money obsession

The longing for money, the illusion that it can provide anything, and all the emotional freight it carries for us provide enough power and urgency to fuel our lust for it (p. 62).

Since we started this money disorder series we have maintained the ideology that these disorders have no bearing on how much money you actually have. According to Gallen, two of the biggest stressors in life are a sudden and large decrease in finances and a sudden and large increase in finances. Surprisingly though, despite the fact that:

  • over 60% of debt occurs when someone becomes sick and their expenses rise above their income;
  • the rule of thumb is to have 3-6 months of income saved for emergencies; and that
  • there are a plethora of sites and advice about how to save money…

the biggest stressor actually comes from getting a sudden increase in finances (p. 55).

Introducing Money Obsession

The third money disorder we will examine is called money obsession. Now when we think about individuals obsessing with money we probably envision a rags-to-riches scenario in which a poorer person aspires to become rich. But here is a question for you to consider-how much money would you need to have in order for you to stop worrying about money completely? Whenever we ask children this question we hear things like: “a million dollars!” or “a billion dollars!” or our personal favorite “a gazillion trillion dollars!” Although the adult answers are not as humorous, their mindset is the same. And who can blame them? We live in an economy with debt constantly on the rise so it is no wonder that fantasies about windfalls, “life-changing money,” may [very well] be the new American Dream. Think about it, despite many positively focused commercials who really plays the lottery to support local schools and state funded projects-ISN’T THAT WHAT TAXES ARE FOR? No people play the lottery because they want that “BIG MONEY”.

When Is Enough Enough?

In his book, Gallen gives an example about a particular individual with wealth who just never felt  that he had enough. “I know a man who recently cashed in an investment that brought him a profit of $17 million; [however] he is now obsessed with having $100 million because that is the amount he was convinced that really rich people had those days”. In another example, an individual was blessed with a huge trust fund. He invested a large portion of it allowing him to receive around $3.5 million per year. Unfortunately, despite already having plenty of money and making great investment choices he was heavily overspending-spending an amount totaling to approximately $5.5 million annually. The saddest part was that he calculated that he only had twelve years left until he would be completely broke.

$17 million is too small…

In both of the above cases even though the two gentlemen were greatly wealthy they could not escape their money obsessions. In our previous article we illustrated the fact that we tend to rate an individual’s success and worth by his or her possessions. The first guy’s situation is reflective of what happens everyday in society-even though we may have enough to live a comfortable lifestyle we still desire more money because we compare our standard of living to those that have even more money than us. He felt that he was poor…at least compared to his $100 million dollar peers.

It’s only an extra $2 million…

The second situation is also surprisingly common. It’s easy to see when someone is living above their means in order to have nice or lavish things-at least when they are not millionaires. The second individual was clearly overspending by a rate of $2 million dollars per year. When you are overspending like this you essentially have two options:

  1. Cut back your spending, or
  2. Get more money.

If you guessed that the second choice is the more popular option-you would be correct. Because of the value we place on money; instead of choosing the obvious (and easier) option of cutting back our spending, we simply tell ourselves that our problems will be solved if we just get more money thus laying down the foundation for money obsession.

Money Obsession Warning Signs

Potential warning signs of an obsession with money can include:

  • Obsessive involvement with investments, savings, and strategies for financial security;
  • Inability to earn enough to meet your needs;
  • Fantasy that a certain amount of money well end all problems;
  • Feeling like there’s never enough;
  • Chronic envy;
  • Fear of financial insecurity;
  • Feelings of self-worth inordinately attached to money, power, or position.


As we near the end let us present one last example. There was a lady who also had a large inheritance. The inheritance was so large that she did not have to work a day of her life. Now I know plenty of people who wish they could stop working; however, because she never worked she felt that her life had no purpose or direction a feeling that she credited to her drug usage and other taboo lifestyle choices. She actually grew to resent all the money she was given; wishing that instead she was poor. Money obsession can be described as “the grass is greener” type of mindset affecting those on both sides. Those that do not have money crave it while those that do have money wish they never had it at all.

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