June 15, 2023 by Dymphna

Would you rather be dead or poor?

Poverty is a universal fear. Which makes you wonder why people don’t do more about it.

Would you rather be poor or dead?

If you ask Americans (and my bet is you’d get the same result here in Australia), we’re more afraid of being poor than being dead:

A new survey finds that 61% of us are more afraid of running out of money in our old age than we are of dying itself.

Life-insurance giant Allianz, which conducted the survey, found the result “remarkable,” but actually it sort of makes sense. Death is inevitable. Running out of cash isn’t.

And when you’re dead, you’re dead. Maybe it sucks, but you don’t know about it.

Being old and broke: not the same.

The findings emerged from a survey of a representative sample of 1,000 middle-class Americans aged 25 and over. (Those surveyed either had $150,000 or more of investable assets, or incomes of $50,000 a year if single and $75,000 a year if married.)

I see this all the time. People are petrified about being poor, and sleeping in a cardboard box eating dog-food, especially as the body and mind start to give out and you realise you don’t have that many more productive years left in you.

And what do people do about this?

Well, the majority just close their eyes and hope for the best. Keep slogging away at the day-job. Hope there’s enough super left when it’s time to tap it.

Very few really accept full responsibility for their financial freedom. Very few take charge and make the future happen.

And that’s the great paradox at the heart of being human. You’d think that great fear would translate into a drive to action. It generally doesn’t. It generally translates into paralysis.

But I also get it. It’s hard. Especially as more of realise that financial crises are now just part of the furniture. Not only to we have to take charge of our finances, we have to do it in an environment where the whole can threatens to blow up at any moment:

Meanwhile, in a testament to our volatile modern era, 56% of those surveyed told Allianz they now consider regular “financial crises” to be an integral part of their retirement planning. And 46% say their retirement planning has been derailed by the most recent crisis, which has been rolling since March 2020.

So look, I get it.

It’s hard. It’s overwhelming. The natural tendency is to just close your eyes and hope all your problems will go away.

(Maybe my lotto numbers will come up this week.)

But I can tell you that it is possible to take on that responsibility. It is possible to take charge.

And once you get into it, you’ll realise that it’s just not as hard as you imagined. 

You don’t have to live with fear.

You can take control.