It's not our fault!
You know all those daft things we do with money, all those seemingly innocent peccadillos that if left unchecked spell big trouble sometime down the line. All that money we spend satisfying our little wants (often describing them to ourselves as 'needs'): clothes, phones, coffees, pampering (I deserve it!), not to mention our spectacular lack of interest in saving, planning and budgeting. Well it's okay folks because it's not our fault. We were born that way!
Dr Stephen Siegel of the University of Washington writes in the Journal of Political Economy: “Each individual is borne with a genetic predisposition to a specific savings behaviour, an effect that is found not to disappear later in life.”
The evidence is compelling. Dr Siegel examined data from Sweden on 30,000 identical and fraternal twins. Using information from their tax returns he worked out how much they saved. Twins with identical DNA were found to share twice as much of their tendency to save (or not) as fraternal twins born from separate eggs.
How can this fascinating information help us? Well for those of us born with a spending genetic pre-disposition this is not a license to spend without compunction. That always ends in tears... believe me, I've seen it too many times. It means that we have to adopt some sensible strategies. One simple strategy is to automate our savings with standing orders and to spread it between short and longer term investments. To ensure we have an adequate emergency fund so that we're not taken by surprise when something inevitably goes wrong. Some of us may need to be a little more drastic and cut up our credit cards.
For most of us we need an 'outside' influence to help combat our natural tendency to spend. Someone who will hold our feet to the fire when it's needed, someone to whom we can be accountable for our behaviour. This can be a spouse or a friend as well as financial planner. We all need people around us whom we trust and who understand our weaknesses without being judgmental.
And for the savers, and you know who you are, keep up the good work and help your less fortunate friends. You were born to do this work.