So what is the bag lady syndrome?

by - August 14, 2016

A financial advisor friend of mine recently told me about a very successful high-powered executive who came into her office. As they were talking about her money, the lady confessed that her biggest fear is being the best-dressed "bag lady"! She said she made a lot of money and spent more money, but she was really worried about her retirement assets. 

Her story may sound like poor-little-rich-girl syndrome, but the anxiety is present to some extent in almost all women in all income brackets. Increased life expectancy leads women to recognise that they may be living their senior years alone, possibly in ill health, and with little support.

Five years ago, I found out that the exec lady and I have something in common; and I promise, it's not her fortunes. What it was, however, was our money anxieties. It's what clever people call the bag lady syndrome
I don’t think I necessarily have a pronounced case of this, although I am certain that my sometimes stingy habits stem from the need to store up, like ants do before the winter season hits. It might be wisdom sometimes but sometimes is just anxiety. 

Like many women, I was raised in a family environment that didn’t provide strong, financially independent female role models. And as I shared  here, my mother's money fears became my fears. 

So what is the bag lady syndrome? It's the fear of running out of money, losing our homes and and ending up destitute and alone especially in our old age. 
Can you relate?
The idea of not having enough money -- especially the idea of not being able to do something about it -- can be scary and paralysing.  

Our anxieties can be triggered by negative events - fluctuations on the financial markets, divorce, a job loss, and even health issues. It can also be triggered by positive changes in our lives – the birth of a new child, marriage, or graduating. And even when our lives are stable, many of us suffer from an underlying anxiety of simply staying on budget and saving for retirement. 

Suze Orman calls our relationship with money dysfunctional.

“We never hear the phrase ‘bag man-syndrome,'” she says. “I believe it’s an innate part of our nature. On some level, all women have this fear that what they have will be taken away from them.”

The fear and anxiety of losing your job or getting a divorce can be traumatic.  The truth is, that most of us who suffer from the bag lady syndrome earn an income, and most likely, will not be in dire straights financially. 

Life is miraculous and short. So the question is, do you want to waste precious years feeling stressed, anxious or unhappy? Or live a life you love, thriving despite the challenges we all must face? 

It really is up to you.
There is a better way. It starts with awareness, and truly wanting a different way to approach finances, fear, and this particular part of your life.  

To build up confidence you must explore your money mindset. What is your thought or belief about money and its purpose in the world? Your money mindset ultimately dictates how you save, spend, invest, and gift daily. 

When fear takes over decision-making, you can make poor decisions — or no decisions at all.  So the best thing is to approach life today with creativity and solution-based thinking and I promise you will find the answers you are looking for. 

Also, lean on a community (financial advisor, family and friends) you trust.  Nurturing relationships with family, friends and professional networks can help you feel safe and in control of your world.

Remember, a commitment to your well-being is the ultimate keys to combating bag lady syndrome. 

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