The suicide rate in the US has risen dramatically in recent years, and certified money coach Tammy Lally of Washington, DC believes money shame is a factor.
Lally’s brother died of suicide in 2007 after receiving a foreclosure notice. Shortly thereafter, Lally’s mortgage business collapsed in the Great Recession. She says she moved from driving a Mercedes to living in a seaside home to filing for bankruptcy.
“I was blown away by the amount of pain and sadness that I experienced,” says Lally. “I haven’t told anyone. I pretended nothing was wrong. “
She eventually realized she felt shame – a deep feeling that she was fundamentally flawed and unworthy because of her financial troubles. When she switched careers to become a financial advisor, she noticed how widespread these feelings were. Some customers were ashamed their debtsor their wealth. Others lived beyond their means or played “the big shot”, took the bill in restaurants or constantly rescued others.
“I see that every one of my customers is ashamed of their money,” she says. “We live in a culture where our money is our value.”
The origins of money are ashamed
We are not born knowing how to deal with moneyand everyone makes mistakes with their finances, says Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, a financial therapist in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Additionally, there are many factors that are beyond our control, such as: B. the economy, industry trends and unemployment rates.
Too often, however, when people struggle with their finances, people feel that something is deeply wrong with them. They may feel stupid, immoral, lazy, or “bad with money” or wondering what they should have done differently.
“When we make mistakes with money or things happen to us, we tend to internalize it and make it really personal,” says Bryan-Podvin, author of The Financial Anxiety Solution. “If you beat yourself up, that is a good sign that there is money shame.”
Money shame can lead to us spending too much to “keep up with the Joneses”. Avoid our finances or criticize others who are struggling, says certified financial planner Edward Coambs, a marriage and family therapist based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Shame makes us judgmental,” says Coambs. “Because when we see other people struggling with something, we feel uncomfortable.”
Many therapists and researchers say that shame is different from guilt: we feel guilty when we have done something bad, but we feel ashamed when we believe we are bad or deeply flawed. People may believe they are so flawed that they are not worth ever loving or connecting with others, says Coambs. In extreme cases, this can lead to thoughts of suicide.
“Shame is really about losing the relationship,” says Coambs. “It tells you that I am not worthy or valuable to be in relationship with myself or with any other person.”
Shame and suicide
Suicides seldom have a single cause, and researchers can only speculate as to why the suicide rate is rising and falling. Studies show that suicides tend to rise with the unemployment rate, and a 2020 study for the American Journal of Epidemiology found that financial stress is a major risk factor for attempting suicide.
But in the past few decades, suicide rates have increased in good economic times and bad. The suicide rate rose 35% from 1999 to 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, before falling from 14.2 suicides per 100,000 people to 13.9 in 2019. Statistics for 2020 are not yet available.
Lindsay speculates that income stagnation and increasing economic uncertainty could contribute. Coambs notes that the suicide rate among men in the US is more than three times higher than that of women, which may be due in part to internal pressures to be “providers and performers.”
“Men struggle more with their mental health (after financial setbacks) because they tend to link their self-esteem to their income or net worth,” says Coambs.
What you can do for money is a shame
All of this is scary. But Suicide is preventable (The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800-273-8255), and money shame can be tamed, financial therapists say. The first step is to realize what you are feeling.
“The first and most pragmatic piece is to be able to name it,” says Coambs. “A language to describe experiences helps to alleviate the hardship.”
So can get support. Being able to discuss money shame with someone you trust can help you feel less alone, Lindsay says.
“A lot of people think they are the only person in the world or the only person in their community who has experienced money shame,” says Lindsay.
It can also be helpful to feel sorry for yourself and seek lessons from that experience. Ask yourself what you can learn or what you can do differently next time.
Lally turned her experience into a TED talk that has been viewed more than 2 million times: “Let’s Talk Really About Our Money Problems” and a book, “Money Detox”.
“I didn’t have a name for it until it happened to me,” says Lally. “And my mission is to get people to talk about it.”
This article was written by NerdWallet and originally published by the Associated Press.