Being mentally tough is about being resilient and confident enough to deal effectively with life’s challenges and opportunities. This requires you to combine resolve and discipline with an agile responsive approach to make the most of every situation.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the way you make – and keep your hard earned money.
Are you too generous, frivolous or agreeable with your money in order to maintain social relationships? Or, do you have the discipline to make sacrifices and the hard decisions that enable you to keep it and not care about the impact that approach has on your relationship with others.
Being mentally tough means the more disciplined, less agreeable and flexible you will likely be.
This mindset might be as simple as not ‘shouting’ a round of drinks for your friends or not leaving a generous tip after a restaurant meal.
The effect of this mental toughness towards money was evident in this study first published in the Journal of Personality and reported by Emma Betuel on Inverse.com.
The research by Professors at University College London and Columbia Business School revealed that nice people are bad with money because they think about it differently. After spending months combing through financial records and conducting personality tests on thousands of individuals, Columbia assistant business professor Sandra Matz Ph.D noticed a clear pattern: that “agreeable” people tend to have higher debt, higher default rates, and lower savings.
Matz comments that “People think that what it means to be agreeable is that you’re the person who, when you take your friends out, says: ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to pay.’ Or if you’re trying to buy a new car, you’re going to quickly say yes because you want to avoid conflict. What we see is that agreeable people care less about money, and that seems to be driving the effects.”
The teams began with financial data on nearly 3 million people, aggregated from national surveys, bank account data, and a longitudinal study that spanned 2,000 individuals over 20 years. These data were compared to results from two online surveys quantifying how “agreeable” people think about money.
Those surveys showed that people who tended to score high in “agreeableness” also tended to disagree with statements like “There are very few things money can’t buy” and “You can never have enough money.” This suggested that they tended to place less emphasis on money in their lives. When the survey participants were asked to report the amount of money they have saved, it was clear that those who placed less value on money tended to have less of it tucked away.
The bigger question, says Matz, is why nice people don’t care as much about money in the first place. She thinks it might come down to how difficult it is for nice people to choose between their own financial well-being and maintaining social relationships. This dilemma, she says, puts selfless people in conflict between saving their own money and helping someone else. But this conflict isn’t inescapable, she says: People can reframe their thinking about money to see it not just as a vehicle for self-advancement but also as a tool for helping others.
“I think we need to rethink the incentives we give people,” Matz says. “It’s not necessarily, ‘Save more so you can accumulate wealth and then buy yourself a new Ferrari.’ It should be ‘Save more so you can afford to give the things you want to give to your family’ or ‘You can make sure that if something happens, you actually have the safety net to make sure they’re okay.’”
She doesn’t want her study to convince nice people to stop picking up the tab for their friends, but she hopes it motivates kind people to try to start saving money not only for themselves but also the people they care about.
“If you think about money, don’t just think about something that’s attached to yourself,” she says. “Think about it as something that is going to influence the life of everyone around you. All the people that you hold dear, all the people that you love.”
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