We Americans worry about money; a lot. You might say it is an American pastime. Money is consistently listed as the number one source of anxiety of Americans. Our worry over money can even be classified as a psychological disorder. In a recent study, 23% of surveyed Americans reported experiencing symptoms commonly associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to their finances. Among Millennials, the number is 36%.
This means that more than 1 out of every 5 people that you may see today is likely suffering from PTSD symptoms related to money anxiety.
Financial PTSD symptoms impact our body, relationships, and mind. For our body, symptoms include nervous energy, jitteriness, insomnia, and hyperreactivity to situations that remind one of financial problems, such as ringing phones that may be calls from debt collectors.
For our relationships, symptoms include the inability to feel close to friends and significant others, difficulty enjoying things that were enjoyable, and a sense that bad things are inevitable and that life will be cut short.
Finally, for our minds, financial PTSD symptoms include persistent negative thoughts about self and the environment, and difficulty concentrating.
Whether you have had financial trauma in the past that has manifested into financial PTSD or you are experiencing low levels of money anxiety on a regular basis, there is hope!
But, before we discuss this hope, let’s first discuss a “false hope” that is a commonly prescribed antidote for symptoms related to money anxiety.
For most, the false hope that we believe is that more wealth will solve our money anxiety. We tend to think, if I could just get more money, that would make me worry about money less. This is actually partially true, since rising out of poverty has been shown to lower financial trauma and stress.
If I could just get more money, that would make me worry about money less.
However, it has been shown time and time again that more money simply increases our available options, and does not correlate with lowered anxiety. This is because people are blessed with a quality known as “adaptability,” which means that we are able to adapt to any new levels of wealth and income very quickly, and any feelings of happiness we may gain are fleeting. In the end, the rush of new wealth passes and we are left worrying about money again. We should all have this intuition about wealth since our culture is currently the richest we have ever been and, yet, depression, suicide, and anxiety are also at their highest levels they have ever been. For a more detailed discussion on how more wealth does not lead to less money anxiety because of adaptability, please read the great book, Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz.
So, if more money will not solve our money anxiety, what will? As Christians, we have access to the great King of the Universe through the blood of Jesus Christ. This access allows us to see more clearly 3 important money promises that have been given to us. Because money is a highly complicated, and personal topic, the following 3 money promises are analogies that God has given us that point us to a truth that we cannot fully comprehend. The truth about God’s role in our daily financial lives is too good, big, and amazing for us to grasp so we are meant to slowly meditate on them and pray for discernment from the Holy Spirit and our church community.
The following 3 money promises are analogies that God has given us that point us to a truth that we cannot fully comprehend (it is just too good).
As you meditate on these three analogies and scriptures associated with these analogies, please work on articulating the money promises that are embedded in them. Also, please identify the analogy and promise that is most soothing to your heart, mind, and soul.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than them?” Matthew 6.
“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11.
“The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” Psalm 24.
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8.
Throughout this week, as you think about these analogies and money promises, pray that the Holy Spirit illuminates God’s Word in a way that comforts your financial anxiety. If you want to further flesh out the good shepherd analogy, I highly recommend reading the book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, which was written by a modern-day shepherd.
Let the truth of God’s great care for us release us from our fears and worries about money.
Shane Enete has worked as an assistant professor of finance at Biola University since 2015. Prior to that, Enete was an investment research professional for 10 years for large institutional asset managers. His duties included valuing public stock securities, modeling asset allocations, and serving as a forensic accountant. Enete currently holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation and was awarded the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) designation in 2014 (lapsed). Enete holds a B.S. in Finance from the University of Southern California and a M.S. in Mathematical Finance from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Enete also received a Ph.D. from the financial planning program at Kansas State University. His research interests include Biblically Responsible Investing (BRI), charitable giving, modeling financial well being, and behavioral finance.
Shane is married to Tammy, and is father to Sage and Silas. He enjoys any activity near the beach, or in the water, including surfing, swimming, beach volleyball, and triathlons. He hopes that when his kids turn 5, which is the minimum surfing age, they will both fall in love with surfing so that he can have whole family surf sessions.