Man caught in web

Behavior

Wrong People Seek Financial Info, Help

Most of the 1,000 people who took the financial well-being quiz posted here last year felt content with their situations. Their well-being score averaged 16.4 out of 20 points possible on the quiz.

This happy response completely conflicts with a statistically more reliable survey showing that three out of four Americans report feeling “financially stressed.” Our quiz makes no claim of representing the adult U.S. population and was taken by a hodgepodge of regular readers, Twitter followers and Facebook friends.

So why are Squared Away loyalists so content with their finances?

The blog is “attracting people who are in the action phase. I’m guessing they’re motivated and ready to move,” said Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist in Hawaii – he is both a certified financial planner and trained psychologist.

But the flip side of this is that those who do not seek out financial information and advice – and don’t take blog quizzes – are often “in total denial, and you’re probably not going to catch them,” he said.

Indeed, Klontz’s research has identified avoiding dealing with difficult money issues as among the unconscious behaviors that ensnare people who are in poor financial health, measured by being overloaded with debt or not saving for retirement.

For the avoiders, the psychology is that they know their behavior hurts them but feel it’s due to a character defect – “lazy, crazy, or stupid” – he said. “Shame keeps you stuck. If I’m such a terrible person, why should I try?  I’m not going to ask anyone for help.”

When people with money problems recognize the psychological underpinnings, he said, it can lead to changes that can end the pain.

The question for personal finance bloggers and financial advisers remains: how do we reach the people who can’t be reached?

Squared Away writer Kim Blanton invites you to follow us on Twitter @SquaredAwayBC. To stay current on our Squared Away blog, please join our free email list. You’ll receive just one email each week – with links to the two new posts for that week – when you sign up here.

2 Responses to Wrong People Seek Financial Info, Help

  1. Adrian says:

    In Australia, the advice industry has gone through great turmoil recently with government inquiries and press expose’s revealing a truly ‘rotten’ industry whose ethics and morality seem to have been modeled after barbarians. It is no wonder the general public (at least in Oz) steer clear of advice. The industry has shot its own self in the foot as a result of their greed at the expense of the public, sadly.

  2. Mike Erle says:

    Not a difficult conclusion to understand. We check our account balances when there is positive movement in the markets, step on the scale when we’re pretty sure we know we’re headed in the right direction.

    Possible answer, who wants to have your fears validated when there’s nothing you can do about it. If there’s too much month left after the pay is gone…