Beat­ing ‘Bag Lady’ fears

South Waikato News - - Motoring - ROB STOCK

I used to be ter­ri­fied of heights.

These days, I am just mod­er­ately fright­ened of them.

The rea­son is back in the early 1990s my younger sis­ter and I em­barked on a tough­en­ing up ex­per­i­ment.

For a month and a half we went to Fergs’ climb­ing walls on the Welling­ton wa­ter­front sev­eral times a week at­tempt­ing to achieve control over our quak­ing knees as we crawled higher and higher above the ground. It made a dif­fer­ence. To be hu­man is to have fears, but to be a hap­pier hu­man, you have to face them.

Un­til I was 24, I was fright­ened of spi­ders. Heaven knows where I picked up that fear. It felt like I was born with it. It was cured by a day at Lon­don Zoo’s spi­der friendly pro­gramme. More than cured ac­tu­ally.

I’m more of an arachnophile these days.

Not all fears are so eas­ily dis­pelled.

A com­mon, but lit­tle spo­ken of fear, is known in the US by the ca­su­ally hor­rid name of ‘‘Bag Lady Syn­drome’’.

This is the fear that you will end up fail­ing so badly you end up home­less, and liv­ing out of plas­tic bags un­der a bridge.

Women are more prey to this fear than men.

Many peo­ple here suf­fer anx­i­ety over money, though we haven’t coined a catchy phrase for it like the Amer­i­cans.

A re­cent sur­vey by in­surer Cigna found many peo­ple are gen­uinely fright­ened of what might hap­pen to them if their in­comes were in­ter­rupted.

They have a dif­fer­ent fear of fall­ing than young me at­tempted to cure.

But while I could have lived my life without at­tempt­ing to be­come better with heights sim­ply by not go­ing up the Sky Tower, fear of fall­ing into fi­nan­cial penury is harder to avoid.

Like many fears, we can Face your fears Get your ropes and cush­ions in place

Cut your spend­ing

❚ex­pe­ri­ence it more in­tensely than is re­ally jus­ti­fied.

Un­like in the US, very few New Zealan­ders end up un­der bridges, though less vis­i­ble forms of home­less­ness are rel­a­tively com­mon.

The best way to the nag­ging worry of bag lady syn­drome is to

‘‘The best way to the nag­ging worry of bag lady syn­drome is to build de­fences against it.’’

build de­fences against it.

Think of those two young climbers naively fac­ing their fears by mak­ing a plan, and putting it into action.

To re­duce the fear of fall­ing, a climber needs ropes.

In your money life, these are work skills, in­sur­ance, and family.

Yes, family net­works are an im­por­tant el­e­ment of in­sur­ance.

The pad­ding on the floor at the foot of the climb­ing wall is your sav­ings.

These should in­cluded a rainy day emer­gency fund, and re­tire­ment sav­ings.

Con­sumer debt, like credit card and per­sonal loan debt, pro­vides the op­po­site of the pad­ding.

For some­one in debt, a sud­den loss of in­come can make the im­pact af­ter the fall harder.

For those who have a de­cent in­come, bag lady syn­drome is likely to be a symp­tom of spend­ing too much, not tak­ing debt re­pay­ment se­ri­ously, and not sav­ing hard enough.

For peo­ple on lower in­comes, the so­lu­tion isn’t tight­en­ing an al­ready tight belt.

The pri­or­ity has to be in­creas­ing house­hold in­come.

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