QUIZ :: Let’s determine your financial personality. Tonight, you’re on the VIP list for a private booth with bottle service at the most exclusive lounge in the city, where reservations must be made three months ahead… and your closet, full of last season’s attire, might as well be from the 50’s because nothing looks appealing to you. What would you do?
a) Pick out the least repulsive item and improvise with accessories;
b) Say no thanks to the invite because you have nothing to wear, or
c) Rush out to buy that navy Canali blazer and a pair of Lanvin calfskin derbys
If your real answer was (a), give yourself a pat on the back for creatively managing your social life without going broke. If you answered (b), then prepare to become the social outcast of the year. If your answer was (c), then be assured that you are not alone.
Most people when faced with this challenge would rather spend to satisfy the pressures of their peer group than face being labeled a “cheapskate” or worse, a fashion victim.
Take comfort in the fact that there are a number of factors that can be blamed for our insatiable appetite to spend. The usual suspects are: our parents, our friends, advertising, and pop culture. Although I wonder if there is a “money gene” that will soon be discovered that will explain why some of us are slaves to our credit cards while others seem to have figured out how to make money work for them. If only that were true, it would offer the easiest reason to continue spending: “It’s in my genes”.
- What are your earliest memories of money growing up in your family?
- Was there never enough money to buy toys and candy, or did your parents always buy you whatever you wanted?
- Did your parents fight about money? Did you have to get a part-time job to pay for your wish list?
- Did gifts replace time spent truly connecting with each other?
There is empirical research suggesting that our attitudes towards money are strongly influenced by the role it played in our family from as early as age four. In a research study conducted by Stanford scientists, a group of four-year olds were put in a room. They each had a marshmallow put in front of them and were told that the scientist would be back in five minutes, and that if the child did not eat the marshmallow in front of her, she would get another one when the scientist came back. The study group was tracked for the next 25 years. Those kids who did not eat the marshmallow so that they could get a reward led more successful lives as adults because they understood “delayed gratification” and applied it to various areas of their lives.
So if it is not nature (our genes), then it must be nurture (our environment), is the theory. In families and groups where money is closely tied to self-worth and identity, it can become a replacement for building meaningful relationships with others. And then a vicious cycle of “instant gratification” can set in where we want money to constantly buy us the feeling that we matter as individuals in society. Depressing stuff, but what is the alternative?
The first step is awareness of your own “money personality” type. There are several online quizzes to help you identify your unique traits related to money. One of the best ones that I’ve found is here. What is your money personality? Taking the 5-minute quiz will help you identify your relationship with money.
In future posts, I will address the basics of money management such as savings, credit, and investment. Perhaps do a bit of “rewiring” for our brains. In the mean time, watch those marshmallows in your life.
– Jan Gupta is a personal debt coach who whips willing participants into learning good money habits and dropping their debt-ful ones.