Are You Afraid of Financial Success?

by Miranda Marquit

One of the most interesting fears out there is the fear of success. It seems a little strange that you might be afraid of success — particularly financial success — but the truth is that many of us are afraid of what comes with success.

Financial success can be particularly challenging. Many of us say that we would like more money, or enjoy more success in our careers, but the reality is that achieving these goals come with their own difficulties, and it is possible to be afraid of reaching a point in which you feel successful.

What Happens If You Do End Up Financially Successful?

Are you afraid of financial success?

Are you afraid of financial success?

When I first started out as a freelance writer, all I could think about was that I wanted more clients and more work. Success (defined at the time by having “more clients”) meant that my family would have more money, and the bills would be paid, and we wouldn’t have to worry about making rent. However, I didn’t really think about the other consequences of achieving that version of success.

In order to reach my goal of “more clients,” I accepted quite a few jobs, including those that paid ridiculously small amounts of money. In the end, I ended up with more than I could handle. I felt burned out, and I realized that I didn’t want “success” if it meant that I had to work so much that I barely had quality time to spend with my son. I started feeling ill whenever I saw a new email asking me about my availability to work.

Even now, that I have raised my rates and cut back on the work I do, I sometimes worry about adding clients. However, my worries about success have changed. What if someone doesn’t like my stuff? When someone refers me, what if I don’t live up to the hype?

These types of fears can be very real if you end up financially successful. Thinking about having more money in your life can cause anxiety when you think about what might come with it. Here are some of the reasons that might result in a fear of achieving financial success, or earning more money:

  • Worry that you might have to keep working at the same pace to keep the same level of success.
  • Concern about the lifestyle you are expected to maintain as a result of your new level of wealth.
  • Difficulty figuring out what to do with the money. Switching from penny pinching mentality to one that allows you to splurge can be difficult.
  • Worry about making the “right” decisions — from investments to regular purchases — with your money.
  • Expectation that friends and family might want to borrow money from you if they find out about your success.
  • Concern that you might somehow change as a person as a result of your financial success.

When you think about some of the consequences of financial success, it can easily seem as though having more money is more trouble than it’s worth. In order to get beyond these fears, it can help to have a plan for your money. Often, our fears of financial success are reflections of our fears of the unknown.

A solid plan for your money — one that includes retirement investing and getting out of debt — can help you reduce some of the fear. Have a clear idea of what you want your money to accomplish, from helping charities to the freedom to travel or work part-time if you want, and financial success will seem much less scary.

Photo credit: Tom Wolf | Photography

Published or updated October 13, 2012.
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Daisy@Everything Finance

It’s important to really evaluate what you see as successful, too. I’d like to not spend so much time working. That’s what would be financially successful to me – if I’ve built up enough wealth that I can just enjoy life. I think we are all a bit afraid of success.


2 Pam

What I think is funny about this article is that so many people are afraid to be successful. One thing that these people need to understand is that it is harder to hide having money than it is to hide being broke.



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