We have joke around the office about the fear of missing out or FOMO, as it’s now commonly referred to in social media everywhere.
When it comes to Rothgard office FOMO banter, it’s generally lightweight stuff.
Most of the time, it will find one of us is ribbing a colleague because they’re worried about missing the morning coffee run or their weekly footie tipping entries or some other First World challenge like the best carpark at the office.
Notwithstanding the funnier side of FOMO, I realise there is actually a more serious aspect to it. And unfortunately, more and more, I see it driving people’s financial decisions and leading them to places that aren’t good for them.
Over and above that trend, what surprises me more is the awareness that none of us are immune; even the most conservative financial planners like me!
I know this because just last week I succumbed to a serious case of FOMO that went well beyond the lighter office version.
A Friday night bite
Let me explain.
It was Friday night and I had just settled down to watch a re-run of a favourite Seinfeld episode. (I know, how many times can you see it right!)
I’ve seen every episode more than once so I wasn’t too worried I’d miss something when my phone buzzed with the sound of a newly minted text message safely delivered on behalf of automated marketing from one of the Big Four banks.
Gino (it read). Great news! (and I LOVE great news)
We’d like to invite you to apply for a personal loan. All you need to do is reply YES or call us on this number and we’ll get things going. If you’re interested the loan is for $20,000. We hope you are as excited as we are.
Ah, how does YES via SMS sound?
As a financial planner whose job it is to help others make prudent, informed financial decisions, it takes a bit for me to be swayed by marketing hype, especially an offer of a virtually instant personal loan, but here’s the thing: for a moment or three, I was swayed.
In the heat of the moment as I was watching Seinfeld, I let my imagination take over and wondered what I could do with the 20 big ones.
Holidays, gifts, boys’ toys, and other random fun stuff, came to mind. It would all be so great.
Until I jolted uncomfortably back to reality.
The financial planner analyst kicked in and I started asking myself:
Gino, what are you buying this stuff for?
Do you really need it?
Why are you even contemplating exchanging cash that’s not yours (and you know you’ll have to repay) for things that didn’t even enter your brain space until five minutes ago?
Like every other person on the planet, I’d succumbed to the idea that if I didn’t have that cash, I could possibly, maybe, just maybe missing out.
What’s driving your financial decisions?
We’re human and it’s a simple fact that we’re bombarded with marketing messages and experiences that leave us feeling we’re not enough or we need more just to avoid missing out.
It is easy to be seduced and feel like, well, that you’re a total FOMO loser.
The potential to feel FOMO is ubiquitous. A simple thing like seeing someone receive preferential treatment in a queue to get on the plane can leave you wondering, “Why them and not me?”, like I’ve done recently when I’ve racked up a few air travel miles for business.
Before the FOMO gremlin got too carried away, I answered that question myself.
Maybe that person spends more time on a plane that you do, Gino, and if that’s the case, then special treatment is probably warranted – then you think… If they are spending so much time on an airplane, what are they missing out on??? Family time? Business opportunities? Time for themselves????
There are always trade offs, and in the case of the instant personal loan you might get some instant gratification by having cash to buy that new toy, but when it is sitting in the corner gathering dust in a couple of months time, the debt still needs to be repaid!
Like I said, FOMO is everywhere, so it’s important to have your FOMO fighting arsenal in place.
How do you fight financial FOMO?
I only know of two ways a person can address financial FOMO and I share them with my clients all the time.
The right mindset and a solid plan.
The right mindset doesn’t mean you won’t be tempted by offers like the one I received last week; it will just help you keep perspective.
It allows you to be honest about whether a ‘go’ decision is really going to serve you financially. You’ll know if it doesn’t serve you because when you’ve made the decision, you’ll feel lousy, guilty, weighed down, even downright annoyed.
Give me a short dose of FOMO any day than having to leave the the aftermath of a poor financial decision.
Your second FOMO fighting tool is a solid financial plan.
A plan will keep you moving in the right direction, i.e. towards your financial objectives.
The more invested you are in your plan, literally and metaphorically, the chances of straying off course financially are at best slim; at worst, they’re reduced.
If financial FOMO is something you struggle with, there is no better time than now to develop the right mindset and plan to help you deal with it.
Through my own practice and experience, I am convinced that getting honest about your financial FOMO and doing something about it is well worth the effort. And the sooner, the better.
Daily I have the privilege of meeting people (our clients) who have mastered it and it is they who give themselves the best chance of creating the wealth that ironically leads to FOMO in others.
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If you’re a ‘recovering’ financial FOMO, leave a comment in the comments section.
Let us know how you worked through the challenge of creating a new mindset and sticking to a plan.
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