Confront your financial fear

I HAVE been writing these articles for years but, if you're financially phobic, it's possible that you've never read past the first line. If you fall into this category, I urge you to read to the end and face your fear

I HAVE been writing these articles for years but, if you're financially phobic, it's possible that you've never read past the first line. If you fall into this category, I urge you to read to the end and face your fear

Research conducted in 2003 at the University of Cambridge found that almost 20percent of the British population suffers from financial phobia.

This condition should not be mistaken for the fear of poverty or bankruptcy. Financial phobia is the fear of confronting the management of the money that one does have. Financial phobics may be highly intelligent, talented people who are successful in their careers and personal lives, yet the prospect of dealing with their money strikes terror into their hearts.

The financial phobic who is terrified of opening his bills or reading bank statements lets debt build up. Skipping the business page in the newspaper or turning off the TV when the business report comes on leads to ignorance of the financial world. A refusal to relate to investments means that money may be, at best, ineffectively invested or, at worst, incorrectly invested.

One of the most popular treatments for phobias is called desensitisation, where phobics are slowly exposed to their fears in small doses. As they successfully negotiate these potentially "frightening" situations, fear diminishes and confidence increases. Gradually, they are desensitised to the point where the subject of the fear is no longer a source of fear, but a part of daily life.

Financial phobics should adopt the same approach. Sufferers should be introduced to the basic concepts of finance, either with the help of a knowledgeable friend or professional. The more they understand and learn, the less intimidating the financial world will seem.

Unlike other phobias, where the sufferer is solely responsible, financial phobics are lucky in that they may delegate their financial management to a professional. They may decide that a rudimentary knowledge is sufficient and that they now prefer to turn their finances over to professional management. Or, empowered by their growing knowledge and diminishing fear, they may continue to learn and begin to take an active part in their own financial management.

Either way, anything is better than phobic avoidance. Most things go away if you ignore them, but money isn't one of them. If you ignore your money, you may wake up to find that it has disappeared.

l The writer is financial adviser of Bryan Hirsch Colley and Associates. Email bryanh@bhca.co.za or telephone 011-880-4888.

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