When you feel like you are missing out on an opportunity, it becomes easy to ignore the rational side of our brains.
It becomes like pursuing a golden egg that will make you rich if you can just find it! You’ve already completed the hard work in finding the egg, and now you wait for the money to roll in.
Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Well, that is how FOMO (fear of missing out) works. We get excited about the prospects of finding something that will make us massive amounts of money over a short period of time.
But that is not how wealth is accumulated.
Getting Rich Quick is Rare
If we want to become wealthy, chances are we are going to have to build that wealth slowly by either cutting costs or increase our income.
Many people have fallen for scams, or invested too much money on risky investments, by thinking they have found some kind of “golden egg” that few people know about.
We convince ourselves that we can bypass the effort required to earn wealth. But in most cases, this usually ends up having the opposite effect. We don’t make what we were hoping, and we lose the bag of money we invested.
If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
It is all about figuring out how you can increase your chances in reaching financial independence. Let’s look at two options:
Option #1 involves spending all of your time trying to find that golden egg not many people know about and risking enough money to hit the jackpot “if” it takes off.
Option #2 focuses on less risky investments that have a consistent track record to grow over the long-term. You have little chance of making vast amounts of money quickly, but you are less concerned about the short-term gain.
The chances of losing all of your money with Option #1 are high but can be more exciting. Option #2 is boring but has the best chance of reaching your financial goals.
By having your wealth build slowly, especially in the beginning, you also gain the following:
- You learn how to manage more money as your wealth grows.
- The knowledge and experience you gain in the process are immensely valuable.
- You are more likely to appreciate the money you have earned.
- As your wealth grows, you have more time to figure out how you want to spend it.
- Once your wealth grows more substantial, you are less likely to risk what you have earned.
How I Pursued the Golden Egg
It was the end of 2017, and I kept reading about how high the price of Bitcoin was climbing and how much money people were making. Bitcoin went from about $960 to almost $20,000 per Bitcoin in 2017.
I saw a money train that I didn’t want to miss!
Instead of educating myself on the crypto market, or investing in general, I decided to start purchasing cryptocurrencies. I didn’t realize until later how stupid this was. And I’m not talking about not believing in the potential of cryptocurrencies; I think cryptocurrencies have huge potential.
But this was a massive mistake because:
- I didn’t fully understand what the cryptocurrency market was doing, and how I was investing at the peak of the bull run.
- My knowledge of investing and cryptocurrencies at the time was limited.
- A huge red flag was how much media coverage cryptocurrencies were receiving, and how many people were entering the market.
- I didn’t understand the risks associated with cryptocurrencies and entered the market “Bird Box” style (blindfolded).
- At the time we were trying to pay down our credit card balances, and this is money we could have used to pay off those debts faster.
If you have been keeping up on the crypto market, cryptocurrencies went on a death spiral through most of 2018. Whether cryptocurrencies end up making a recovery is a big unknown. But the point is I got caught up in some major FOMO.
Knowing what I know now, I could have avoided this situation. Considering where we were financially at that point, there were other things more important than gambling in the crypto market.
How to Avoid FOMO
Here are some questions you can ask yourself before moving forward with any investment:
- Do I understand enough about this investment to know if this is a good or bad investment?
- Are the expected returns reasonable?
- Am I entering this investment at the right time? If the investment has already made huge gains over short periods, you can’t assume that will continue indefinitely.
- If I lose all of this investment money, will it have a significant impact on my future financial goals?
- Does it seem like everyone plus their mom is jumping into this investment?
It pretty much boils down to how educated you are on your investments. By tapping into your knowledge, you can increase the odds of knowing what is worth the risk.
The fact is that even people who are knowledgeable in a particular field have a hard time knowing what is going to see massive increases quickly. And pursuing these heavily can set us up for disaster.
The Hidden Costs of Greed
Let’s look at this a little differently. If someone came to you and gave you these two investment options, which is the better option?
Investment #1: I have ten lucrative investment opportunities. If any of these hit it big, you are going to be a millionaire! But the chance of losing all of your money is 99%.
Investment #2: I can put your money into index funds, and you have a 90% chance of becoming a millionaire after 30 years.
Unless you have a gambling problem, most people will choose investment #2. But of course, FOMO opportunities don’t introduce themselves like this, because they need investors.
The potential in earning large sums of money fast has a way of enticing us to not look at these FOMO situations with a clear perspective.
The reality is that if we can save and increase our income, we can eventually start earning large amounts of money from our investments. But it is not going to be quick, and it isn’t going to be easy. It requires cutting costs and increasing our savings rate. And the hardest part is waiting.
Look at how much investing $800/month can grow with an average yearly growth of 7% over thirty years:
Compound interest graph
Starting amount: $0 | Additional yearly: $9,600 | Growth Rate: 7.0%
Value after 30 years: $970,301.2
Graph created at Financial Toolbelt
The math makes it clear that if we give ourselves enough time, and save enough money, most of us can be millionaires by the time we retire. The issue is not wanting to be wealthy but believing there are shortcuts outside of slow growth and hard work to get us there.
But is there another way?
If you want to shorten the length of time required to build wealth, the best way is to increase your income.
Starting a business usually avoids FOMO, since it becomes clear early on how much work it will take to get things going. People pursue side hustles all the time, and some of them blow up to make massive amounts of money. It usually doesn’t happen in days, but it can happen within years, which is a lot less time than waiting 30 years for your wealth to grow.
The best case scenario is you plan your finances around the idea that you are going to grow your wealth slowly, and pursue smart financial choices. You then think about ways you can increase your income. If one of your side hustles takes off, this can speed things up. But your financial future is not dependent on a large surge of cash.
“If only someone gave me a million dollars, I would be set.” is not a healthy perspective. For one, most of us will not receive that kind of money. Secondly, we avoid having to confront the financial mistakes we are making now. Even if we were to receive a massive gift like that, most of us probably wouldn’t spend it wisely until we take care of our core financial issues.
Are you saying I shouldn’t take risks?
What I’m saying is you shouldn’t do anything that risks your financial future.
If you are making smart financial decisions for your future already, setting aside a small portion of your net worth towards high-risk investments might make sense. But you should still avoid FOMO as much as possible.
You want to avoid any situation that forces you to go “all in.” If we want more money faster, it is better to pursue things we can control, and revert to safer options with what we can’t control. This might involve starting a business or going into a partnership.
I’m setting up my financial future to be based on the slow growth method, while also trying to increase my income. By doing both, I am securing my future and also increasing my chances of making more money.
Starting a Salon Business
Towards the end of 2017, Andrea had the opportunity to start her own salon, which was exciting and scary at the same time. This opportunity came up on the day she graduated cosmetology school.
When this happened, the risks seemed substantial. She had a lot of experience up to that point but had not worked at a salon before. We would need to purchase equipment, design a logo and create signage. But we also realized the potential for this opportunity was huge.
We decided to take the risk, and it paid off. The salon is doing great and is bringing in a good chunk of income.
Learning to understand when taking more considerable risks makes sense can be hard. But even then, FOMO is usually not the driving factor when good “risky” opportunities come up that should be considered.
There are no shortcuts to wealth. One of the best options we have to ensure our financial future is to grow our money slowly over time.
If we think we found something that is going to bypass hard work and time than we probably are experiencing FOMO. Instead of feeling like we have to take on risky investments to achieve our goals, we should focus on saving more and increasing our income as much as possible.
Don’t let fear drive you to risk your financial future.
Have you experienced FOMO? What have you learned from that experience?
Chris Roane is a financial blogger who loves to be transparent about money-related issues. He’s paid off massive amounts of credit card debt and is the blog author of Money Stir. His main focus on Money Stir is talking about how money relates to our relationships, personal development, and how to plan for the future we want. He’s been quoted on Market Watch, The Ladders, and other publications.