Papa was a… nope, not a rolling stone — he was a psychology major and has always been fascinated by human behavior. The questions of nature versus nurture, and conditioned reflexes, were regular dinner conversation fodder growing up — and accented by the differences in the two kids around table. There’s some amount of family lore that even suggests there may have been a bell sounded when the mashed peas were set on the high chair tray… Perhaps this explains my reaction to Taco BELL and Onion RINGS?
Dad started off firmly entrenched in the belief that your personality and behavior were the product of your environment — he was a “nurture” guy. So I was always fascinated when he would tell the tale of how he came to shift his philosophy. He would describe the differences between us kids during my mother’s pregnancies. Child #2 spent a good deal of the 9 months doing some combination of kick-boxing and tae bo, in stark contrast to the older, calmer child. This pattern continued throughout the childhood years with child #2 jumping, crashing and galloping through childhood. The differences in the two kids before birth and the corrolation with later behaviors convinced him that there was a whole lot more “nature” that contributed to personality and behavior than he had originally believed.
I think about this lesson often when I reflect on people’s financial behaviors. The ways we spend and save are part of a complicated mix of factors influenced by your financial knowledge and skills, your family history, social pressures and influences, emotional factors, and yes…nature. There are some parts of our money behaviors that were wired at birth. We all know folks (siblings, kids, friends) who have very similar environments and backgrounds but handle money very differently. One may be a disciplined saver with clear financial goals and a sound plan to achieve them. And despite all their environmental similarities, the other may have 12 pairs of red ballet flats in their closet, but can’t live without just one more.
At makingCHANGE we spend a lot of time thinking about WHY two people in very similar environments can have such different financial behaviors. We can teach skills needed for financial success and see an immediate change for some, while others (even those that recognize that their own habits prevent them from being successful) never seem able to put the skills and knowledge into action.
As you think about your own spending behaviors, you might find it interesting to ask yourself a few reflective questions…
- Are my credit card balances more than my bank balance?
- Am I saving enough for retirement?
- Could I afford it if my car broke down or I ended up in the hospital tomorrow?
- How did I choose the credit cards in my wallet? Did I research the best choices, match a card to my spending habits, or choose a card based on the t-shirt they were giving away?
- How am I different than my siblings when it comes to money?
- Do I shop for “fun”?
- Do I feel happy when I make a purchase?
- When I get home after shopping, do I sometimes feel guilty?
- Do I have purchases with the tags still on?
- How do my closest friends handle money?
- How well do my parents handle money?
- As I child, did my parents encourage saving?
- When I was growing up, did I receive an allowance? Did my parents have rules about how I could spend it?
The answers may help you better understand yourself as a spender and saver help you unlock your potential for financial success!