Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Playing with My Emotions

Playing with My Emotions
They did it again. The Steelers got me to believe. This year, unlike so many others, I honestly thought they were contenders. They had an offense that could score on anyone, and a defense that kept doing just enough. This year, I said to anyone that would listen, they really could win it all. And then the Steelers made a fool out of me for believing in that lie, along with everyone else in Western Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh diaspora. We were naive to think this young team, being re-built on the fly, could make a serious run to the Super Bowl. Then Baltimore Ravens took that group of young players, drove them into the Heinz Field turf, and dry humped the poor bastards into submission. It was humiliating...and a little weird, too, since on-the-field humping, while not technically a penalty, is usually deemed poor sportsmanship.

The worst bit, of course, is the bad feelings we fans endure afterwards. I was legitimately depressed for the remainder of the weekend, and am just starting to feel better now. I'm eating bad food, drinking beers even though I don't want to get drunk, sleep too much, and mosey aimlessly around the house with a stupid mopey look on my face. The dogs know something is up, and once in a while will saunter over to my spot on the couch and lick my frowning face, hoping their bad breath and saliva will cheer me up. But it doesn't. Nothing does.

It's dumb, you know: letting the actions of millionaire athletes determine your emotional state. But that's what I do, along with so many other fans. We risk the downside of teams losing (bad emotions, stress, maybe some negative impacts on the stock market) for the possible upside of when they win (high fives and smiles). Like Garfunkel and Oates say: go sports.


The sad part is that I regularly hand over my emotions to things other than the Steelers, too. With an annual review coming up, you can bet I have the same risk-reward scenario with my company. If leadership gives me a big raise and a bonus, I'll be happy for a long while. I'll get to tell my wife and then she'll smile and hug me, maybe we'll go out for a fancy dinner, and I will feel proud about being a good provider to the family...until the next annual review. But if the bosses give me nothing, I may feel like a schmuck for the better part of a year.

Similarly, if our investments do well in 2015, then I'm a genius, and good looking, too. If they tank because of some election in Greece, then I'm a loser with a dorky haircut. There is no middle ground. Unless, of course, I grow up and learn to handle my emotions in a healthy way. (Note to self: Possible goal for 2015...achieve emotional maturity of a self-actualized grown-up. Also, lose 15 pounds.)

Most of us would probably agree that emotions and money get tangled together in a messy way. We accept it. But is there really any reason for us to marry those things to one another? It's a weird pairing. There are few things in this world that ought to be less emotional than financial decisions. We want logic to rule when it comes to our finances. And nothing ruins a genuinely romantic or otherwise genuine moment quicker than money. Plus, a lot of the good (and bad) things that happen to us regarding money have only a little to do with our personal actions. So, at least when it comes to emotions and money, why not try a little segregation?

It's like the alcoholics tell us: some stuff is in our control, and some stuff isn't...so be smart and remember the difference. It's something like that. Anyway, maybe they're right: we ought to recognize that a lot of stuff is in someone else's hands, and we shouldn't let that get us too high or too low.

Or, you know, we can just stay on the roller coaster. After all, my annual review is coming right up and, hey, the Penguins are in first place. If Crosby can stay healthy, they'll have a shot. Maybe this will be a good year after all.


*Photo is from ChadCooperPhotos at Flickr Creative Commons.

35 comments:

  1. It's all about expectations. Whether it's with a stock going up 20% or the Steelers winning the Superbowl. I'm going to make this more sports specific, but as a life long Cubs fan, I know that this year isn't "The Year", but I'm excited if they are .500, I won't destroy myself if they don't, realistic expectations help me through it. Did I mention the Cubs winning the Wold Series in 2017 though!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    1. Thanks for the perspective of a Cubs fan: I really shouldn't be complaining. :)

      The expectations really are what set me up for disappointment: I wish I'd written about that a bit.

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  2. I'm so sorry about your Steelers. I was fully expecting to see them in Denver this weekend. You know, I think these days with so much parity in the league, a huge chunk of it really comes down to who stays healthy. Last year when we got our butts whomped in the stupor-bowl everybody talked about Peyton being washed up etc - but somehow people neglected to mention the fact that 9 defensive starters and 3 of the offensive linemen were out with injuries. So take heart... they're young and hopefully next year they'll stay healthy.

    But, to your larger point, my observation is that the vast majority of people in this country (in the world probably) spend most of their life's energy in a futile quest for some sort of external validation. We're sort of like a pack of kindergartners running around screaming "PLEASE tell me that I'm OK!" My personal opinion is that we'd all be better served if we spent a bit more time dealing with the internal stuff that makes us feel "un-OK" in the first place. Just my opinion...

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    1. I was hoping to take a crack at the Broncos, too, but I have a feeling it might have ended the same way it did last time. The sad part is that the Steelers were relatively healthy, except for Bell. A lot of eggs were in that basket though.

      I agree that I, and a lot of people, are looking for external validation. Part of it is that I'm an extrovert so it comes naturally. But there's no reason I need to look to someone else to tell me that I'm okay, like you noted.

      Great insights, EcoCatLady.

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    2. Guess that's the other takeaway (talking football here) - depth is critical. Of course, if Peyton goes down Denver is hosed, so perhaps there's just no way to make up for the loss of a pivotal player like that.

      And in terms of the external validation thing - I, for one, think you totally ROCK... whether your football team wins or loses! ;-)

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  3. It does seem clear that emotions and money tend to not work well together, but funnily enough you could see some similarities between the two - if you want to experience the emotional 'highs', you need to take the risk that there will be some big emotional lows also. Just like wanting spectacular returns in investing, you have the risk of losing a big chunk of your money. Sometimes it's fun to experience the highs and hop on the rollercoaster, but knowing yourself and understanding what you control and what you don't definitely help keep you balanced in the long run.

    Love these insightful posts of yours DB40 - fingers crossed for your annual review!

    Cheers,

    Jason

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    1. Hi Jason. Good points about there being an upside to all of this: some people like the highs enough to justify the ride. I'm loss averse though: I think I may be better off if I just didn't ride in the first place.

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  4. Don't sweat it, buddy. The Steelers still be better than the Rams for the foreseeable future. Which reminds me - you should be happy because at least, unlike me, your home town will still have an NFL team for the foreseeable future. :-)

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    1. I'd read about that! I think this nonsense with the Rams and Raiders needs to stop eventually. Teams shouldn't move around every few decades.

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  5. So funny because the other day I watched the Lions/Cowboys game because I'm from Detroit and would have really liked this year to have been THE year to surprise us all. But I really could give a rip about the NFL. As I was watching the game I felt invested, and very stressed out about the whole thing and thought, "I'm choosing to feel this way! I could turn it off and be done!" But with the lows come the highs, and watching the Kings win the Stanley Cup last year was both heart attack inducing, and awesome. I think when it comes to financial, slow and steady is the way to go with "managed" expectation. :) That video is hilarious btw and they are in inspiration to me with their music and videos.

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    1. The Lions got some very bad breaks in the 4th quarter of that game. Home cooking, as they might say in Dallas.

      I agree that you miss out on some of the highs if you're not invested though. The Kings, btw, are a fantastic team. Quick is maybe the best goalie of the past decade. I wish the Penguins had someone half as good.

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  6. DB40,

    Sorry about the Steelers, bud. I'm originally from Michigan, so it was tough to see the Lions lose it late to Dallas.

    I think in some areas of life it's okay to be emotional. It's part of the fun. Sports is one of those things. I think, like a roller coaster, it's fun to go along for the ride...through the ups and the downs. Sucks when they lose it for you, but there's always next year. It's all part of the game/system.

    Finances, on the other hand, shouldn't be emotional. Let the ups and downs get to you while you "play the game" and you could lose a lot of money.

    Best regards!

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    1. Another Lions fan! Maybe I need to put up a poll.

      I have a feeling that the emotional lows are only half of the problem when it comes to investing, too. People likely sell (and buy) at the wrong time due to the roller coaster, and end up costing themselves a lot more than some hurt emotions.

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  7. sports?!?!? I never got the fandom thing. =P

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    1. In some ways, I wish I hadn't either. :)

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  8. I totally get what you are saying about emotions and money being so linked. It made me think for a few minutes about why I am so emotional about money, and I think it is because of the possibility money holds for me, the dreams of FIRE, spending more time with my kids and getting to pursue hobbies that I am passionate about instead of sitting in the office all day. So, I am emotional about my dreams, and I see money as my way to achieve them...

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    1. I have the same goals & dreams, Mrs. SSC. I agree it's hard to have an emotional goal and to somehow separate the emotions from it.

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  9. This is exactly why I don't watch football much anymore, - I'd get WAY too caught up in the results of the game. It was crazy! It's like what Grayson says about taking the emotion out of our money mgmt - it makes things much easier. :-)

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    1. How did you quit? I often think my life would be better off without some of these things (football, fantasy football, maybe tv in general, maybe even the internet...)

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  10. I used to get caught up with sports when I was younger but nowadays it doesn't bother me too much if they lose. I think part of it is that I'm not really a long suffering fan...the Giants have 2 Superbowls and the Yankees have many also. My Knicks though....I'd really love to see them win a championship but it ain't happening this year. Another part is that I've just been too busy and have other things going on in my life where sports has just had to take a back seat.

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    1. True: the NYC sports fans have had a lot to feel good about. So have the Pittsburgh fans, I suppose, but I'm just greedy.

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  11. Go Seahawks! Sorry I couldn't resist. :p

    You're right that unfortunately there's no middle ground when it comes to emotion. But if we are always feeling neutral to things then maybe there's no point to be living. Emotion is part of life. I think it's OK to be emotional here and there but in short spurts.

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    1. The Seahawks have a very good chance this year, since the Pack have to come to them. CenturyLink is the hardest place to win in the league...though the Pack are one of the few teams I think could do it.

      I like your insight about emotion: it's a mixed bag. We either take the good with the bad or we try to dull them altogether.

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  12. It's so true.

    I *almost* commented about how far I think me and my SO have come on this concept. We have genuinely begun to separate financial gain/loss from our emotional states and try to tie our emotions to our experiences (if we can maintain our lifestyle, then all is good).

    But thinking back to when I wasn't doing so hot financially as I started my business, I was an emotional wreck whether I was in the hot tub or cutting coupons to make the grocery bill fit our tiny bank balance.

    I guess it's the Done By Forty Hierarchy of Financial Needs. You need to reach a baseline of steady financial security, and then the work after that is to stop attaching survival like emotional reactions to changes above that line.

    Great post. Start watching football for the wings. I'm happy regardless of which team wins!

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    1. The Done by Forty Hierarchy of Financial Needs! Sounds like a blog post. :)

      You have the best, and tastiest recommendation so far. Watch for the wings!

      We'd definitely like to get to the point where we are able to separate our emotional state from some of the external events in our lives, as you and the hub are getting better at. Football's a good place to start, I think.

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  13. I was a bad Steelers fan this year. I just didn't have the same feeling as I did in 05. The team was too young and just finally getting their stuff together this season. I didn't see us getting knocked out in the first game, but I skeptically looked at everyone who has then winning the Super Bowl in their pools. I'm either the bane of yinzers everywhere or gaining emotional maturity or have become a full on realist.
    I do place a lot of emotional stock in my work, though. I'm getting better at it, but that's probably just because things are going better than they have in a long while. So really I'm not better at it at all.

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    1. You are wiser than I, as I more or less ignored the team's inexperience at so many positions. (And their ridiculous age at a few others...I am younger than some of the key players!)

      Now that football season is over, work is where I put my emotional stock, too. So much of my self worth is tied up in career. Like you, my work is going well so I feel good...but that's not necessarily, "healthy".

      If you figure out a trick, yinzer buddy, let me know.

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  14. Hi DB40!

    Enjoying your NFL themed posts at the moment :)

    I agree we do marry up money and emotions far too closely but it's hard not to, in a way it is the biggest way to keep score on how well we are doing in life isn't it? So if our score is low, we feel bad, just like if you lose a computer game when you were growing up. We are taught about keeping score and winning and losing from such a young age, it's baked into us pretty deep I think!

    Interesting link to the BBC article as well, not all that surprising coming from a football (soccer) mad country, is that, I have to say!

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    1. Fantastic insight, FireStarter. I'm terribly programmed to keep score, in all things: board games, sports, financial competitions with my friends and colleagues...everything.

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  15. For better or worse, money and emotions are inextricably linked, I fear. But hey, if we all made totally rational, mathematically-based financial decisions, there's be nothing for us PF folks to write about :).

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    1. Ha, true! Though I'd gladly give up the writing if it meant for a lifetime of rational decisions.

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  16. Nice comparison between sports and finances, haha. I get what you mean. Unfortunately personal finance is highly about your motivation, emotions, and will power and less about actual math. Yes, the math matters, but the other stuff is what gets you there it seems.

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  17. I have my annual review soon too. I mainly like to see the numbers, the rest is a formality. Put in 60 hours per week, and get an extra $10K, maybe. It's not worth it.

    I can spend the 20 hours extra on a side hustle and make $100K.

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  18. Hey DBF, nice article, totally get the psychological issues + money, went through it myself. Highly recommend looking at Dr brett Steenbarger and his articles, although focused around trading, totally relates to investing aswell. All the best T

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  19. I understand what you mean when you say you get your emotions mixed up with a lot of things. I also feel sad when my favorite actor gets engaged or when my annual review is just okay and not excellent. I think that's normal. However, this affects my productivity for a few days. This year, I'm trying to control my emotions and act rationally. I guess we can all try.

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