Why Understanding Your “Financial Personality” Is Important In The Financial Planning Process
By Hugh Massie
For many of us, the topic of money is a powerful trigger of positive and negative emotions that can get in the way of making optimal personal finance and wealth-creation decisions. The confusion and stress can even block us from seeing our real financial needs and goals. Further, many of us are stuck with a lot of misconceptions from society, the financial planning industry, the education system and our families about successfully creating wealth.
We are all uniquely wired to make financial decisions. Life is not linear. How we each get to our goals will vary because our financial personalities are unique. What works for someone else might not be right for you.
Your attitude to money and wealth creation, and ultimately a quality life, will depend on your relationship with yourself and others. It is a lot more than just your risk tolerance or how you do a budget. The starting point to discovering your money and wealth attitudes is to understand the core of who you are, and then the environment, values and education that have shaped your financial personality.
I’ve heard people say, “Oh, I don’t care about money.” What they usually mean is that they don’t care much about personal possessions. They think that caring about money is greedy, materialistic. Nevertheless, in all likelihood they do care about security, education, health care, retirement, free time – all of which are tied to money.
Similarly, whenever a person seeks financial advice or asks a financial question, there is generally a life question triggering it, e.g. “What return will I get on that investment?” is asked when the real question is, “Can I afford to send the kids to private school?”. Or someone might ask, “How much money is enough?” when the deeper question is “How much can I afford to give to philanthropic or charitable causes?”
In effect, the financial personality is always in operation, continuously processing life and financial issues on an integrated basis. Further, a primary driver of a person’s financial personality is that person’s natural “hard-wired” behavioral style as it deeply impacts every aspect of how he or she processes life. Of course, there are other external factors (such as market risks) that also need to be addressed in the financial planning process, but the most powerful influences are related to human behavior in some way, including our relationships with family members, business associates and our advisors. How often does poor communication get in the way of relationships and hence sound financial decisions?
Differences between family members are more behavioral and not always about money, as such, although the emotional forces that are triggered by money will expose the differences. For couples and families, understanding and having buy-in to the source of similarities and differences is significant, and this means that understanding the behavioral styles of each family member is important. Why not have a family meeting or family retreat to address these differences? Otherwise the risk is that each person will work around the other, resulting in financial decisions that are not aligned.
So the approach that I recommend involves addressing personal understanding before starting on the money issues. Getting this right will pay off in the long-term. Understanding yourself will have positive benefits for all aspects of your life, including helping you better understand the life and financial motivations of others.
It is my hope that people will ultimately learn to stop viewing financial decisions as an isolated “money” matter and recognize financial decisions as life decisions, for which one needs alignment to a life purpose. To make those decisions you must firstly understand how you have been naturally “hard-wired” from birth to around 3 years old. This will start you off on the right path to enable you to develop much greater personal insight and to truly integrate your financial decisions with your life journey for an overall quality life.
Hugh Massie is the president and founder of Financial DNA Resources, Inc. which developed Financial DNA®, a behavioral based discovery process.
Hugh is also the author of a book: “Financial DNA®: Discover Your Financial Personality for a Quality Life”.
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