An invite goes come up on social media. Your friends are going out, but you’re already busy that evening. Could you be about to suffer a bout of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)? Perhaps JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) might be more appropriate once you’ve seen the online photos the day after. Those pictures might even drive you to FOJI (Fear of Joining In) next time.

Maybe you’ve shied away from social media altogether as a result of FOFO - Fear of Finding Out. You might no longer want to know what’s going on.

The feeling of not wanting to know, especially if we might discover something that’s difficult or uncomfortable for us to deal with, isn’t a new phenomenon or restricted to social media. We have been ‘burying our heads in the sand’ since Roman times, and ignorance has been bliss since Thomas Gray first used the phrase in a poem in 1742.

However, ignorance rarely is bliss in the long term, and trying to block out reality has potentially harmful effects when it’s applied to our financial wellbeing. Neyber’s DNA of Financial Wellbeing 2018 report found that many of the 10,000 employees we surveyed have financial lives that are difficult to manage. Employees are borrowing from multiple sources including credit cards, bank loans, friends and family. The average level of household debt has increased by 16% compared to our 2017 research and now tops more than £13,000. Ten percent say that they feel their finances are out of control.

It’s not just outgoings that employees are struggling to manage. Almost a quarter (24%) of employees have an income that fluctuates by over 20% each month, making it even harder to keep track of financial matters.

Complex borrowing combined with uneven levels of income are the ideal breeding ground for FOFO. An employee can easily lose track of their finances and feel it will be impossible to get money back under control. Hiding away from it can then seem like the easiest course of action.

That, in turn, starts to affect the rest of their life. Neyber found that 58% of 18-24 year olds say that worrying about money affects their relationships at work and 65% said it affects their behaviour at home.

Employers have also noticed the effects on staff, with 68% of the businesses surveyed in the DNA of Financial Wellbeing 2018 saying that money worries affect employees’ behaviour at work, and 64% saying it impacts staff’s ability to manage money and make financial decisions.

Interestingly, FOFO isn’t restricted to financial wellbeing. In early 2018, over 4,000 individuals completed a behavioural survey for pharmaceutical company AbbVie about when and how they seek help with their physical health. Its findings showed that 15% would simply prefer not to know if they have a serious health condition, and 18% had delayed making a medical appointment in case they were pressured to change their lifestyle.*

FOFO clearly affect many aspects of our wellbeing. However, employers can help employees to overcome their financial fears, through three essential steps:

  1. Face the FOFO – help employees get to grips with their financial situation so that they know exactly how much they owe, what money they have coming in and how they can use everyday tools such as budgeting apps to help stay on top of their finances.

  2. Build a plan – once someone knows the reality of their financial situation, it becomes easier to help them. Consolidating debt into one low-cost loan can make it easier to manage and reduce the cost of repayment. Shopping around to reduce utility bills and other household costs can also help.

  3. Stay in control – Once employees have a plan in place to address debt and build better finances for the long term, it’s important that they stay in control. Encourage regular financial check-ups, offer technology (such as apps) that can help keep everyday spending under control, and provide financial education that can help everyone in the workplace banish FOFO forever.