Nearly Half of Young Americans Struggle with ‘Money Dysmorphia’

March 13, 2024

“Keeping up with the Joneses” has always been a concern for American consumers. Seeing a fancy car in a neighbor’s driveway or hearing about a friend’s luxury vacation can make people feel like they are falling behind financially. In the digital age, however, “the Joneses” are all around us. Scrolling through social media and seeing so many people who are seemingly rich, living their best lives is creating an increasingly distorted view of how we gauge our own finances.

A recent survey from Inuit and Credit Karma sought to understand how widespread the phenomenon of “money dysmorphia,” has become. The survey defined “money dysmorphia” as “having a distorted view of one’s finances that could lead them to make poor decisions,” and found that 29% of Americans experience such distortions.

The problem was far more wide-reaching among younger generations, with 43% of Gen Z and 41% of millennials saying they experience money dysmorphia, compared to 25% of Gen X and just 14% of those respondents aged 59 or above. 

One common trait that the researchers found is that those suffering from money dysmorphia are more likely to be “obsessed” with the idea of being rich, but have little confidence that they ever will be. More than half (54%) of respondents who experience money dysmorphia say they are obsessed with the idea of being rich, compared to just 12% of those who do not struggle with the condition. Despite an obsession with being rich, few believe they will ever achieve it. Overall, 52% of Americans say they do not think they will ever be rich, but that number jumps to 69% when looking at Americans with money dysmorphia.

At the same time, those with money dysmorphia have a distorted view of their own wealth. Some 82% said they feel behind on their finances, but 37% reported having more than $10,000 in savings while 23% have more than $30,000. Both figures are well above the median amount of savings for Americans, which hovers around $5,300.

Beyond just concerns about never being rich or insecurity about their savings, 95% of Americans with money dysmorphia say it negatively impacts their finances. leading them to overspend, amass debt, and in many cases, delay important actions like saving for a home or planning for retirement because they do not feel sufficiently “well off” to be making such plans.

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