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CTV News -The Psychology of Wealth

November 2012



What an exciting morning! I stopped in at CTV News Channel's Express to visit my favourite hosts Jacqueline Milczarek and Dan Matheson to talk about a new study that was recently published. The study showed that wealthier neighbourhoods had higher suicide rates than those that are not wealthy.

I would say that generally the results of this study are not surprising - but it's important to pay attention to the details. The title would suggest that individuals with high incomes are at a higher risk, but instead, the high risk individuals are actually the lower-income individuals who are living in wealthy areas and trying to 'keep up with the Joneses.'
The psychology of money is quite fascinating. When people compare themselves to others in a wealthy income bracket, they are forced to feel 'abnormal' or even 'less than normal.'This has nothing to do with people not having their basic needs met, but rather to do with their perception of what money means and their expectations of what a 'successful' person has.
As a psychotherapist, I've watched many of my clients suffer from anxiety, depression, and general 'unhappiness' simply from comparing themselves to others. Who has a better job, a better house, a more expensive car, the latest gadget, and designer clothes? Materialistic behaviour can in fact become a kind of addiction - collecting luxury goods, clothing, and 'the best of the best' in an effort to avoid letting people see who you really are. We live in a society that tells us we are 'not good enough' if we don't have the same things as our friends and colleagues.
The research shows that anything above $34,000 is the earnings tipping point. Anything below this increases your risk by 50%, and anything above, the rates drop only marginally. So, it just goes to show that you can't make yourself happier by making millions of dollars and getting an abundance of 'stuff' - in fact many of my clients who make millions of dollars would say they are a lot 'less' happy and more stressed out than when they were starting out.
My best advice for today is that life isn't about what you have. It's about who you are as a person and the confidence that you have inside. Don't let anyone else tell you
what you should or shoudn't wear, drive, or live in. There will always be somebody who makes more money than you, is more talented, or has more material things. Bottom line? If you always compare yourself, you will always feel bad. Instead, focus on your interests, hobbies, talents, relationship, family, and career. Focusing on the things that bring you joy and happiness will keep your energy on the things that are more memorable in life.
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