Do you suffer from FOMO? It’s a generational phenomenon, like absinthe was for the Greatest Generation. For those not in the know, FOMO is an acronym that stands for Fear Of Missing Out. It’s that sensation in the back of your mind that makes you go out even when you’re tired. It’s the reason you go to the concert featuring that band you don’t even like that much because your friends are going. An adventure can happen anywhere, and if you’re not there, you’ll be the one person in the world who missed it.
How much influence does this fear have on today’s millennials? A recent Eventbrite survey found that 78 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds prefer to “invest in experiences instead of things.” Seventy percent cited FOMO by name as a motivator for their financial decisions. But seeking out adventures, rather than investing in your future, has consequences. Its fine to live a low-maintenance lifestyle, and no one should criticize the decision to not have more stuff than you need. But that’s not always what’s happening in these decisions.
It’s not a coincidence that this same group is suffering financial hardship. Millennials have the highest debt percentage and lowest credit scores, according to Experian. The same study also finds that half of millennials were late on at least one payment last year.
Fighting FOMO is a serious challenge. It may be best to fight fire with fire and think about what you might be missing out on in the future. Let’s look at three ways you can use the Fear Of Missing Out to feed your financial future — rather than your financial fears.
1.) FOMO on retirement
Road tripping with friends across the country could produce some priceless memories. What could be even more priceless, though, is getting to take that trip with your spouse and family once you’ve retired. Cutting your travel budget now and putting the extra into an IRA is the difference between a life of leisure and dying at your desk.
Don’t think of it as not having wonderful experiences. Think of it as investing in future adventures. Consider opening a vacation club account to save for one great excursion a little bit at a time. You’re not missing out on anything; you’re saving for better experiences later in life. Besides, with your savings, you can make arrangements that don’t include 16 hours in the seat of a sedan.
This savings emphasis doesn’t mean giving up on travel or other fantastic events. It does mean you should save and plan for events that really matter. That round-the-world cruise you take with your family later on in life surely outweighs the weekend trip to the mountains right now. Also, consider opening a vacation club account to save for one great excursion a little bit at a time.
2.) FOMO on home ownership
The biggest difference in wealth for older generations is time in home ownership. If you’re renting, your housing money goes out the window each month. You don’t build equity and you have to keep making that payment as long as you live there. With a mortgage, the money you pay each month stays with you as you build equity. Once you pay the mortgage off, your housing costs plummet.
Those opportunities may seem distant if you’re burdened by student loans and credit card debt. Getting out of debt is the best way to ensure you can qualify for and pay a mortgage. That means cutting spending now and committing to paying off loans and credit cards with any extra money.
Don’t think of the nights out that you won’t have. Instead, focus on the wonderful experiences you’ll have in your new home. Think of having a holiday meal at your kitchen table surrounded by family and friends. That’s the experience you’re investing in when you position yourself for homeownership.
3.) FOMO on financial security
Fifty-eight percent of millennials live paycheck-to-paycheck. That’s a stressful life. The constant worry over making rent and paying for basics can contribute to stress and lower quality of life. It’s an experience, frankly, that’s not much fun. Many millennials see this constant scramble as emblematic of their generation’s lifestyle, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Setting aside money in an emergency fund can help you escape that cycle. A few hundred dollars in a savings account can provide a great deal of peace of mind. It’s a tremendous comfort to know that, even if an unexpected expense crops up, you’ve got rent and other basics covered.
Financial security is an experience just like going to a live show or a craft beer festival. The difference is that it’s an ongoing, long-lasting one. There is no closing time, and there is no last call. Being secure in your finances will never leave you with a hangover or ringing ears the next morning. It will make it easier to have the kind of experiences you want.
Fighting Fear Of Missing Out is a challenge. You only live once, as another generational acronym (YOLO) reminds us. Don’t use that as an excuse to not think about the future. You only get one life to have the kind of experiences you want to have, but that doesn’t mean you have to have them all right now. You can’t go back and study harder or save more for retirement. Live an enthusiastic, out-loud life in a financially responsible way.