The Moneyist: ‘I’m 22 with $70,000 in savings and investments, but I’m addicted to checking my brokerage accounts multiple times a day’

The Moneyist: ‘I’m 22 with $70,000 in savings and investments, but I’m addicted to checking my brokerage accounts multiple times a day’

20 Jan    Finance News

Dear Moneyist,

I have a money problem that is somewhat different from what I read in your column. It is a problem that many would not view as a problem, but it’s eating me alive. I am 22 years old. I graduated from college last May and, nearly immediately,  started a career in management consulting. I make good money and have already built up an impressive (for my age) nest egg. 

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I graduated from college with no debt and $45,000 in savings and investment. I saved and invested large portions of my part-time job paycheck for as long as I can remember. I have always maxed out my Roth IRA contributions. I now have around $70,000 saved and invested in my retirement, brokerage, and cash saving accounts.

And yet I am extremely unhappy. I am very grateful for the money I have at my age, especially seeing many of my friends who are drowning in student debt after graduating from college. However, I am so unhappy. I fear I will live my entire life with the miserable feeling of desiring more and more money. I do not want to live like that. 

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I need to change my perspective on money, but I do not know what to do. I am addicted. I check my brokerage accounts multiple times a day and my mood is greatly affected by how the markets are doing. I am addicted to watching the “total accounts” number grow in my portfolio. Can you help? I do not want to live my entire life like this.

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Dear James,

Investing is a smarter past-time than gambling, but it’s also a second cousin, once removed. Neither provides the answers to all of life’s problems.

You are way ahead of the game. Just half (47%) of working millennials have $15,000 or more in savings, while only 16% have $100,000 or more in savings, according to recent Bank of America BAC, -0.03%  report, which surveyed 2,000 millennials aged 23 to 37. The bank asked about savings, including bank savings/checking accounts, IRA, 401(k) and other investment accounts.

Our attention spans are getting shorter, our sleep cycles are increasingly interrupted by technology and our brains are hot-wired to the information superhighway. Facebook FB, +0.17%, Twitter TWTR, +0.09%, dating apps like Tinder IAC, -0.47%, video games and, yes, even investment apps can give us instant validation and lead to addictive behavior. 

Technology can stop us from being present and become a source of escape from the real world. Some people are lonely; others suffer from anxiety and depression and/or stress and social anxiety. Instagram even stopped telling users how many “likes” their followers get in order to reduce this never-ending search for validation.

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A couple of years ago, Joel Edwards, executive director of Morningside Recovery in Newport Beach, Calif., told me, ”The smartphone is the tool that helps exacerbate that addiction or it’s a tool they use not to deal with that addiction. These technologies are driving addictions faster and with more intensity than ever before.”

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Similarly, Cole Rucker, CEO of Paradigm Malibu, a mental health center, said people use smartphones “as a coping skill rather than learning to sit with their emotions and developing relationships.” It doesn’t mean they’re scoring drugs, but they might be shopping on eBay EBAY, -0.28%  and Amazon AMZN, -0.70%  or, like you, obsessing about their stocks.

There are plenty of actions you can take. Exercise, healthy eating, volunteering and/or helping others, meditation and getting enough sleep are all key to our physical and emotional health. If you’re already on the beam and have perfected that pentagon of good living — and, honestly, who has? — remove the apps from your phone and commit to checking your portfolio once a month.

Also see: 5 ways to buy happiness 

Only you can figure out what lies beneath. Did you have a financially insecure childhood? Is it an outlet for other anxieties? Or do you worry about the future and this has become an outlet for those fears? I can’t answer that question and I don’t want to play the part of armchair psychoanalyst, but they’re questions worth asking.

Putting my Moneyist hat on, I can tell you this: it’s better to answer these questions today because if and when there is a downturn in the market, you want to be emotionally and mentally prepared to ride it out, rather than panic. Financial advisers generally recommend against people making investment decisions based on emotion. You could see a financial therapist.

The Financial Therapy Association takes a holistic approach to managing your finances, including your personal history and relationships past and present. Money and all the trappings of wealth do give us the luxury of choice, but financial freedom will not make all of our other worries go away. The good news: You are on the road to financial independence.

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There are many things in life beyond our control, and short-term fluctuations in stocks is one of them. You’ve learned to plan for tomorrow. For 2020, your next task is to live for today.

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

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Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas: inheritance, wills, divorce, tipping, gifting. I often talk to lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and other experts, in addition to offering my own thoughts. I receive more letters than I could ever answer, so I’ll be bringing all of that guidance — including some you might not see in these columns — to this group. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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