Erik and Zarak are joined by Dr. Sarah Newcomb, behavioral economist at Morningstar, an investment research firm committed to improving the wellbeing of investors through the use of research and software. Sarah’s personal passion and professional goal is to bring independent financial advice to populations that are currently underserved by the financial services industry, namely: women, low/moderate income households, and younger investors.
Sarah discusses the psychology of money and explores why smart people can make poor financial decisions. She outlines techniques to change one’s thinking, such as distinguishing between a “need” and a “strategy” to meet that need. A person may not need a car. What they need is transportation, and a car is one of several strategies to meet that need – all of which come along with a different price tag. Zarak doesn’t necessarily need to go to Starbucks every day. What he needs is to get out of the office for 15 minutes every afternoon, and Starbucks is just one strategy to meet that need. Sarah invokes Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to help us reevaluate what our true needs are, and why that can help us financially.
How can we create better habits? This is a question many of us ask ourselves as we enter the New Year and try to implement our resolutions (and stick with them). Life outcomes like exercising regularly, flossing, eating a healthy diet, studying hard in school, making wise financial decisions – why are better habits so hard to maintain? And what can we do in order to improve our chances of meeting these goals for ourselves?
In this week’s episode, Erik and Zarak tackle these questions with Dr. Katy Milkman, associate professor of behavioral economics at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. They discuss behavioral concepts like habits, incentives, motivation, rewards, consequences, accountability, and commitment devices. Katy brings an engineering background to her current focus on quantitative social science research, such as how to help people create lasting and positive behavior change.
One of the most relevant behavioral concepts to New Year’s is the fresh start effect – how at the start of new cycles in our lives, we feel extra motivated to tackle new goals. Entering a new period makes us feel like we have a separation from our past failures, and we have a renewed optimism to finally do the things we want to do but never got around to. According to Katy, emphasizing milestones or life events (big or small) can be effective motivators for behavior change.