Behavioral Finance

You can think of me as the shrink who possesses lots of fire about watching people get their financial houses in order. I'm standing by, willing to help by pulling out the extinguisher when things are on fire. I'm not afraid of the heat. 

Equipping individuals and couples to develop the skills and confidence needed to disentangle from relational and financial confusion matters to me. Directing these people to a path that leads them to the life they want, and the future they hope for, motivates me.

I've always favored a multi-disciplinary approach in my work as a psychologist. In non psychobabble, medical speak this translates to working with other doctors and treatment providers delivering care to the same patient. This was paramount to treatment outcome in a clinical setting. I believe the same rules apply to my work in the world of finance (which, by the way, is a world in which we all exist). I partner with members of the financial services industry to better understand how they can merge their left-brain economic expertise with the right-mind reality of the complexities of money psychology. My goal is to provide consultation that will translate to increased value for all parties participating in the transactions over time.

IN THE MATH CLASS OF LIFE, YOU'VE GOT A FRONT ROW SEAT. ATTENDANCE IS MANDATORY. ARE YOU AT THE TOP OF THE CLASS OR IN NEED OF A TUTOR? ARE YOUR PUPILS MAKING THE GRADE OR FALLING BEHIND?

The final exam is your life. Pull out your calculator. Can you actually afford to skip class?

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As a student, I dreaded the drudgery of math class. I was bored. My joy was not sparked. Working in finance never tipped the top of any career inventory I took as a teenager. My first job was picking rocks. Out of the dirt. And putting them in pails. I hated this job. Almost as much as I hated math. It was clear to me that my calling in life did not involve manual labor. From the time in my life in which I could encode and understand the discourse occurring across the dining room table on the family farm where I was raised, I knew money. As a six year old, I couldn’t describe to you the math or mechanics of crop futures or how to determine the best day to sell a bin of soybeans, but I was acutely aware that the market and weather in China had a direct impact on my parents’ mood on any given Tuesday.

While I may have abhorred math as a child, I was involved in money conversations. Early and often.

I was frequently reminded by my mother, the wise pearls of wisdom imparted to her by my grandmother, who was raised during the Great Depression: “Just because they have it, doesn’t mean they can afford it.” This adage was imprinted in my psyche before I even knew who the Jonses were or why it would behoove me to give up trying to keep up with them. Back when hydrogenated oils were the holy grail of cardiovascular heath, I had in my possession three yellow margarine containers marked “spend” “save” and “give.” I had a checking account in elementary school, and was expected to balance my checkbook monthly. I started my first IRA before I had my driver’s license.

And in case you were wondering, there were no silver spoons laying around anywhere on the dining room table.

Travel forward in time. There are a few degrees behind my name. I’m face-to-face with some of our nation’s biggest and brightest who are talking to me about the things they aren’t discussing with anyone else. Like their money.

I may have hated trigonometry, but I couldn’t escape the pervasive and overwhelming issue of the complexity of money in peoples’ lives. I view it as a means to an end. Not the end point itself. As a psychologist I have bore witness to the staggering ways in which it has potential creates angst, pain, and confusion. The curly-haired adolescent who would drag her feet to classes involving numbers suddenly could not escape the power and reach of money math as she practiced psychology.

Finally, an equation I could get excited about. Behavioral Finance.

Economic principles make theoretic sense. Straightforward math should make dollars. We like to cling to logic and reason to organize our lives and inform our decisions and behavior. The rational, left side of our brain likes how clean things are when the universe cooperates according to a systematic, predictable, calculation. Yet, research has shown that when it comes to money and markets, things get turned inside out. Rules that win games in other areas in our lives do not apply here. When dollar signs are involved, the right side of our brain has a proclivity to slide into the drivers seat and do some pretty damaging things if left unchecked.

It doesn’t take Freud to figure out that I, like all of us, was impacted by my own money story. There is value in understanding how these experiences shape who we are and what we do with our dollars and cents.

I also posit that there is a great need for increased financial literacy in our culture.  High schoolers are learning algebra, yet there is nothing on their report card accounting for learning how to wisely spend, save, and invest.

Developing and understanding about how all of us – regardless of upbringing – are impacted by cognition and affect when it comes to financial behavior would do a great deal to allow people to up-level their financial game. In psychotherapy, I often work to fill in the gaps for language and understanding that wasn’t modeled early on. (Read: Fine is not a feeling. Weird is not a feeling. I will make you find and learn--if need be--a different word.). Gaps in understanding, modeling, and language can create gaping holes, tripping people up later on. There is a parallel between the importance of developing both emotional intelligence and financial intelligence. In both cases, it is better late than never.

more than math

meanwhile

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