Opinion

3 Big Money Mistakes People Make in Times of Stress

money mistakes

Joanne Poh

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While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that you attract whatever you think of, as new age yuppies being fed a diet of The Secret and hot yoga would tell you, I can declare with unequivocal certainty that being overpowered by stress always leads to bad decisions. And a lot of these decisions end up making us poorer in the long run.

Given that the general consensus is that people feel stressed out living in Singapore, it’s probably a good idea to scrutinise every money-related decision you make, just to be sure you’re not guilty of one of the following stress-induced reactions.

1. Being careless with your spending

Seriously, how hard can it be to just not buy that takeaway cup of Starbucks coffee or stop at two beers? But there’s one big reason so many people find it hard to stick to even the most meticulously-crafted of budget plans.

If you think back to all those times you busted your budget, you might realise that many of the purchases you made happened in times of stress.

For example, if you didn’t get enough sleep and are wigging out about how you’re going to make it through another 10-hour day at work, it suddenly gets so much harder just to say no to that cup of Dimbullah coffee, especially when all your equally stressed out coworkers are making a beeline to the cafe. And when you’ve just experienced the worst work day in your entire life, who’s to say no to a relaxing massage at the spa or ten beers, just to numb the pain?

This is also why salespeople at spas and gyms try to pressure you into signing up for packages on the spot. Once you go home and think about it without the stress of having them hovering over your head, they know you won’t be back.

Arnold, a 32-year-old entrepreneur, says sheepishly, “Everytime I have to attend a wedding, I tell myself not to give more than $100 if the person is not a close friend. But after asking my friends who are also attending and hearing that people are giving much more, I get worried that I’m not giving enough and sometimes end up adding $50 to $100. From now on, I’m going to avoid attending weddings.”

2. Making foolish investment decisions

We pin a lot of hopes on our investments. Investing is supposed to be our way of making sure we don’t end up destitute as inflation ravages the country. It’s supposed to be our ticket out of our office cubicles, eventually.

As such, when the market isn’t doing well, it’s only natural to get stressed out. The thought of losing your nest egg is scary as hell for most of us. But freaking out when your investments aren’t doing well is the last thing you want to do, especially when you need to keep a cool head to make the right decisions.

Marcus, a 33-year-old stockbroker, spent a year daytrading at home and has this to say: “If you think you can put in every cent you have and still win at this game, you’re wrong. It you enter the market using your life savings, it’s going to be too stressful for you to make good decisions.”

3. Quitting your job or accepting a new position in haste

It’s difficult not to get emotional about your job, especially when you hate it, as many Singaporeans do. Fatigue, stress and poor relationships with bosses all contribute to make Singaporean workers some of the world’s unhappiest.

But no matter how much you dislike your job, whether you should stay or go, and when to leave, are questions that should only be answered with a bit of forethought and a lot of advance preparation.

Quitting without another job on the horizon or taking up the first job that appears without careful consideration could be a move you later regret.

Janice, a 30-year-old editor, says, “One of my first jobs was with a local SME. I got the job less than a month after I started sending out my CV, and they seemed quite desperate. I took it because I had been unemployed for four months and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find anything else, even though I wasn’t happy with the salary and had a bad feeling about the management, as they had been badmouthing ex-employees during the interview. I ended up leaving a year later.”

And of course, many people when pushed to the limit end up resigning without first getting another job.

Says Nigel, a 29-year-old lawyer, “I resigned from my previous job without a new job because my boss was making life hell for me. While I’m very lucky I managed to find another job almost immediately, I wouldn’t do it again.”

Have you ever made money mistakes in a moment of stress? Tell us about it in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.