Motivation by Fear

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Fear was my main motivation to take a hard look at my finances and get aggressive in setting my financial goals.  Fear that I was far behind in what my savings would have been should I have started earlier, and fear that I would be stuck in a situation (such as a bad job) without any place to go.

I was Afraid I was Behind

When I was in grade 11 and grade 12, I had a wonderful math teacher who taught us about the potential we all had, thanks to the miracle of compounding interest.   She introduced me to a book called “She Laughed all the Way to the Bank” by Cindy Skrukwa.  And my teacher emphasized the fact that if I start investing just a small portion each year, maybe just $1,000 a year when I’m 18 or when I turn 20, I would be better off than most people to securing my financial future.

She was right.  And you know what I did?


I was working at McDonald’s on weekends and tutoring math and science on weeknights, but I saved all that in my bank savings account to use in University.  The thought that I might have an extra $1,000 a year to put in something that was untouchable until I turned 65 was unthinkable.  What if I needed the money?

I took out a student loan from the government (which was interest free until I graduated), and I worked in internships between school terms to fund my education.  I usually made enough during the internships to cover my expenses for the internship itself, and for tuition and living expenses the following school year.  But it felt like I had no wiggle room to contribute towards retirement, and the motivation to do so soon left me.

I graduated from my Degree almost 5 years later, and I picked up that book again. Then I got scared.

I hadn’t put away anything during my 5 years in school.  Even though I felt like I was given a great secret by my high school math teacher, it was too late to execute it.  And I felt like I failed my teacher, and myself.

Fear of Being Stuck

I have heard of so many people being a slave to their jobs because that is the only way they could afford to live.  Their job was their livelihood, and there were bills to be paid.  There was no time for fun, and no time for life.

Last year during the recession, a friend told me that their boss asked them how their investment portfolio and rental income was doing.  When my friend replied, “Not so great.”  His boss said, “Good.  Now you will be here for a while.” At the same time, his boss refused to give him a promotion or a raise, even though he kept taking on more responsibility.

I was afraid because I never wanted to be in that position.  I never want to continue working at a place that I don’t want to, just so that I can pay the bills.  I will live frugally and save diligently, but I do not want to be owned by my workplace.

The Plan

After a bit of  a pity party, I picked up my calculator and decided to figure what I needed to do to get myself back on track.  Better 5 years later than never, right?

I talked to my parents about how they budget (and they are amazing budgeters!)  I read blogs.  I read books.  I looked into what RRSP’s were, and how I could use them.  I looked into what my company offered for resources and vehicles to save.  I started to track my spending, and save towards paying off my student loans. I did everything that I could think of to catch up.

I worked out what my personal cost of living was and came up with a budget.   I came up with a savings goal.  I learned that no one cares more about my money than me. And now, I am tracking my progress with this blog and sharing with you my experience.  I try to live frugally and simply, so that I can enjoy my life, and not have to fear that I am not in charge of my own future.

What motivates you to save or spend?  Is fear a motivation for you?



Filed under Finance, Personal

13 responses to “Motivation by Fear

  1. Partly. BF has been unemployed for much of the past two years, so security is definitely something that motivates me.

    Other things that motivate me are my two big dreams – travel, and buying a house. (Travelling overseas from NZ – expensive as we’re at the bottom of the world. Houses in Auckland – $400k plus.)

  2. Aba

    My main motivator is independence. My parents have offered to eventually help me pay off my med school loans, but I don’t like the idea of depending on them. What if something happens to their investments? But mostly, I just don’t like that I’m in theory depending on them, so I generally don’t even think about their offer and I consider my loans my responsibility.

    • Good for you! That’s very responsible of you to take charge of your own loans.

      I guess partly my motivator (sub motivator) is also independence. I don’t ever want to be so dependent on anyone else that I can’t make the choices best for me.

  3. Gail vaz Oxlade did a blog post on this recently, about determining if you’re motivated by security or rewards. I’ve been wanting to make my own blog post about it too..

    I’m far more rewards-oriented than safety focused. I already feel safe — I think because I’ve accumulated some money and I found it relatively easy & painless. Furthermore, I am not short jobs I could do for extra money — the only thing I’m really short is time, otherwise I’d pick up the rest of my hustling endeavors. I know it’s possible to find myself in a position where I’d just be screwed, but I guess that just strikes me as so unusual it’s like some sort of alternate-universe problem I don’t have to worry about. Now that I’ve started my RRSP, I feel like retirement is totally taken care of… Which I’ll admit is a bit naive since there’s only a few hundred bucks in there and I have no idea how much I’ll need to save.

    I just want to be rich. Not for security, or even to buy things, but just because a large balance in my bank account feels the same way as a good grade on an exam or getting hired at the job I want. It’s the warm & fuzzies of success. $100K by 30 is my plan also (though some of it will be tied up in a home) and I’d like to have $1 million in assets & cash by 40 with no debt (no mortgage or student loans) though I may have to be a tad more realistic and say half a million 😉

    • To be honest, I want to be rich, too 🙂

      It’s not so much that I want to be able to buy flashy things, I want to be able to experience life to the fullest. Whether it be traveling the world, or enjoying a glass of lemonade in my backyard. I want to have the freedom to do what I want. And it is kinda like getting an A+ post school 😉

  4. I think I am motivated for safety first then rewards later. My parents are pretty bad with their money. They make enough to live comfortably but they spend as if there are no tomorrow (i.e. the credit line is the money they have). I am super scared now because both of them are sick and I have no idea how they are paying all the expenses. Let’s just say their expenses are more than my income combined with my sister’s income. They refuse to let us interfere with their money, so I just need to be prepared that I will need to give them all my money if they ever need it and I’d just need to push my plans.

    • Sorry to hear about your parents. That must be really hard for you and your family. My parents are the opposite, they are super good with money, but my mom doesn’t know when to stop working even though her health isn’t so good.

  5. Oh wow, great question. I’m definitely more motivated by rewards than by fear.

    I have long let go of changing my actions due to fear response (I think my stepping back from religion helped in that!)

    But rewards I can save for with gumption. Knowing I get to go to Europe if I save $4,000 – SWEET! I can get that $4,000 no problem.

    Paying off debt? That $4,000 is a BITCH to find. And the fear of compounding interest eating my assets? Meh. The only thing that gets me to pay it off is the reward at the end when I get to use the money that I’m putting on to debt for the things I love… like vacations and new cars and the like…

    • Rewards are definitely a huge motivation for me, too, but it came secondary to fear. Fear basically kicked started everything. Now that I have things under control, I love planning for vacations and life experiences 🙂

  6. I’m motivated by fear as well but also because I want to be able to provide for my future kids the way my parents helped me out. They managed their money well and I would feel like a failure if I wasn’t able to provide the same for my future kids.

    Also the BF is a risky risky investor and wants to start his own business so I have to save relentlessly for the both of us. I can’t even get him to start contributing to a 401K yet and he is 30! I’ve tried talking about the rewards of compounding interest but he is stubborn. I may have to just start one for him and ask him to give me money each month.

  7. Money does give us some peace of mind, doesn’t it?

    Show your BF some charts of how much each $1,000 us worth in 10 – 20 years, and at the time of retirement. Would that help?

  8. Pingback: Thoughts on Compounding Interest | fabulously fru-girl

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