Loneliness doesn’t only prey on your soul, dudes, but it also might prey on your finances.
I thought about this as I was down in Florida basking in the sun, the surf and the good friends, along with the memories they bring and the memories we form each year.
It’s not like I have a life filled with friends. I’ve got acquaintances, and lots of them, but very few actual, close friends. And that’s rather the way I like it.
Which means that I’m not all that lonely, for which I am thankful quite often.
And a good thing, too. Because, according to some rather recent research, people who define themselves as lonely are more likely to make risky financial decisions.
People who feel socially excluded tend to make riskier financial decisions than their popular peers. The effects are so marked, says the scientist who led these studies, that major financial decisions such as choosing a mortgage or pension should never be made in the wake of a major social upset, such as a relationship break-up or even a serious argument with friends.
Rod Duclos, assistant professor of marketing at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said the findings, which he presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Hawaii, “should come as a word of caution to consumers” and singled out older people as being particularly vulnerable.
Many patients find that it’s a good idea to bring along a friend for an especially important medical appointment, someone who can listen with a bit more detachment to what the doctor is saying. This second pair of ears can often hear the important things that a more emotionally involved patient might miss.
In the same manner, Duclos recommended that people might want to bring along a friend to important financial appointments. Not so much as to provide a second set of ears and eyes, as in the medical model, but so that the feeling of belonging could combat any sense of loneliness, which leads to making risky decisions.
There’s your practical application. But what’s really going on here?
Duclos explains that in a world where there are two basic means to get what we want, popularity and money, the unpopular place a stronger emphasis on cash to smooth their path through life, and are thus more willing to take big risks that carry bigger potential rewards. His findings add to a series of studies from all over the world, showing that our love affair with money varies according to how socially connected we feel.
Compared with the “in-crowd”, those who feel socially adrift are less inclined to donate to needy orphans, show a stronger desire for money, and feel more anxious when thinking about their last spending spree. The lonelier you are, the more likely you are to splash out on accessories signifying group membership, such as branded clothing or leisurewear with sport logos, to boost a sense of belonging. Fascinatingly, that anxiety and stress can be partly relieved by allowing people to touch real money.
A very important bit of advice there. I’m thinking the young dudes and dudettes might need to be insulated from this a bit. Not that we should sit them down and tell them they need to make sure they’re popular so they will make good financial decisions, or, even worse, the opposite. Can you imagine?
“Son, you’re not a popular kid. In fact, most of the other dudes run the other way when you come near. So I’d like you to be especially careful when you decide to spend or make money. Okay? Good talk. Good talk.”
Bad parent. No cookie for you.
Still, it might be something for us, as parents and as people, to keep our eyes on.
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