How to stop burying your head in the sand and start saving

A recent survey by showed that nearly two in three of us ignore issues that worry us, so that we can avoid facing up to them. But why do we want to avoid them – and how do we stop it?

Do you avoid the bathroom scales? Dodge that ‘awkward’ conversation? Refuse to think about how you’ll fund your retirement? If so, you’re not alone!

Although most of us understand the benefits of monitoring our weight, relationships or spending, we often ignore what’s going on in order to avoid negative feelings, particularly guilt, when we’re presented with the reality.

Why we hide away

“The ‘ostrich problem’ is the idea that there are times when people would rather not know how they’re doing,” explains Dr Thomas Webb, a psychologist at the University of Sheffield. “For example, people might not want to know how much money they’ve spent or what their partner thinks of their social skills. It’s called motivated inattention.”

Postponing the problem

In other words, the desire to assess our progress is at conflict with the desire to protect ourselves. This very human need to avoid pain is understandable, and it means that we often avoid or run away from what we see as problems – which could be anything from a dull toothache to mounting debts. Money, unsurprisingly, topped the list of most common worries, followed by health and relationship issues – and women (65%) were more likely than men (62%) to bury their head in the sand.

But this behaviour is based on what we fear might happen. The thing to remember is that this is essentially our imagination running away with us, and in most cases the reality of the situation – whatever it is – won’t be nearly as bad as we think.

Face up to it and you’ll feel better

In any case, ignorance isn’t always bliss. Nearly a third of people in the survey said that they made a bad situation worse by not dealing with it straight away. So the key is to stop allowing that fear to make decisions for us and make it a rule to deal with things as soon as they come up, or become an issue.

Talking things over with friends, family and significant others can be a good first step in helping us to face up to reality and make a plan to take control. Not only that, it will release an enormous psychological burden – feeling in control of something makes you feel much better than pushing it to the back of your mind.

Case in point

Life insurance provides a good example. Perhaps our unwillingness to consider the future explains why only 38% of us have a life insurance policy. But the fact is, as you get older, the cost of a premium usually goes up. Buying when you’re younger means you lock in the policy at a cheaper premium, so it really is better to do it sooner rather than later.

Similarly, if you’re worried about saving for the future, it only takes a few small steps to make a start – and it’s been proven to make you happier. You don’t have to put away a fortune, even smaller amounts can make a difference. Did you know, for example, that you can put away as little as £25 a month in a Foresters Friendly Society savings plan? It’s a really simple way to start planning for your future.

Feel the fear and do it anyway!

If you recognise any of your own ostrich tendencies here, why not take action to confront the issue and overcome it? In the long run, you’re bound to feel a lot better than if you stay with your head stuck in the sand.

This blog is intended to provide information, not financial advice, to help you make an informed decision about savings and investments. We do not offer financial advice. You should contact a financial adviser, who may charge a fee, if you want financial advice.

Sources: The Great British Ostrich Crisis

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