Holiday Stress: Can Santa Claus Cause Financial Stress?

by Doc Orman, M.D.

In my first post this week, we explored the proposition that believing in false ideas, like Santa Claus, can set us up to believe in many other false ideas as adults. In my second post this week, I went on to argue that even though this may be true, there can still be good reasons to teach your children to believe in the myth of Santa Claus anyway.

In this third and final post for the week, I’d like to address the question of whether the myth of Santa Claus can lead to financial stress.  Before we get started, I’d like to suggest that it can.  And the amounts can range from $100 or less up to $65 billion or more.

Families With Limited Incomes

With all the hype, heightened expectations, and marketing that goes on during the holidays, most families feel under pressure to purchase meaningful gifts for friends, family, and especially for their children.   However, when family income is limited, and budgets are tight, this can be very stressful, as most people don’t want to disappoint their loved ones.  Sometimes, when you’re struggling to just keep the lights on, coming up with an extra fifty or hundred dollars for gifts can be a stretch.

When expectations are fueled by strong marketing forces outside the family unit, as they usually are during the holidays, young children simply may not understand that gift giving may need to be limited.  With our economy in a downturn, there are many people out of work today for the first time in a long while, so the upcoming holiday season may be stressful for some in ways that they haven’t had to cope with previously.

Even Wealthy People Can Be Impacted By Santa Claus

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the connection between financial stress and the holidays is limited only to people who are unemployed or who are otherwise on the lower end of the financial spectrum.

Santa Claus stress can hit the very wealthy as well.  Just look at Bernard Madoff as a prime example.  He caused some of the wealthiest people in America to lose a total of over $65 billion of their assets.  And many of these formerly rich folks are still struggling mightily to overcome the enormous amount of stress this real-life Santa Claus figure inflicted upon them.

Was Bernie A Modern Santa?

Make no mistake about it.  Bernie Madoff and Santa Claus have a great deal in common.  Many wealthy adults took great joy in believing in Bernie Madoff, just as children get joy from believing in a mythical Santa Claus.  And these wealthy people were equally willing to believe in special favors and unreasonable economic benefits, when a more realistic view might have been in order.

After all, where was all that money coming from?   Were Santa’s elves printing it, when they weren’t very busy during the rest of the year?

And it’s been reported that Mr. Madoff enjoyed lavishing frequent gifts upon his dedicated investors.  Sound like any other generous, jolly benefactor we know?

So maybe there is something to the proposition that being taught to believe in Santa Claus as a child may make us prone to idiotic behavior and unrealistic thinking as an adult.  Sadly, we’ll probably never know for sure.

But I suspect we haven’t seen the last of real-life human Santa figures, now that Madoff has been taken down.  They’re out there somewhere, just waiting for the opportunity to prey upon us—whenever they catch us not thinking critically.

 Here’s a link to my free holiday stress relief e-book on Facebook.


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