The power of financial role models

Role models are important in many stages of life. Be it school years, on the sporting field or in your career, having a positive role model, someone to compare yourself to and measure your progress against, can be a powerful and positive influence.

But what about your financial position? Do you have someone that you compare your financial well-being against?  If so, are you ahead or behind?

For people approaching retirement a sense of financial security is important not just in monetary terms but also in terms of their overall sense of happiness and well-being.

Stepping off the employment treadmill can be both liberating and a recipe for heightened levels of anxiety.

At Morningstar’s annual adviser conference in Chicago this year, Sarah Newcomb, their senior behaviour scientist, gave a presentation on what she terms “the comparison trap” and looked at research that shows where people believe they rank relative to others has a greater effect on happiness than their absolute level of income.

Interestingly, she also pointed to research that people who spend a lot of time on social media sites can have lower levels of well-being and life satisfaction.

The glib answer to this is to stop comparing ourselves to others – and perhaps cut down the social media time – but the counter to that is a body of research that identifies what Newcomb says is an innate need as humans. To assess our social and personal worth when there is no objective means to do so, we look to people similar to us to inform an assessment.

In common parlance we know that phenomenon as “keeping up with the Joneses“.

What is interesting about this discussion is that it is not simply about the dollars. There is a significant emotional component involved when we are discussing financial well-being. Newcomb says we all probably know someone who is financially well off but not as happy or content with their lot as you would expect.

Rather than saying stop to the natural human trait of comparison, what the Morningstar research has tried to do is look at ways investors – and their advisers – can reframe the mindset to make it a more positive process. Because our tendency is to compare ourselves to people who have more, in Newcomb’s words most of us appear to be actively making ourselves feel bad about our own financial circumstances by always looking up at people who have more.

While the concept of a role model/mentor is something that is positive overall, what the Morningstar research is pointing to is the need to thoughtfully pick the person you are going to measure yourself against.

As Newcomb says, by changing the target and direction of our social comparisons, we can create more positive emotions with our finances. “This might not change your economic reality, but it could improve your quality of life. And feeling more secure with your financial well-being could have beneficial long-term effects by eliminating fear-based behaviours, such as performance-chasing and panic selling, which could put you in a better position to achieve long-term investing success.”

WANT MORE INFORMATION?

Speak to us about how we can assist you to secure a bright financial future for you and your family by contacting Fionne McKillop at McKillop Financial Planning on (02) 9542 2904 or email fionne@mckillopfp.com.au

Fionne McKillop is principal financial planner at McKillop Financial Planning and owns her own law firm McKillop Legal, which is expert in estate planning, business succession and commercial law.

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Content contained within this site and any related sites including, but not limited to, our Facebook page, Twitter profile and any LinkedIn profiles of our financial planners is general information only and is not advice, financial planning, legal or otherwise

This article was prepared by Integrated Planning Systems Pty Limited ABN 21 051 429 184 trading as McKillop Financial Planning, an Authorised Representative of GWM Adviser Services Limited ABN 96 002 071 749 trading as MLC Financial Planning, Australian Financial Services Licensee, 105 – 153 Miller St, North Sydney NSW 2060, a member of the National Australia Bank Group of companies. The information is current as at 01 August 2018.

The article does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Accordingly, you should consider how appropriate the information is to you with regard to your personal circumstances. You may wish to obtain an adviser’s assistance, tax and/or legal advice to make this assessment. Before buying any financial product, you should read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for that product and consider the contents of the PDS before making a decision about whether to acquire the product.

Opinions constitute our judgment at the time of issue and are subject to change. Neither, the Licensee or any of the National Australia Group of companies, nor their employees or directors give any warranty of accuracy, nor accept any responsibility of errors or omissions for this document.

GWM Adviser Services Ltd is not responsible for the advice and services provided by McKillop Legal. Fionne McKillop is a director of McKillop Legal Pty Ltd and as a result, will receive distributions and/or other benefits from McKillop Legal Pty Ltd.

Written by Robin Bowerman, Head of Market Strategy and Communications at Vanguard.

Source : Vanguard June 2018

Reproduced with permission of Vanguard Investments Australia Ltd via ClientComm.

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