Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Revew: Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes

I finished reading the book Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes and How to Correct Them; Lessons from the New Science of Behaviorial Economics By Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich about a week and a half or two weeks ago and wanted to share some thoughts. This was the book that I was trying to get from the library when I checked this one out, but the latest version wasn't available so I got the other one.  Then I decided that it would be a worthy read even if it is not the latest edition, then it became a matter of waiting for it to become available, which is always the hardest part.

As the name implies, this book talks not only about some money issues that people face, but also tries to offer some practical advice on how to change your behavior or habits to resolve those issues. I found the book to be a pretty easy, and quick, read with some interesting insights.  Here are some things from the book that may be helpful:

One quote that I liked in the book's introduction was "Sometimes people make mistakes because they behave like sheep, and sometimes they err because they behave like mules." In context, the authors say this because they are talking about how they will discuss both blindly going with the crowd on decisions, and how to avoid stubbornly going against things, even if would be good to go with it. But this line stuck with me because it really can apply, like many concepts in the book overall, to more than just money decisions.

Here are some concepts that were discussed, and their relevant tips that may help you if you do any of these:

-Mental Accounting, which is the tendency to treat money differently based on the source it comes from or what it is intended for, or to spend more on credit than you would with an outright cash purchase. As the authors point out, this can be very beneficial when it comes to making sure bills get paid because you have money set aside that won't get spent on random things, but not so beneficial when you treat windfall money differently than money you earn. (An example they give is a fictional woman who was a savvy investor with her own money who got an inheritance from her grandmother and refused to invest because her mental accounting viewed "Grandma's Money" as more sacred than her own. Her lack of investing that money would cost her thousands in  gains over the years.)

I know that I personally do some creative mental accounting (such as multiple savings accounts for different goals), but I try to keep it to the positive form of it (since all bills ARE paid, savings and investments are being funded, etc.), but if you do this and it's the not-so-positive version, they give recommendations like remembering that every dollar spends the same (so don't hold onto money from one source more than another), and using mental accounting to your advantage by using payroll deductions/direct deposit for savings, etc.

-Decision Paralysis- I've also seen this called Analysis Paralysis before, which I think sounds more interesting, and we ALL know what that is: Too much information means it's hard to make a choice or decision, and often we end up not doing anything for a while, if at all. Not like I would know anything about that... In addition to discussing some methods on how to deal with this (Like Automated investments, and reframing things in your mind to be more about what to REJECT rather than SELECT), they also started the chapter that discusses this by quoting Rush's Free Will; "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." And, really, how can you go wrong by quoting an awesome Rush song?

The book also discusses and attempts to help on several other things like Loss Aversion Mentality, Overconfidence, Confirmation Bias and more. Overall, I think this is a very worthwhile read.  I really like that the authors give easily digestible, and more importantly, actionable ideas on improving money situations (and as you read it and think about it, other areas of life, too).

This was the first version of the book, from 1995, so I don't know how much is different in the newer edition(s), but I am sure it would be just as beneficial (if not more so) as this one. If you are interested in this sort of information, I would recommend giving this book a peek.

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