How this psychological behavior is causing you to lose lots of dollars
Loss aversion: the pain of losing is twice as strong as the gain
Hey, did you notice an increase in your paystub? You may want to check it out. If you did, you are part of the 90 percent of Americans who will have experienced a positive net gain in their take home money.
But have you given much thought to what you will do with that extra money?
Chances are you haven’t given it much thought. Honestly, I have not done much with mine yet.
Unfortunately, you and I will struggle to save that extra income because it is so much fun to spend rather than save. Who can relate?
Wait, I have a mental condition?
Yes, we all do! There is a psychological behavior that will keep you from saving. This behavior is known as loss aversion, or the hate of losing. Loss aversion is a psychological state of mind where the “pain of losing is twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining”.
We know we need to do something smart with that little extra money and yet we choose to do nothing. This same behavior is seen in different areas of one’s life: health, spiritual well-being, education, and list continues. We know the benefits gained from each of these actions are great, but the pain of losing time, money, relationships, or other resources will keep you from taking action.
Look around your influential circle of friends and you may see the benefits experienced by overcoming loss aversion. These benefits did not happen overnite. They probably battled loss aversion at some time yet they did something about it and they took action.
Inaction breeds company and it will have an impact in many areas of your life.
Now that we know that loss aversion keeps us from investing let’s explore the solution
The more steps or actions an activity requires the less likely we are to take a step forward to bettering ourselves. For example, we need to get in shape and for some reason we believe we need a new workout wardrobe, hire a trainer, and post your accomplishments. These are but a few things that keep you from taking action. So many unwritten rules to follow it seems. But disregard those and get going.
Let’s look at savings and retirement
The lingo alone will drive one insane! Annual percentage rate, annual percentage yield, certificates of deposit or CD, bonds, IRA, 401K, etc etc! That is why your accounts have not grown or you have not started. According to a report, 50 percent of Americans don’t participate in their 401Ks and reasons stated include: feeling overwhelmed with the many choices, laziness, and struggle with deposits. I remember feeling all the mentioned emotions as I enrolled in my company 401K. Trying to be in compliance with company policies, understand vacation policy and now 401K!
The struggle was real and I’m glad I took that plunge. I was afraid to ask questions. Here’s an MBA student who has no idea how to invest, I thought they would say. I had no idea or direction and no one to turn to.
Don’t let that hold you back! Take action. My experiences have shown that the first step you take, is the most important one. Over time you will become more educated and can make wiser choices in your finances.
Turn the challenges into solutions
You might have heard the acronym KISS- Keep It Simple Silly. Try taking advantage of automatic contributions. Let the accounts withdraw from your check before you have time to spend it. If you don’t see it you will not miss it.
Understand as you save more it does not necessarily mean you will spend less. If you have a budget in place this will keep you focused on your goals. I’m old school and prefer to look at spreadsheets when using my budget. There are apps that keep this process simple. Don’t see saving or investing as a present loss but a future gain or victory. Keep focused on your goals.
We are visual creatures. We like wooing and awwing over beautifully created pictures. I can spend hours on hours looking through Pinterest and Instargram. Do the same for your finances. Use visuals rather than figures to help you achieve goals.
For example, instead on fixating on a $500,000 retirement, use visuals that that money will help you reach. Visuals such as vacations, nicer home, or activities you enjoy doing with your family and friends.
Don’t allow loss aversion keep you from achieving your goals. Learn to focus on the gains and not what you will be losing. Remember the pain of losing needs to be dealt with. Keep reminding yourself of the benefits or gains you will be able to enjoy.
How have you been able to overcome loss aversion? Care to share?