Did you see the movie, “Forrest Gump?” If so, you may remember this – one of Forrest’s many profound quotes: “My mama always said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’”
That’s exactly how I feel whenever I field questions for Savvy Ladies’ Financial Hotline; I never know what questions I’m going to get.
Yet, the questions tend to be more similar than dissimilar.
And, they are questions you’re likely to have as well. Which is why I’m giving you a glimpse into my hotline experience this week – by highlighting two callers with similar questions, even though their demographic profiles are as different as different can be. For example:
- There’s a thirty-year age difference;
- They are located in different parts of the country;
- They are of different financial means — one is a millionnaire, the other isn’t; one works with an investment advisor and the other doesn’t – she’s a self-directed do-it-yourselfer.
However despite these differences, they both started our conversation with, “I lost money in 2008, and I panicked and sold most if not all of my stocks.” This was then followed by: How can I get back to investing and not lose what money I have left?
What they didn’t realize is that the underlying premise of their two-part question represented two (2) common money management mistakes…
Mistake #1 – They confused a negative (or low) return with poor performance
Fortunately for you and me they are not one in the same! However, this only holds true if you remember that investment return is not the same as investor return, and you don’t prematurely take action in response to the former.
As you know, the market goes up and down; as does your investment’s market value. But it is false to presume that when the market is down, so is your performance. Or, that when the market is up so is your performance.
Part vs. Whole
I talk about this concept whenever I teach a technical class on investing. And, I like to use the subway as an analogy to illustrate my point. My subway stop is Grand Army Plaza; on the numbers 2 or 3 trains, it’s about seven (7) stops from the first stop in Manhattan – Wall Street. The ride from GAP to WS represents my investor return. However, the end-to-end points on either the #2 or #3 trains represent the entire train route – or investment return.
For these ladies, when the market dropped, they panicked, wanted to feel safe, and sold some or all of their stock – preferring the comfort of cash to watching the market value of their portfolios dip any further. Emotionally, I get it. But by selling as they did, when they did, and why they did, they locked in their “loss” – making it real rather than simply a loss on paper.
Oftentimes, people concentrate on investment performance, when they would be better served by focusing on their performance – aka their part of the train ride!
Into which camp do you fall?
Mistake #2 – They asked the wrong questions
Admittedly, this is a tough one because you don’t know what you don’t know and you don’t know you’ve asked the wrong question until you ask the one you have. Get it?
Here’s how this played out with these two callers:
One caller asked, “How do I invest?” After several follow-up questions to help narrow down this broad question, my suggestion to her was to NOT invest…at least not right now! Not the response she was seeking, but due to her circumstances, her money shouldn’t be in the market. Therefore, a better question for her would have been: “When should I invest?“
The other caller – the one who works with an investment advisor – asked: What should I ask him about his (money management) performance? Here’s what I suggested as a better question: “What will you do to protect me from myself so that when the market dips (as it will), I won’t sell my holdings, convert to cash, and then later regret that choice?
The question you have vs. the one you need
Are you asking the “better” question? How do you know?
In an odd way, investing is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re going to get. However, asking better questions and guarding against what I describe as performance disillusion are ways to protect yourself from two (2) common and costly money management mistakes! Plus, you increase the likelihood of you getting more of what you want and less of what you don’t.
Are you an extravert or introvert?
I suspect it was fairly easy for you to answer this question as you have probably been aware of your general personality type for quite some time thanks to comments from family members, teachers, and friends. I’ll leave it to those of you who are psychologists and psychotherapists to tell us whether our personalities are innate, constructed by environment and choices, or a combination.
But as a lay person there are a few things I’ve come to believe about personalities: a) others are quick to ascribe “who” we are as early in our lives as birth; and b) our behavior and approach to life usually tends to live up to this description – even if we aren’t aware of the influence.
You might also know your personality type because you took an assessment. Perhaps you did so in college or as part of the recruitment process for a job. The most common tests given are DiSC and Myers Briggs, with each using a different set of metrics to evaluate and describe your dominant behavior and preferences.
Since your personality shapes so much, from how you view the world; to what choices you believe are available to you; to what you believe you deserve; to the actions you take, to name a few, it makes sense that there would be a sub-area of your personality related to money.
But while it may feel familiar to have someone ask – “Are you an extravert or introvert?” – when was the last time someone asked, “What’s your money personality?” Hmmm…I think I hear silence!
Within behavioral finance circles, this is a common topic of discussion. Outside…not so much. And that needs to change.
The insight from knowing your money personality is extremely valuable because your money personality affects your attitudes about money; your behavior with it; how you describe and frame your financial choices and the consequences thereof; and your feelings about money overall (e.g., shame, guilt, fear…).
In other words, your money personality shapes your approach to earning, saving, spending, philanthropy, and investing. It shapes how you manage the ways in which money impacts your life.
Like general personality types, there are several money personality types depending upon the source you reference. If you use the Carl Jung archetype, there are eight (8) basic money types. Many thanks to Dr. Barbara Nusbaum for the definitions and corresponding descriptions, created by Deborah Price, that follow:
- Innocent – Takes the ostrich approach to money, doesn’t want to see what’s going on. Would rather not be responsible for financial decisions or money management. Seeks safety and security and longs to be rescued.
- Victim – Often blames their financial situation on external factors. Tends to feel they are being acted upon and doesn’t see options and feel empowered to make life better. Often has a negative, self-fulfilling prophecy. Can often feel resentment. May have suffered genuine difficulties, but has trouble getting past them.
- Warrior – Takes charge; is goal oriented. Successful in work, focused, decisive & in control. Has keen insight, judgment, powerful, driven & financially self-actuated.
- Matyr – Takes care of others’ needs, and often neglects his/her own. Tends to be self-sacrificing and long-suffering. May be financially generous but often has strings attached. Can have boundary issues. Often needs to learn to say no and to create the ability to receive, rather than give.
- Fool – Looks for a windfall and tends to take financial shortcuts. Relatively fearless, often impulsive and can get caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment. May lack discipline, be restless or overly generous. Needs to develop patience and to slow down their decision-making process. Is often a (careless) risk-taker.
- Creator/Artist – Often on a spiritual or artistic path. Finds the material world difficult to live in. Can be financially detached or have a conflicted love/hate relationship with money.
- Tyrant – Can use money to manipulate and control people, events and circumstances. Has difficulty being collaborative. Can be secretive. May not feel at peace with him/herself. Money makes them feel safe and in control. Has a great need to be in control.
- Magician – (meant in the Jungian archetypal way- not pulling the rabbit out of the hat!) – The ideal money type. Knows how to transform his/her financial reality and create a holistically satisfying and successful life- both financially and personally. S/he feels secure and empowered, as there is an awareness that s/he can shape his/her own future in a personally meaningful and purposeful way. Armed with knowledge of the past, s/he has made some peace with their personal history and uses this knowledge to achieve financial/ life goals.
From the options above, which personality trait best describes your relationship with money? Leave a comment and let us know if your money personality is serving you. Remember, we operate here in a no judgment zone…
p.s. if you want to deepen your awareness of your money personality, Dr. Barbara Nusbaum and I are co-facilitating a module – “Get to Know Your Money Personality & Dominant Financial Behaviors” on July 11th. It’s part of the six-week group coaching program, “What’s Your Money Story.” Stay tuned for more details.
p.p.s. have you registered for next week’s complimentary, content-rich webinar – “How to Make Personal Finance…Personal!”? Click here to discover why it’s time we stop universalizing financial tips & strategies and what you should do instead. I’d love to *see* you on June 13th at 8pm EST.
October 4 – 10, 2010 is financial planning week. According to the Financial Planning Association, at least. And I couldn’t help but wonder: a) how many people are even aware of this, b) if people know what constitutes a financial plan, or c) if they even have a one? Actually, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people are like me: Walking around with all of the elements of a plan, but not an actual document that is the plan.
To explain, it might be helpful to state the six (6) elements of a full financial plan as practiced by most financial planners (the parenthetical comments will be explained): Continue Reading…