On this episode of If Money Were Easy, we explore the journeys with alcohol, the rise of the sober curious movement, and the financial and personal impacts of alcohol consumption. From the day-to-day cash flow savings to the long-term impact on health care expenses, we examine the holistic effects of alcohol on our lives. With mindfulness and intentionality at the forefront, we explore the financial and personal considerations of alcohol consumption, offering valuable insights for listeners looking to expand what’s possible with their money.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- Personal stories for Mary Beth and Neela around the topic of alcohol
- The societal pressures we all face when it comes to drinking
- How marketing campaigns target women through societal expectations
- Looking at the impact and cost drinking has in your life
- Exploring the motivation behind why people drink
- Examples of a few books to explore mindfulness and intentional living
- Looking at our daily choices and how that can impact our long-term finances
- When you choose to drink, is it in line with what you want your life to look like
Resources Mentioned on the Show:
- Why is Gen Z Drinking Less? by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech
- What America Spends On Booze by Lam Thuy Vo
- The Cost of Excessive Alcohol Use
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker
- Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington
- The World Health Organization on Alcohol
- Join the Abacus community by connecting with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on LinkedIn
- Connect with Mary Beth on Twitter, Instagram, and on LinkedIn
- Connect with Neela on Twitter, Instagram, and on LinkedIn
Transcript of the Episode
Hey there. Welcome to the If Money Were Easy podcast, the show where we teach you how to expand what’s possible with your money. We’re your hosts, Neela Hummel
Mary Beth [00:00:24]:
and Mary Beth Storjohann,
certified financial planners and co CEOs of Abacus Wealth Partners. Today on the show, we’re going to talk about is going Sober Curious a financial win?
Mary Beth [00:00:37]:
Before we jump in, we’d like to issue a trigger warning. On this week’s episode, Neela and I will be talking about alcoholism, sobriety, its impacts on your finances, personal health and well-being. And so if you are somebody that is negatively impacted by this topic in your life, we want to encourage you, give you permission to skip this week’s episode, tune into next week’s, and give yourself the peace of mind. We think this is a really interesting topic. Neela and I have chatted offline quite a bit about drinking and societal expectations and where we are as women and how it shows up in our lives and in the lives of those around us. So Nee, where did you start your journey with this? How did this become something personally that showed up in your life?
So I’m going to straight up say I haven’t given up drinking completely, but I have dramatically reduced the amount that I drink. And it all started that, we took a family trip to France to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday. And France is synonymous with wine. And we spent a glorious week that involved games and reminiscing and cheese and bread and of course, wine. And when we got back, my husband and I kind of looked at each other and we were like, just feel like I kind of need a body break. We were never drinking to excess on any given day, but it was just kind of a constant thing that we were doing with meals, et cetera. We were just like, let’s just take a pause. And after a few weeks of that, I started noticing a few things. I started noticing that my mind felt clearer, my sleep got better. I started feeling like I could almost enjoy social engagements more and it was just this compounding effects. And then I also realized that we were spending less money because alcohol is super expensive. So it’s been this really interesting journey of slowing down and then noticing how it made me feel and then other effects that rippled down. I lost a couple of pounds, I spent a little less money. And it kind of got me thinking where I’m like sober curious, the alcohol is a huge multibillion dollar industry.
Mary Beth [00:02:53]:
And it is fueled by spending. And so it really got me thinking of what are the financial costs both day to day spending as well as societal costs that drinking is actually having on us?
Mary Beth [00:03:06]:
I love it. So tell me a bit then about what does Sober curious mean?
So it’s catch all term for people who are choosing to take a break from alcohol, either temporarily or permanently. And I would also put somebody like myself in there of just somebody who’s reexamining their relationship with alcohol. It is a growing trend. I feel like anecdotally more and more people that I’ve interacted with are experimenting with this generationally. Gen Z is leading the charge here, and in aggregate, they’re drinking 20% less than their millennial counterparts, ie. our generation.
Mary Beth [00:03:42]:
Go. Gen Z yeah.
And that people are kind of overall pulling back. And I think the pandemic had something to do with this because the number of people you talk to who are like, my drinking got kind of out of control during the pandemic. A lot of people are pulling back and reexamining what is the role that alcohol plays in my life.
Mary Beth [00:04:00]:
Yeah. Especially for women. There were so many articles that came out during the pandemic and afterwards at the rate in which women turned to drinking during COVID to get through. And it’s really interesting. And I think now there is a bit of a wake up. People are starting to reexamine and think, okay, maybe this is a little too much. And before we jump into the cash flow parts of this and dive in deeper, not similar. I did not go to France with my family and have this realization, but also on this journey, I will drink. I haven’t given it up completely, but I’m very mindful. So I said, in the past four months, I’ve maybe had four drinks, maybe one drink a month. And so it’s been really interesting again to notice the effects on your body being mindful of that and noticing how it progressed. I shared with you offline of this thing where I was a beer and wine girl, and then I always had my dirty martini as my drink of choice. And then it was my fancy night out drink. That was my fancy night out drink. And then it became my, okay, we’re going out to dinner, so I’m having a dirty martini drink. So it went from wine to vodka.
Mary Beth [00:05:02]:
It had total scope creep. And that was my go to. And then I might sound like I have a big personality, but I’m a little person, little person in the body. So two dirty martinis, and I’m good to go for the night. And so just noticing those trends of that creep and then being able to phase out of it, though, and looking at my body and how do I feel and how much better my sleep is and the cravings that come after. You do have a night of drinking, and it’s short-term enjoyment for what’s the price that you pay the next day? And we are not in our 20s anymore. That recovery time is elongated. So I think just taking that step back, though, it’s definitely a financial win, but I think it’s like a mental health, physical health win as well, all around because there are a lot of benefits to it.
You bet. And you hit on this, when, during the pandemic, it hit women acutely. And I think because at the end of the day, alcohol is a form of coping and it’s a way of reacting to stress. And I think the hardest thing for me when I took a clean break after the France trip, was thinking about how I was almost reaching for it as like an automatic, as like a default, as like, oh, it’s been a hard day. I’m going to pour that glass of wine.
Mary Beth [00:06:16]:
Yeah, I need a glass of wine. Like, how many times did I say I need a glass of wine?
Yes, I got to do that. And when you don’t have that, you’re almost forced to address the thing that is driving you to pour that glass of wine in the first place. And it sucks.
Mary Beth [00:06:33]:
Totally sucks. It’s kind of like the episode that we did on boundaries. You’re forced to look at different things, say, like, why am I doing that?
Mary Beth [00:06:44]:
Oh, because I want to go out and I want to go out with my friends. Does it actually matter what you drink when you go out with your friends? Is it the alcohol that you care about or is it the company?
Mary Beth [00:06:52]:
It’s the company. And we also talked about this a little bit in the boundaries episode, the business, how big of a business alcohol is. And so where it’s traditionally maybe marketed to men in the past, right? You have the Mad Men era of things and where women would maybe have like a cocktail through a magazine, like just flipping and seeing the advertisements geared towards us. Now, advertising towards women from the alcohol industry is heavy, like a double down situation. And social media is a place where we advertise to each other. We talk about it like this wine o’clock somewhere. It’s like the giant glasses of wine that’s always women are pouring those ones. And we joke about it and it’s funny in those ways when we think about the societal standards and expectations and the advertising, the billions of dollars in advertising that is being poured into telling us this is how we should unwind, this is what we should do. It’s a business.
It’s a juggernaut.
Mary Beth [00:07:40]:
Yeah. And they’re profiting off of us.
I found an article that showed that out of every $100 that Americans spend, $1 goes to alcohol. Seems like a lot of money.
Mary Beth [00:07:52]:
A lot of money.
Think about all the money that we spend in terms of mortgages and cars and all those things. A dollar goes to alcohol. That seems like a lot. And I don’t know if anybody else noticed that all of a sudden, particularly in Los Angeles and in California, I blinked. And it’s now normal to have like $19 cocktails on venues.
Mary Beth [00:08:11]:
California and New York, I should say, because I know it’s the same there as well, but it is bananas. I just feel like it’s an ATM machine. Yeah, the bespoke cocktails, that’s a lot. But it’s also now $15 for a non-alcoholic fancy beverage. So it’s like, well, you don’t want to drink, but we’re still going to charge you $15 for this fancy fruit juice and your syrup that you’re getting here, as an aside.
And again, those costs add up. The difference between a can of sparkling water versus a beer is it’s going to be cheaper. It’s still a cost, but it’s still going to be cheaper. And just for fun, I was like, okay, so in this world of $18 cocktails that then after tax and tip, it’s $25 a pop. If you’re doing that twice a week and you do that for an entire year, you basically are spending $2,600 a year on just those cocktails. And as financial planners, what would happen if you invested $2,600 a year for 30 years in a diversified portfolio that on average returned you 8% annualized return? You’d have nearly $300,000.
Mary Beth [00:09:19]:
I’m just going to pause right here and say, yes, we did just avocado toast and latte this into your future. And I’m so excited because Neela didn’t realize that she did this, and I’m dying inside right now. It’s wonderful, but this is exactly what it is. And so we are aware, right, if you’re thinking this is the avocado toasting, it is. This is alcohol. So it’s not just your finances. It’s also your physical health.
It’s your physical health.
Mary Beth [00:09:39]:
We are giving ourselves permission to go down this. This is being mindful. So we have permission to do this.
You’re right. I’m a hypocrite.
Mary Beth [00:09:46]:
No, it’s not avocado toast. Avocado toast, I guess we could argue, is like, heart healthy for the avocado, but alcohol.
Yeah, that’s true.
Mary Beth [00:09:56]:
Yeah. So we’re good here. Good call. But $300,000, though, is huge. To be honest, if I looked back, I feel like mine was more than $2,600 a year, because that’s for yourself.
Mary Beth [00:10:06]:
If you’re at a couple if you’re paying for other things, for family or for friends, it’s likely more. And don’t even get me started on what I probably spent in my 20s. Actually seems really reasonable, probably to what I spent, like, at a younger point in time. It’s astronomical, right? Especially with how inflation has hit the industry as well. So we’re talking about the cash flow savings, right? You’re going out for a night of drinking, right. You probably spent a couple of hundred dollars then. How do you feel the next day, though? Right?
That is the real crux. We can talk about the day to day cash flow savings, which is material, but I think it buries the lead on the bigger cost. And it’s the cost is your time. The cost is your well-being and your just general health. I mean, the CDC has done some analyses on this and that the cost of excessive alcohol use in the United States costs us over $249,000,000,000 a year. $249,000,000,000. That was based on a study that was in 2010. And I guarantee you it is worse than that.
Mary Beth [00:11:07]:
It is worse. It is worse.
Where do those costs show up? They show up as a loss in workplace productivity. They show up in costs in additional health care. They show up in criminal justice expenses in terms of DUIs, et cetera, motor vehicle crashes, et cetera. Those are financial costs. And those don’t even talk about emotional costs and human costs and other things that really can add up, right.
Mary Beth [00:11:34]:
Understanding one night of drinking, it’s really the cost of your hangover, right? The cost of your hangover for yourself and your productivity and what’s that personal impact on you. And then when you have the compound effect of a society that turns to drinking, what does that look like and what does that do? And we’re not here to shame drinking. This is where I think the two of us just happen to be at this phase in life simultaneously. So we wanted to bring it up because it is in terms of cash flow, in terms of financial impacts, it’s a very interesting lens to take on drinking, right? And why do we drink? How does it show up in our lives? What are our true intentions when we’re going out with friends and family? How do you feel when you don’t drink? And does that impact your relationships? Are you not invited? Does it make it more weird for other people than you? When you pause to look at these things, it’s really interesting from a holistic standpoint, not just financial, but the financial impacts of drinking. If you are somebody that struggles with drinking or you are somebody that feels like you drink too much when you take a magnifying glass to it, it could be shocking to you. It could be a little bit jolting when you take that lens and look at like, okay, how much am I drinking? When you go to the doctor and they ask you, how many drinks do you have per week or per day on that checklist, where do you fill it out? And so I think there’s a financial motivator here. Yes. If you take that money and reallocate it and invest it over time, amazing, you will definitely have more net worth. But it’s not just the money that you’re spending on the alcohol. It’s also the future cost of your health care that if you do have drinking and the long-term impacts that can have on your body, and that the long term impacts that can then have on your health care and your health expenses. And that’s where it’s really going to get you. So we’re talking about $2,600 is a lot of money, but health care expenses are the thing that impacts your financial plan. It is the thing that we zero in on, as financial planners and the generation probably listening to this, you’re paying high premiums right now because insurance is astronomical no matter what. But the long-term care expenses and health care as you age can be the wildcard for you.
You bet. I want to issue a giant disclaimer in that if you are struggling with alcohol abuse or alcoholism, there are lots of resources out there and we are not intending to be flippant or reductive about a topic like this. Alcoholism is a disease and so for a lot of people it’s not just, hey, let me look at the budget, see how much I’m spending and I’m going to cut this out. There are a lot of people who do struggle and it is a disease. And so if you are feeling like you are at a point where you don’t feel in total control, please examine some of the resources that we’ll put in the show notes and you can turn to some of those sources for help.
Mary Beth [00:14:01]:
One of the books I know that we both have read is Quit like a Woman by Holly Whitaker. That was an interesting one. I know. There’s another one called Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington. Those are two really good books on this topic in terms of exploring, really just asking why. There’s a lot of stats that are thrown at you. You can google any articles in terms of the impact of drinking but it’s really one of the things we want to dig into on this podcast and as you probably noticed is really being mindful what’s the why behind it? And as we’re trying to live our lives in this more intentional way and we’re trying to be more present to the decisions we’re making and understanding patterns, whether it’s around money or personal choices and societal expectations, what is the role that alcohol may or may not play in your life? And do you feel good about it? Or do you feel like maybe there could be some changes? And how could that impact you if you did make changes? Otherwise, if it’s not relevant, you can stop listening to the podcast right here as well. This is really about coming from a place of mindfulness, of understanding. For me it was I realized that I was turning to something a little bit more than I thought. The idea of I need a glass of wine definitely got me through the pandemic. Oh my gosh. I think the wine component for me was a big one. And then realizing when I stopped to pause the impact that it had on my body. And so it actually started with understanding the impact of red wine. Like how did I feel after I have wine? How do I feel like after I have a beer? How do I feel after I have this dirty martini? And then starting to understand how many glasses of these? And so I didn’t go with okay, I’m just not doing this. I actually became mindful of the impacts of after a couple of drinks, after one drink, the sleeping side of it, the anxiety side of it. As somebody who does have anxiety, how does that impact me in the days following? And so it’s really more observing those things and being able to make conscious choices and feeling good when I do make the decision to drink, because I’m likely not cutting it out completely. I’m not going cold turkey here. But I think when I do make those choices, I feel empowered by it. I feel like this is what I want right now. And I’m choosing this because I’m interested in the taste. Like, I’ve actually switched from wine to beer now is the thing. And so understanding the different breweries that we have around here in San Diego. And so I’m very mindful of what my intention is when I am partaking. I’m not just drinking to drink or drinking to numb or drinking because everybody else is drinking. I’m going in with an intention and capping parameters and boundaries on it, which I think is what feels good.
It’s basically inertia is a powerful force. And as soon as you can pull back and be mindful about the why, it puts you back in the driver’s seat. And so same if I am at a Mexican restaurant and they’ve got some custom spicy mezcal margarita, I’m going to be like, OOH, I really want to try that. But again, I’m doing it on my terms and not just on autopilot, because I think that’s really the power.
Mary Beth [00:16:48]:
Yeah. And so from the financial standpoint, this always goes back to what’s the overflow effect? We talk about analyzing your cash flow, but it’s understanding the choices that we make in our daily lives and how that impacts us over the long run and what’s the overflow effect of it. So are you drinking? Hungover, losing out on work, having to call in sick? Are you drinking? Not feeling great, spending more on takeout the next day because you don’t want to cook, versus, like, hey, you’re investing in a gym membership. What’s the return there? I mean, depending on where you’re at, it might be less health costs, better mental health, maybe like, less on therapy. So just like, what are the waterfall effects of the spending decisions and time decisions that you’re making? And how could that be showing up in your cash flow in other areas beyond just the line item? When you start to dig into those things and be more mindful about it, I think there’s some interesting tidbits that may or may not show up for you.
Love that. I think that’s a perfect way of ending it. And thank you, everybody, for listening.
Mary Beth [00:17:44]:
Mary Beth [00:17:47]:
Thanks for tuning in to today’s episode of If Money Were Easy. If this is the year that you want to expand what’s possible with your money and you can use some professional guidance along the way, head over to Abacuswealth.com/getstarted, and schedule your free consultation.
Mary Beth [00:18:25]:
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