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New Wrinkle on the Link Between Time and Money

July 21, 2014

Personality trumps education when it comes to making successful financial decisions. That’s a conclusion from a study by personal-finance website MagnifyMoney, the Web publication ThinkAdvisor shares with readers.

Specifically, an individual’s relationship with time has a “high degree of correlation” with his or her financial health, ThinkAdvisor writes. For example, “dwelling on the past, as it were, is highly correlated with financial health.” Why? Because past-oriented people “base their decisions and actions on memories rather than current experience,” according to MagnifyMoney. The downside of this orientation is a tendency to sit on cash in preference to assuming even “prudent investment risk.” In sum, people who look back learn.

Those who live in the moment don’t learn — and they tend to get burned over and over as a result. They’re likelier to use payday lenders, file for bankruptcy, get foreclosed upon, carry credit-card debt and remain (blissfully?) unaware of the rates of interest they pay on loans. Many are hedonists who “take what they want, when they want it without any thought of future consequences,” the study says. They also tend to buy more candy at checkout displays and spring for more lottery tickets than others.

People oriented more to the future fall in between: They’re “not generally financially ‘healthy’ but often succeed at avoiding being financially ‘sick,’” ThinkAdvisor says. Although they often make a point of learning a lot about personal finance and like to think of themselves as in control, “such people may be apt to over-insure against risk or make bad investments based on bad information or advice.”

Among other implications, ThinkAdvisor suggests the study undermines the case for financial literacy.

By Thomas Coyle
  • To read the ThinkAdvisor article cited in this story, click here.