financial dysmorphia

Image: Vijay Sadasivuni


The implications that money has in the practical and psychic life of Brazilians

I am also a professor of behavioral finance for financial life planning. My objective in this course is to provide financial education for university students. The other day I came across a new expression referring to this specialization: “financial dysmorphia”. It was the title of a survey by will Bank, carried out by the research institutes Skim and Flor de Marcas, to investigate how a conflicting relationship with money can impact different aspects of our lives.

It sought to understand the financial situation of Brazilians – a questionable archetype of the representative agent of all the different inhabitants of this territory –, from their sources of income, their shopping behavior, to questions about identification, self-esteem and comparative perception with the financial reality of others. country's inhabitants. Focused on spending (or not spending) money.

As studies of the psychology of investors (or consumerist spenders) suggest, research has detected emotional pressure in decisions about how to use money that is so hard to earn. It registered the negative psychological effects such as the feeling of inadequacy or frequent comparison – and “who compares, loses!”.

About 70% of respondents did not use positive words to describe their current financial life. For 47%, when they thought about it, the idea that came to mind was negative.

However, the research sample seems to be biased because it only considered the age group between 18 and 40 years old. This idolatry for youth, based on the illusion that young people have a monopoly on all the good things in life, is perhaps due to constituting the target audience of the digital bank that sponsored the research.

Jung, unlike Freud, saw life as a continuous series of metamorphoses. The realization of a life goal is both an ideal to strive for and a task to be done with effort and willpower. The 40 years with the expected “midlife crisis”, due to the non-fulfillment of youthful dreams, even in professionally successful cases, are described by Jung as a phase of “developmental crisis” (psychological) to obtain greater expansion . The entry into the second half of life is, because of this crisis, painful.

The first half of life, according to Jung, would be devoted to marking our presence in the world by accumulating money, expanding social achievements and educating children. However, at the beginning of the second half of life, there would be a kind of end to the previous advance, with the subject psychologically paralyzed when exploring his ego. Many neuroses are rooted in the hard work faced daily by the person. The difficulties of forty-year-olds are caused by fear and their resistance to facing the crisis of psychological development and the consequent change to maturity.

Symptoms seen as pathological by Freudians are seen by Jungians as healthy signs of growth. They imply putting an end to the tendency of self-repression in the sense of assuming a greater realization of the personality, possible to lead the human being to a different type of life with other activities or even experimentations of new sexual and/or affective relationships.

In the first crisis of psychological development, that of adolescence between 12 and 18 years old, there is a confusion of identity. In this phase, a more coherent notion of “who I am” is acquired, taking into account the past, the present and the expected future.

In terms of consumption, it refers to the shift from fashionable goods, typical of the child mentality “I want it because others have it”, to the youth mentality of snobbish goods, conversely, “I want it because others don't have it”. It expresses the desire for individualization, that is, to be recognized in one's particularity among the crowd. Worse is the senile “I want it because it's expensive” mentality. It refers to the unbridled pursuit of social status with the comparison of possession of luxury goods.

In general, financial life cycle models only consider individuals from the 18 to 35 age stage, when intimacy rather than isolation is sought. In this young phase, we seduce, and if we build strong bonds, we love.

This seduction is expensive, but financial planning, according to life cycles, proposes that this is, contradictorily, the phase of accumulating financial and/or real estate assets. It suggests determining your goals in life, saving as much as possible, learning to invest better, taking risks until you build a family of your own.

Then, in middle age, the search for maintaining the purchasing power of assets with conservative investments without risk in the stock exchange or dollar begins. Finally, in old age, spending on retirement assets is released, probably more with health and caregivers in the mental illness phase.

In real life, it is usually the opposite of this suggestion when assuming a conservative attitude towards money, after the age of 50, when it would be precisely the phase to take advantage of the accumulated, mainly, after retirement at 65 years of age. “Tighten your belt” there – and not in the phase of wealth accumulation, when you become a young adult, because of the reproduction instinct without the self-control provided by financial education.

Hence, many do not accumulate until the income from financial investments in interest exceeds their income from work, indicating financial independence. At the age of 65, with a financial reserve equivalent to nine times your annual income, you can retire and withdraw for twenty years (with a savings interest rate of 0,5% per month) in order to maintain the standard of living achieved before. If you work until age 75 and expect to live until age 95, accumulate twelve times your annual income. Only. It's enough.

According to the aforementioned survey, 90% of Brazilians cannot buy everything necessary for their satisfaction, nor do they have financial reserves for the future. They only supply the basics and little is left over for any unforeseen circumstances such as the pandemic.

Originally, dysmorphia, also known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) or dysmorphophobia, is a psychological disorder in which the person has an excessive and distorted preoccupation with their physical appearance. It causes emotional distress and negatively impacts daily life, relationships and self-esteem. It leads to anxiety, depression, social isolation and even suicidal thoughts.

Financial dysmorphia refers to the condition capable of affecting how different people perceive their own financial reality, that is, how much money they have. It is based on the lack of belonging to a pattern created by those who already have a lot of money. Self-judgment compares it to those who are already at the top of the wealth pyramid.

The slat to jump is mobile because wealth is relative – and not absolute. The top pattern is unattainable even because it changes according to the prevailing stock speculation in a market of rumors or rumours. Variable income fluctuates…

The survey indicated: white men from the AB1 class are more likely to describe their financial situation as stable. In this group, 58,1% gave positive answers when, in the general sample, it was only 28,7%. Besides them, 22,5% considered it neutral. For only 19,4%, talking about money was synonymous with a problem compared to 47,3% in general.

Money buys something else besides things, but today it is very difficult to acquire a cultural class condition without having education. Schooling, world experience and connections impact intellectuality, knowledge and personal culture.

The aesthetics of 'good taste' imposes itself and leads to greater distancing from dysmorphia. The definition of consumption, aesthetics, culture and self-image pose invisible psychological barriers because it is imagined as built only on top of money.

“Victimization” tends to consider social distances unreachable. Rather than settling for dysmorphia, it would be better to cultivate culture through continuous and diligent study. Throughout life, with the possible acquisition of necessary and sufficient professional training, one learns to deal with the insatiable quest for social ascension.

Many adults, having experienced difficulties during childhood, later try to heal the traumas of the past through consumerism. Therefore, 79% of respondents said they wanted to consume many things they wanted in childhood and adolescence.

You don't acquire the feeling of belonging with tourist behavior, that is, enjoying things just passing through. There remains the feeling of others gaining more easily things only possible to be conquered with a lot of effort.

“Being rich”, defined as belonging to other groups far from their reality, immobilizes instead of seeking the education and culture conducive to undertakings or the desired professional career. I prefer the definition of “being rich” as the feeling of working with someone you like, in a creative (or not alienated) way, and still being paid well for it…

*Fernando Nogueira da Costa He is a full professor at the Institute of Economics at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of Brazil of banks (EDUSP).

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