With only a few days left of this financial year, I finally managed to open a Lifetime Individual Savings Account (LISA). For anyone not familiar with UK finance, this type of account lets you collect savings interest tax-free, as well as a free government handout of up to £1000 per financial year. Yes, actual free money. In short, opening a LISA is a pretty sensible move. (No, not financial advice.)
Yet for all the greatness of LISAs, it took me almost 3 years since getting back to the UK to finally bring myself to getting one. The reason? Poor mental health. Let me explain.
Most people think of their problems as things which require technical solutions: you hate your job, so you must find a better one; you’re too indebted, so you must earn more; you don’t exercise enough, so you must buy better gear. In reality, however, every problems is at least in part a psychological problem.
Maybe you hate your job because the job sucks. Then again, why did you end up in a job you hate to begin with? Was it because you weren’t sufficiently aware of your values and picked a line of work you find disagreeable? Or do you have poor boundaries and let other people bully you until you grow so bitter that you resent every minute of working with them? Or perhaps you lack the confidence of doing what you really want to do, which is why you let your family, your peers, your circumstances, or sheer chance determine what you do with your life. If any of those things ring true, even a little, you can be sure that you’ll hate your next job just as much this one. I could go on and on. Are you indebted because you don’t earn enough or because you go for “retail therapy”, shopping as a way to stave off unpleasant feelings? Is it really lack of high-end shoes that prevents you from going running or your unacknowledged but very real self-hatred?
In my own case, I put off doing finances for 3 years because I was afraid of my inner critic. I was scared that the minute I researched the best way to manage my savings, I would feel inadequate, agitated, and angry with myself for managing my savings in a non-optimal way. I was so scared of this feeling of inadequacy, that I chose — like the ostrich burying its head in the sand — to simply avoid looking at savings accounts for 3 years. And the longer I left it, the harder it got. To date, I’ve lost £3000 of free government money, for the simple reason that I was too self-critical to do something imperfect. That’s not a psychological problem: that’s a real pound-quantifiable problem.
It took me 2 years of therapy to open a Lifetime Individual Savings Account. I had to address my issues with commitment, being out of control, self-criticism, perfectionism, and many many others. As a result of all this, I am a much more competent decision-maker.
Marketing, of course, has known this for decades. That’s why it can make you overpay for stuff you neither want or need by fostering your fear of being left behind. It makes a business out of prodding your secret feelings of inadequacy and fueling your moral outrage. In other words, manipulating your psychology. As the saying goes, the modern economy is all about creating anxieties relievable by purchase.
All of this to say that looking after your mental health isn’t just some luxury you may or may not treat yourself to, once you’re done dealing with your other problems. Instead, it’s a basic necessity that makes all your other problems solvable.