10 ways you’re different to everyone else
and why that really matters for your money
We know we’re all different and in dozens of ways.
From the shape of our heads… our shoulders, knees and toes… to our eyes and ears and mouth and nose!
But seriously… we know we’re all different, not least in our mix of personality traits.
So, let’s dig into how we’re different and why that matters for our money.
Robust ways to reflect on who we are
I’ve long been fascinated by the power of self-reflection and have discovered various (evidence-based) tools and exercises to help us with this.
Exercises to help us uncover our personality traits, values, motivators, skills, strengths, emotional styles and emotional agility.
Attitudes are interesting too. According to psychologists, attitudes are the combination of beliefs, thoughts and feelings that inform how we assess and act towards something – be it an inanimate object, living thing, person, group, event, or life challenge.
If you’d like to try a powerful exercise, to explore the origins of your attitudes to money, head over here.
A key fact about attitudes is that we learn to adopt them, so we can unlearn them, too, if we need to.
And separately, in a wonderful book, ‘Feeling Great’ by psychiatrist Dr David Burns, I’ve found ways to unwind our thinking that have helped me and many others to overcome depression. That said, if you struggle with this, please take advice from your GP, in the first instance. You can always ask them about this book which I understand is recommended by health professionals worldwide.
In short, I’ve learned that we can achieve more of what matters to us, and find greater happiness with what we have, by reflecting on what our thoughts and feelings (especially the difficult ones) might be telling us, and by checking the robustness of our beliefs too.
Our personality traits, apparently, change less over time and are less malleable than our attitudes. So, it can be helpful to self-assess our personality to see how it differs from the general population, and for this, we need to know we’re working with a robust (evidence-based) tool.
Sadly, the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator – one of the most widely used tools for assessing personality) is thought to be fundamentally flawed – as outlined in this amusing piece by Adam Grant, Professor of Business and Psychology at Wharton Business School.
…it’s hard to argue with the idea that if we’re going to divide people into categories, those categories ought to be meaningful.
In social science, we use four standards:
are the categories reliable, valid, independent, and comprehensive?
For the MBTI, the evidence says not very, no, no, and not really.
If you prefer video, this one gives a clear, and similarly amusing assessment of the MBTI. Concluding that it does have one use – as ‘Entertainment’!
It can be shocking for the millions of people who’ve used this assessment to guide their life (or been measured on it by their employers) to find that it has little or no credible science behind it.
And this is a big problem because this test is very widely used to assess employees in the workplace. MBTI is a multi-million dollar industry, which makes it unlikely that the suppliers will acknowledge these flaws.
Watch the video above; it’s an eye-opener.
Perhaps you’ve also come across other, ‘Type’ or ‘Archetype’ personality models which hold out a promise that they can help us understand ourselves?
I’m certainly aware of two such models used by some financial coaches, but I’m not aware that these other models are grounded in any more science (or offer any more value) than the Myers Briggs type test.
All I know is that there are financial benefits accruing to those who invent these random models and license their use.
Is this a laughing matter?
Is Adam Grant’s approach (or that in the video) the best way to deal with this problem?
Well, I have sympathy for these and other scientists on other questions, when they use laughter to take down bad science.
Mark Twain was surely right about this; laughter is a powerful weapon, and it’s good to use ‘humour’ to wake people up to flawed and dangerous ideas.
I’d just caution against a Comedy Club approach (common in Social Media tribes) of ridiculing everything said by a particular person or politician, for example.
We might get a laugh (and some likes) for such comments – from those in our tribe, but on serious issues, it’s smarter to focus on ideas than personalities as Eleanor Roosevelt observed – and playing with ideas can be more fun too.
What could you use, instead of MBTI?
As noted in that article by Adam Grant, psychologists now broadly agree that we have a model for assessing personality which has solid (research-based) foundations.
This is the OCEAN or Big 5 test, as it’s variously called.
If you want to try it out, I recommend Jordan Peterson’s version of this test – as it offers a deeper insight into your personality than basic tests. The JP version separates each of the five basic traits into two subsidiary aspects – to give ten in total.
To be clear, the OCEAN test is a self-assessment – which means you don’t need to tell anyone else your scores if you don’t want to, and there are no right or wrong scores.
This is about learning how we differ from each other (and from the ‘average’ person) on those ten aspects of your personality.
So, I’d encourage you to take this or the (Free) HEXACO test, which I mention below.
Understanding ourselves and each other can help us to manage our behaviour and improve our relationships with family, friends and work colleagues.
From OCEAN to HEXACO
Of course, Psychology like most science never gets finished. They keep working to refine this list of personality traits – and testing to see if those traits are useful to consistently define people’s differences across different cultures.
Consistency, as you might have noted, is a big problem with MBTI.
As a result of recent work, psychologists now suggest there’s a sixth dimension to personality (of Honesty/Humility), and this trait has been added to the OCEAN model to create the BIG 6 or HEXACO model, which you can try for yourself here.
There’s no change to the rest of The OCEAN model; they just swapped out ‘E’ for an ‘X’ for eXtroversion. And the ‘N’ (for ‘Neuroticism’) in OCEAN, is an ‘E’ for ‘Emotionality’ in HEXACO – which is sensible in my view. Who knows what Neuroticism is, anyway?
The HEXACO model also unpacks the main traits, but this time with four additional Facets for each. And they’ve added Altruism as a standalone, facet, to create a 25 data point scale – as shown here:
- Honesty-Humility is comprised of Sincerity, Fairness, Greed-Avoidance and Modesty.
- Emotionality (Fearfulness, Anxiety, Dependence and Sentimentality)
- eXtroversion (Social Self-Esteem, Social Boldness, Sociability and Liveliness)
- Agreeableness (Forgivingness, Gentleness, Flexibility, Patience)
- Conscientiousness (Organization, Diligence, Perfectionism and Prudence)
- Openness to Experience (Aesthetic Appreciation, Inquisitiveness, Creativity, Unconventionality)
- Altruism is a standalone facet.
Personality, attitudes and money
If you’re wondering what all this has to do with our money, it’s quite a lot!
Even moderately volatile people find it challenging to manage their emotions around spending – and around risky investment decisions too. They can easily find themselves jumping onto (or off) Investment Rollercoasters at the worst possible times.
That said, who doesn’t get a bit emotional when their investments fall in value by 50% or more? And that happens, even to worldwide-diversified portfolios of shares, more often than many experts will admit.
Indeed, if you read the works of the Nobel Prize-Winning Economist, Robert Shiller, you’ll know that our psychology is a significant contributor to the wild upswings and crashes we see in market prices from time to time.
We have natural human biases which lead us to attach too much importance to recent events. We also look for the group narrative – and then follow the herd.
Managing your money can also be a real challenge if your beliefs, thoughts and feelings lead you to avoid discussing the topic at all – even with competent people.
This could happen because:
- You feel too embarrassed to talk about things you don’t understand.
- You’ve tried but feel baffled and defeated by all the complexity, jargon and TLAs. (sorry, I mean three-letter acronyms)
- You feel anxious when talking about your uncertain financial future.
- You’re afraid of repeating a mistake that you (or a friend or family member) made in losing a lot of money on investments (or property) in the past.
- You’ve read a lot of those misleading articles in the press, and have concluded that you can’t afford to save or invest for the long term.
- You don’t feel able to trust financial advisers to work in your interests.
- You’re bored by what the ‘experts’ write and say about money – and don’t want to waste time listening to all that!
I’ve certainly heard people offer all of these views and can sympathize with them.
Indeed, it’s the reason I do what I do.
That’s just seven examples of attitudes to money (or experts) that might prevent us from engaging with this subject, and you can probably think of more.
Psychologist, Brad Klontz has identified around fifty different ‘Money beliefs’ (or Scripts as he calls them) which you can find in his Money Behaviours test.
Here are some examples of these ‘Scripts’ – and if you find yourself agreeing with the statements below, you might be struggling with what Brad calls ‘Money Avoidance’.
- I do not deserve a lot of money when others have less than me.
- Rich people are greedy.
- It is not okay to have more than you need.
- People get rich by taking advantage of others.
- I do not deserve money.
- Good people should not care about money.
- It is hard to be rich and be a good person.
- Most rich people do not deserve their money.
- There is virtue in living with less money.
- The less money you have, the better life is.
- Money corrupts people.
- Being rich means you no longer fit in with old friends and family.
- The rich take their money for granted.
- You cannot be rich and trust what people want from you.
- It is hard to accept financial gifts from others.
What’s fascinating, and confirms my experience, is that the ‘Money Avoidance’ problem is often ‘associated with people who are wealthier, wiser, and more highly educated.’
- Money Worship
- Money Status
- Money Vigilance.
To be clear, this is not a recommendation of the associated wealth adviser firm on that link.
I have nothing against ‘Your Mental Wealth Advisors’, I just don’t make recommendations to any adviser business.
My work is about education, pure and simple. So, please do your own due diligence if you need investment advice and if you’re a UK resident, choose an expert in UK financial matters.
Also, be aware that your results in the Money Behaviours Inventory Test, might not show you as fitting neatly into any one of those four categories.
You’re not a particular type of person (despite what ‘other’ tests might say) and any good behavioural trait assessment will show that you have a mix of traits.
As Brad himself notes,
“it’s not uncommon to have money scripts that seem at first glance to contradict each other, such as endorsing the belief that: money corrupts people while also believing that things would get better if only I had more money”
Again, I’ve noticed that contradiction a lot!
The ten ways you’re different and why that matters for your money
So, we know we’re all different in various ways.
And, when it comes to our personality, we can (if we use the right tools) uncover some detail about those differences.
Unfortunately, a great many people are somehow misled into thinking that our situations (and needs) are broadly all the same, and there’s one right thing for us all to do with our money.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are sold on the idea that you just need to attend the right seminar or read the right book to find the answer.
The only problem is, there is no single answer – such things do not exist.
What really matters for your money?
Well, setting aside your personality traits, there are about ten things that make you financially different to anyone else.
And you need to take these factors into account to make good decisions about money – whether that’s to save, invest, or insure your life or health – or to earn more or spend less.
Here are the 10 factors:
- your personal life goals (for yourself and your loved ones)
- your income
- your outgoings
- the needs of your children if you have any.
- the value of any property, business or financial assets you own
- the money you owe – on a mortgage or other loan
- your wider family wealth
- your personal health
- your attitude to money (those beliefs, thoughts and feelings that drive how you deal with it), and this includes your attitude to investment risk too.
- the value of your personal assets (your knowledge and skills) – and please invest in these – because they’re the true source of your long term wealth.
Also, consider how these things might change over the next few years.
So, those are the ten things that make YOU financially unique – and should only be known to you, or someone who’s competent – and you trust for advice.
There are no rules of thumb
When you look at that list of ten things that make you unique, it’s easy to see there can’t be a one-size-fits-all money plan.
It’s not possible to have rules of thumb.
So, you’ll never find a blog, book, video or webinar with a money plan that’s perfect for you – there’s no such thing.
No one can guide you on the best things to do with your money simply by giving you a ton of information.
And, as an author of an acclaimed book, ‘Who Can You Trust About Money’ (On how people mislead us, and how we mislead ourselves), it pains me to say that, but it’s true.
Save yourself a ton of money and time studying flawed ideas
Please ignore anyone whose book, blog or video tells you what to do with your money.
Run a mile from anyone, and I mean anyone, who claims they know which way prices (in shares, houses and esp Bitcoin) will go in the short or medium term, no one does.
What worked for one person (a friend, parent or self-acclaimed guru on a stage) in recent years, may very well not work for you from this point in time.
You need to approach your financial planning with a fresh pair of eyes.
And you need solid processes to guide you – that will still work for you in 10 or 20 years – long after those gurus are gone, and when zero per cent interest rates are a distant memory!
You’re not just wasting your time with those people, you could also be dangerously misled.
Take more control of your money
You need to take personal control of YOUR money, to get it working for you, for the long term on what really matters in YOUR life.
Whether you do this on your own, or with help from a competent planner or coach, you need to be the one in the driving seat.
You need to know enough to ask the right questions and make the decisions about your money.
And, if you like the sound of learning to
drive plan your money, sign up to my newsletter here.
Here, over time, you’ll learn:
- More about the psychology around money: what drives good financial decision making and the behavioural biases that often lead to our biggest money mistakes.
- A proven and powerful process to plan your own financial freedom – on one sheet of paper – and estimate what you need to save or invest – to achieve your financial life goals.
- A process to rate any investment that anyone could put to you – before you jump into it!
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Why you should not subscribe to my newsletter
The programme I’m developing will not be right for everyone.
I’m designing it for Middle Income, Middle Wealth, Middle-aged people between 25 and 55 years of age – or at least 10 years away from retirement.
It’s for the vast majority of people who can’t afford the fees to hire a good financial planner.
So, this might not be of interest to those who are wealthy and happy to leave all the planning and investment thinking to others.
Then again, if you are wealthy, and you have an adviser, this programme might help you consider the quality of advice you’re getting, and if the fees you’re paying are reasonable for the work being done.
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I’m planning some exciting new developments for next year, and I want you to be the first to hear about them.
Hope that was interesting, and thanks for dropping in
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