A Shrink Explains Why You Avoid Looking At Your Bank Balance

How often do you check your bank balance? And has that question got your skin crawling with guilt, and stomach flipping in anxiety? While being on top of your finances is obviously pretty damn important, your once-a-week or just-when-I-need-to-know-what-I-can-afford approach to checking your account may not be as unusual as you’d think.

Twitter user RyanWindoww hit a nerve with the general public when he made the astute observation “You can’t be broke if you don’t check your bank account” in January this year.

Some 70-odd thousand likes and almost 50,000 retweets later, it’s pretty clear that this particular school of financial denial is strongly subscribed to.

So The Cusp got in touch with Associate Professor Dr Shumi Akhtar, of the University of Sydney’s Business School, to enlighten us on the matter of staying in the dark when it comes to your bank account.

It’s human nature

Far from being an affliction that only disorganised folks suffer from, not looking at our bank account is something that all of us are guilty of at one time or another – not because we’re all in denial, but simply because we’re all human.

It’s a matter of knowing yourself and your own spending habits.

“Generally speaking, we human beings dislike – or don’t feel comfortable – looking at the reality, it’s truth that hurts us,” Dr Akhtar explains. “Your bank account usually is going down rather than up, so it’s human nature not to look at something or not to do something that has negative aspects to it.

“You’re not going to get any joy out of it. Human nature is to do something that gives us more happiness.”

How’s your mental arithmetic?

But it turns out that avoiding your balance isn’t necessarily setting you on a crash-course with bankruptcy, because we’ve all got a decent idea of what we’ve got coming and going out.

“We have got general mental accounting happening,” Dr Akhtar says.

So you’re probably not grinding yourself into massive debt, because you should have a decent idea of how much money you’ve got versus how much is going out. But this is a skill we get better at as we become more mature.

Being mindful doesn’t mean being obsessed with what’s in your account.

“The mental accounting we all do in our head is quite premature around the age of 18 to 35. Around that age we are quite excited to explore more, and of course exploration comes with a cost – that could be just buying a dress or a little gadget or something high-tech which is quite new – and all these things count towards our satisfaction, make us happy.”

As long as you’re on a fairly consistent wicket – both in terms of what you make and how much of it you spend – you might only need to check in on your finances when you’re about to make a big purchase.

Like all things, it’s a matter of moderation

Being mindful doesn’t mean being obsessed with what’s in your account. Rather, it’s a matter of knowing yourself and your own spending habits.

“Not all of us go and buy expensive stuff every day. And at the back of our minds, we should know what we spend on, we should know who we are.

“We should get into that habit of [checking our balance], so we can be a bit more knowledgeable in terms of the value of money.”

Joe Frost is a writer, editor, producer, and four-fingered cautionary tale to children. You can catch him each week on Coming Attractions or on Twitter, where he’s tweeted at least twice.