Do you suffer from FOMO? What, you may ask, is “FOMO”? It stands for “Fear of Missing Out,” or an anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere. It’s the unsettling sensation that makes you go out or accept invitations even when you are tired and really have no desire to be out running around. In this way of thinking, an adventure can happen anywhere, and if you’re not there, you will be that one person who “missed out.”

How much influence does this anxiety have on today’s millennials? Apparently quite a bit. A recent Eventbrite survey found that 78% of 18-34 year olds prefer to “invest in experiences instead of things.” Seventy percent citied FOMO by name as a motivator for their financial decisions. But seeking out experiences at the expense of investing in your future has serious consequences.

It’s no coincidence that this same demographic group is also suffering financial hardship. Millennials have the highest debt percentage and lowest credit scores, according to Experian. The same study finds that half of millennials were late on at least one payment last year.

Fighting FOMO is a serious challenge. To help overcome it, think about what you might be missing out on well into the future not just next weekend. Let’s look at three ways:

  1. FOMO on retirement: Road tripping with friends across the country may stir visions of Jack Kerouac on the Road. What could be even more priceless, though, is getting to take that proverbial “road trip” with your spouse and family once you have retired. Cutting your travel budget now and putting the money saved into an IRA could be the difference between a comfortable retirement and being forced to work long after you hope to retire.
  2. FOMO on home ownership: The biggest difference in wealth for older generations is time in home ownership. If you are renting when it might make better financial sense to own, you could be wasting money that could be building equity in a home. The opportunity to own may seem remote if you have student loan debt, a large credit card balance, and other consumer debt. Getting out of debt is the best way to ensure you qualify to obtain a mortgage. Instead of thinking about those nights on the town that you’ll miss, focus on the wonderful possible experiences you could have in your new home.
  3. FOMO on financial security: Fifty-eight percent of millennials live paycheck to paycheck. The constant worry over making rent and paying for basic expenses can contribute to stress and lower quality of life. Many millennials see this constant scramble as emblematic of their generation’s lifestyle. Yet, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. Financial security is an experience, just like going to a live show or music festival. The difference is that financial security is an ongoing and long lasting experience. Being secure in your finances will make it much easier to experience the life you truly want.

Yes, overcoming FOMO is a challenge. You only live once, as another generational acronym – YOLO – reminds us. But don’t use that as an excuse to not think about or plan for the future. Yes, you only have one life to live, but that doesn’t mean you have to live it all right now! You can’t go back and study harder or save more for retirement. Living in a financially responsible way will make it easier to enjoy the types of experiences you truly want.

Kevin Van Bibber | Special Services Manager