hair of the dog to get your day on track?
Maybe you’ll just polish off that ESI Millionaire Interview you opened last night. Maybe you’ll swing by the forums on Rockstar Finance or Bogleheads. A little Choose FI podcast as background noise while you make breakfast?
If you can’t picture starting your day without thinking about money, you might have a problem.
You plan your week around money
Alcoholics plan their lives around drinking. There’s no event too big or too small that couldn’t be enhanced with a little booze.
Money addicts plan their week around their favorite money activities. Have you memorized which days of the week your favorite blogger posts? Do you save certain podcasts for after your kids go to bed? Do you start your Sunday mornings reading Physician on FIRE‘s Sunday Best or binge reading Market Watch? Do you have a special routine on payday? You my friend, plan your week around money.
You have a secret stash of financial media
Just like an alcoholic has a drink of choice, you have your regular sources to get your fix. That doesn’t mean you won’t dip into your backup stash in an emergency. What do you do when you’re in the mood for a money fix and you’ve blown through your regular favorites? The sound of you clicking through your D list sources sounds a lot like an alcoholic reaching for that dusty bottle of peppermint schnapps they’ve been ignoring since last Christmas.
You surround yourself with fellow addicts
You’re in good company. Most people reading this spend a lot of time thinking about money. Drunks hand out with other drunks because it helps normalize their behavior. It only makes sense that money addicts would surround themselves with other money addicts.
If you have ever had a conversation with someone about your investment policy statement that lasted more than 12 seconds, they are a fellow money addict. If you’ve ever had a debate about your favorite post from a particular money blogger, you were talking to a fellow addict. Your money sober friends would promptly laugh or snore in your face.
You find it hard to quit cold turkey
Could you go a whole week without talking, reading or thinking about money? No websites, Facebook groups, TV, radio or podcasts? No mental budgeting, bill planning or account checking? Would it make you feel anxious? Would it effect your sleep? Would each day drag slower than the one before? You are starting to show signs of physical dependence.
You make excuses for your habit
The one person an addict never blames is themselves. “You don’t understand. I work hard. I deserve to cut loose at the end of a long day.”
You keep on blaming your job, your kids or your childhood. If only you hadn’t seen your parents struggle with money. If only your boss wasn’t such a jerk. If only your job gave you more sense of purpose.
How about “if only I didn’t spend so much time obsessing over money”? For some reason that one doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily.
It starts to effect your health
If your life has become All Work and No Play, chances are you’re ignoring your health. Those side hustles are time you could have spent exercising or sleeping. Those weeks of vacation you refuse to use could do wonders for your mental health.
Do you keep telling yourself that gym membership or personal trainer is too expensive? It’s probably cheaper than your heart attack.
It starts to effect your relationships
Eventually every addict has to make a choice between their addiction and the people they care about. How many times have you chosen work over spending more time with your family? How many times have you passed on going out or taking a vacation with friends because you didn’t want to spend the money?
Actions speak louder than words, and your actions are saying “I choose money over you.”
Even you think there’s a problem
The addict is the last person to realize they have a problem. In the past year have you ever once thought you ought to cut back? Have you suddenly caught a glimpse of yourself falling for the most ridiculous clickbait? Would the old you even recognize the monster who was so desperate they would click on the ad that claimed “Experts are calling this penny stock the next Amazon”?
If even you are re-examining your life choices, it should send up a big red flag that your ship has drifted off course.
Are You a Money Addict?
How many of the 10 statements above apply to you? Tally up your score to see how you deep your money addiction goes.
0-2 What are you, some kind of hippie? Stop reading this article and get back to your commune.
3-5 The writing is on the wall, but it’s not too late. With some big changes to your daily routine you can wean down to a healthier balance.
6-8 You have a serious problem on your hands. You are going to need a major life overhaul. You may need to eliminate enablers and avoid triggers if you want to get your life back on track.
9+ You are a cash drunk. Every day is going to be a struggle. If you don’t get to the root of your addiction, it’s going to keep consuming you. Don’t give up. The first step is wanting to change.
Before you fire up your hate mail and blast me for making light of substance abuse, let me save you some trouble. I don’t just see the effects of drugs and alcohol at work. Like everyone in this country, I’ve witnessed its effects on my friends and family as well.
Money addiction may not be as lethal as alcohol or heroin, but you can’t deny that all addicts have some things in common. Before you start judging the addicts in your life, take a good look in the mirror. After all – people in cash houses shouldn’t throw stones.