Half of Americans Repeatedly Struggle with Debt One in Four Shows Signs of Money Abuse

ROCKVILLE, Md. – „Half of American adults are struggling to control excessive spending and debt, and are failing,” said Steve Rhode, president of Myvesta, the nonprofit financial health center. That information is part of Myvesta’s Money Abusers Survey, which found that 51.8 percent of Americans have tried repeatedly to control or stop excessive money abuse.

Repeated, unsuccessful attempts to control, cut back or stop excessive money use is the most common of the nine statements that Myvesta uses to determine a person’s true money behavior. According to Myvesta, people who agree with two or more of the money behavior statements are likely to be a money abuser. „Based on the survey, 25.5 percent of respondents agreed with two or more of the statements, which means that one in four Americans are potential money abusers,” Rhode said.

„Many people assume that it’s normal to be unable to control their money,” Rhode added. „It’s not. Money abuse is the inability to control excessive debt or spending. It is a recurrent, often unconscious, use of money to overcome underlying issues. Our society recognizes that people abuse alcohol, drugs, and food and that they need help to overcome those issues, but what about people who abuse money? There is little specialized help available for money abusers and yet it is a chronic problem that robs people of happy lives.”

The nine negative money behaviors that define money abuse are:

1. Repeated, unsuccessful attempts to control, cut back or stop excessive money use;

2. Experiencing a mood change (high or low) just before or after a shopping event;

3. Feeling alone and spending money to feel better or improve self-esteem;

4. Spending money as a way to escape problems or relieve stress;

5. Lying, minimizing or rationalizing to conceal spending;

6. Carrying excessive debt as the result of the inability to stop spending money;

7. Losing out on opportunities such as a significant relationship, job promotion, or educational or career opportunities because of money consumption;

8. Spending money on or with others in order to maintain relationships; and

9. Buying things to impress or influence others.

Rhode says that simple, technical fixes of money issues like getting a loan or consolidating payments don’t work. „The trouble with traditional approaches for solving money problems is that they focus on the checking account balance rather than the person’s life balance,” he said. „It’s no wonder why simply trying to cut back on spending almost never works.”

„Money troubles need to be addressed using a series of practical, emotional and introspective steps to conquer the money abuse. It’s similar to the abuse of alcohol, drugs, or food, but this time the abused substance is money.”

Another significant signpost for money abuse is feeling a high or remorse just before or after spending money. Forty percent of respondents said that they feel a mood change just before or after a shopping event.

Other survey findings:

– Seventeen percent (17.1 percent) say they feel alone or empty inside and use money to purchase goods or services in an attempt to feel better or improve their self-esteem;

– Sixteen percent (16.3 percent) spend money as a way of escaping problems or relieving stress;

– Ten percent (9.8 percent) of American adults admit to lying, minimizing or rationalizing to family members or others to conceal spending;

– Seven percent (7.2 percent) say they have excessive debt as a result of the inability to stop spending;

– Seven percent (7.2 percent) have lost out on opportunities such as a significant relationship, job promotion, or educational or career opportunities because of money consumption;

– Seven percent (6.8 percent) feel the need to spend money on or with others in order to maintain a relationship with those people; and

– Seven percent (6.7 percent) are preoccupied with buying things to impress or influence others.

In a separate section of the survey, people were asked if they know someone who exhibits abusive money behaviors. Almost half of the respondents said they know someone who has at least one of the symptoms of money abuse. For example:

– Fifty-two percent know someone whose mood changes just before or after a shopping event;

– Forty-nine percent know someone who spends money as a way to escape problems or relieve stress; and

– Forty-seven percent know someone who is preoccupied with buying things to impress or influence others.

„Continuing to bail out a friend or family member who has money problems is the same as giving an alcoholic another drink,” Rhode stated. „Don’t be an enabler by ignoring destructive behavior. You’ll be hurting, not helping that person.”

Rhode added, „One of the biggest hurdles in helping money abusers is denial. People get stuck because they deny that a problem exists. Denial holds them back from finding a path to peace of mind and conquering their money issues.”

Myvesta conducted the survey using a random sample of 1,000 people from Feb. 1 through Feb. 13, 2002 to understand Americans’ money behaviors and raise awareness of money abuse.

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Myvesta is the nation’s only comprehensive financial health center. Founded in 1994, Myvesta guides people to peace of mind through its comprehensive and holistic programs. The nonprofit organization gives people practical, emotional and introspective guidance to improve their financial situations and their overall lives. Its programs and services include a residential treatment program, support groups, crisis resolution, online bill management, bankruptcy alternatives, creditor problem resolution, debt management and financial coaching. Prior to April 2000, Myvesta was known as Debt Counselors of America.

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