On Monday, we discussed how people are sometimes dumb with money and love, but it’s not all bad news. Today, we highlight research that shows love can positively influence our finances. The first study, published in December 2015, followed 693 University of Arizona students. The (mostly white, female) students were extensively surveyed toward the beginning of college (ages 18-21) and then again toward the end (ages 21-24). The 693 study participants were all included because they reported being in a serious, committed relationship at the second survey. The study was trying to figure out the impact parents and romantic partners have on the financial behaviors and attitudes of college students.
Category: Research Highlights Page 2 of 3
GRATITUDE AND TEMPORAL DISCOUNTING
Everybody is impatient to some degree. When it comes to money, we want money now. We want to spend money now. This economic impatience is called temporal discounting. In short, temporal discounting means that we value $50 today over $50 tomorrow and it’s one of the main reasons most people don’t have enough money to retire. The ability to overcome temporal discounting would be considered an economic super power! You would be the world’s greatest saver! Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to overcome temporal discounting entirely, but there are ways to lessen its impacts.
Technology changes overnight and with these swift advancements comes a plethora of new, useful features. Now your phone can listen to your conversations and remind you about things you mentioned. Your refrigerator can tell you that you’re out of milk. When we go to buy something, we focus on features rather than usability. When I purchased my last smart phone, I bought the one the salesman showed me that had all the neat “tricks.” I didn’t consider how I use my phone (calls, internet, work email, social media, blogging, photography). Instead, I decided it was really important to have a phone that could call someone if I yelled at it and could share a contact by bumping it against another phone (though I have never used either feature). And now my phone is barely hanging on and I wonder if it is because it’s imploding itself on all its cool features. It has so much going on, it’s dying! This phenomenon is called “Feature Fatigue.” It was defined in a 2005 study by the following statement: “Because consumers give more weight to capability and less weight to usability before use than after use, they tend to choose overly complex products that do not maximize their satisfaction when they use them.”
As Mr. T and I have been actively DIYing our own windows, hot water heater, attic insulation, etc we’ve heard several versions of the phrase: “That looks like a lot of work.” People are so impressed that we’re willing to work so hard to save some money. As a society, we’ve become programmed to shy away from something that will be hard. The decision between spending two weeks in your crawlspace working on insulation and paying someone $1000 to do it instead seems obvious. The default answer is to spend the money and let someone else do the work. How did we get here?
No one likes to feel regret. (“What? Maggie, I think you’ve sufficiently covered regret. You’ve covered both common life regrets and common business regrets and used research to tell us how to experience less regret.”) But sometimes, regret can be good. No, I’m not saying you have to experience regret. You just have to PLAN to experience regret? (“huh?”) Let me explain…
After looking the research about regret and the biggest life regrets, I thought we covered it. (“WHAT?! More regret? Get over it Maggie!”) But then I came across an article published in 2012 the Harvard Business Review blog network about the top five career regrets. Since we’re still mid-career and this is still primarily a personal finance blog, I had to talk about it. (Last in the series of regret, I promise.) So, what do 30 professionals say are their biggest career regrets? I’ll tell you (along with additions as to how I think Mr. T and are doing on these potential regrets):
Attending my grandfather’s funeral last week prompted me to delve into the research about regret. And as I researched, I realized regret is a big topic. Everyone experiences regret and no one wants to. So, I decided to keep the theme going. I started to wonder what Grandpa would have said if I had asked him his biggest regrets. I wrote most of this post on the airplane ride home from the funeral. When I returned, I found that Financial Samurai had covered this exact same thing. I recommend his post. In the Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Bronnie Ware shares her experiences as an Australian hospice nurse. As she spent time with all of these patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives, she shared their end-of-life thoughts, epiphanies, and regrets. The top five regrets she said people experienced before death were:
We all have regrets. Sometimes those regrets can even haunt you. So let’s examine the research behind regret to see if we can start making wiser choices and regret less. Regret, as defined, is both a noun and a verb involving feelings of disappointment or sadness about something you did or did not do. In terms of opportunity, there are three stages of a potential regret situation. The first stage is action, followed by outcome, and finally the recall. At the action stage, a choice is made. If the choice is not completely up to the individual to decide, regret is not experienced (ie: someone made the choice for you or an unforeseen event such as weather impacted the choice). The choice is made using goal-based decision-making. At the outcome stage, it is made apparent whether the goal was successfully achieved or not. Regret is not experienced if the goal is achieved. If the goal fails, the “what-ifs” take over. During the recall stage, one can remember the regret of the decision and use that regret to make future decisions. Here are a few research-based tips on how to diminish regret:
Ever find yourself with a bad habit like eating a cookie every day at lunch? Charles Duhigg did. And he set out on a research journey to break that habit in the book: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Despite the 8 pounds he had gained, Duhigg found himself in the cafeteria every afternoon eating another cookie. He tried reminder notes, but promptly ignored them. He discovered that a habit is actually a three-step loop:
Cue —> Habit routine —> Reward
We’re going to throw around some terms today that will impress your friends at dinner parties. Get out your notepad. Today’s topic is intertemporal choice and temporal discounting. Intertemporal Choice is a term used when a choice involves making a decision at a certain time that will impact the outcomes at a different time. For example, remember the Marshmallow Study? It is an intertemporal choice to choose between taking one marshmallow now or waiting for the second marshmallow. Temporal Discounting simply means that we value the second marshmallow less than we value the one sitting in front of us because the one sitting on the table is here NOW and the other one is LATER. If I told you I would give you a dollar now or you could wait a week and get the same dollar, why would you wait a week? The dollar now is worth more. You could spend it on your way home (don’t. even though the dollar is fake). In one of the most obvious financial examples, it’s hard for people to save for retirement because they value the money now more than the money later.
Temporal discounting is a highly studied topic because it’s important for people to understand how much an individual will discount that future dollar (or marshmallow, or whatever) for the one today. (Would you trade a dollar today for FIVE dollars next week?) It’s also important to understand what factors into that discounting. (Do you trust me? Have you been raised on a family saying of “Take the money and run?”) This is one of my favorite topics (I reserve the right to share more research in this field at a later date… but because of temporal discounting, THIS post NOW is definitely worth more… I know. I’m hilarious.)
So what does the research say, and how can we learn from it?