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Wisdom on Wealth: Hoarding vs. Spending

Steven Depolo

I once had someone come to see me about their mother. They described her as “totally obsessed with not spending money.”

Apparently she never went anywhere or spent anything, nor did she throw anything away. Her house smelled pretty bad due to all the old newspapers and magazines she kept.

She was widowed, but her late husband had left her with more than enough money. Her children would swear she never spent a penny of it.

It sounded like a plot from a reality TV show.

Junk Dynasty, maybe?

I’m not a psychiatrist, psychologist or trained counselor of any kind. But I told this family their mother might benefit from consulting one.

It’s one thing to be…conservative, but when this becomes obsessive and literally begins to disrupt your life, that’s a problem.

I did not know the root of this woman’s obsession. She may have had episodes in her early life which taught her that spending was somehow “bad” and that saving everything was a virtue. This is not uncommon with folks who grew up extremely poor. The depression era comes to mind.

Or she might have a mental disorder that does not appear to have a direct correlation to money or spending, yet manifests itself in this way. I am venturing into deep waters, so consult someone with training before you reach any conclusions for someone you may know in a similar situation.

What I do know is the unique irony that binds both hoarding and overspending together: both are forms of robbing yourself.

We all have two selves – our present selves and our future selves.

If you do as the majority of Americans are doing today and overspend, your present self is robbing your future self. Future self simply will have to get by on less (much less in many cases) because of the careless spending habits of present self.

On the other hand, if present self hoards to the point of depriving himself, there may not be a future self. And even if there is, future self may have way more than enough. In which case present self has robbed himself, only for it to fall into someone else’s hands.

All money gets spent by someone.

The money you work so hard for ought to be divided carefully between your present self, your future self and those you love.

Perhaps this woman was afraid of something. I never did hear how the situation resolved, but I hope she got the help she needed to obtain release from the prison of possessions she built up around herself.

Offering you Wisdom on Wealth, I’m Byron Moore.


Argent Advisors, Inc. is an SEC registered investment adviser. A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request. Please See Important Disclosure Information at

Byron is a Certified Financial Planner and Managing Director of the Planning Group at Argent Advisors, Inc.