Keeping up with the Joneses

Last week we had an amazing group of people involved in our Behavioural Economics Lab for finance and fintech as part of the Spark Festival

The collective financial goals we worked on were to help people to save, control their spending, contribute towards their superannuation, and engage with their overall finances.

As we explored the behavioural barriers to achieving these goals, I was surprised at the one big factor that kept coming up: “Keeping up with the Joneses.”

Of course we talked about discounting the future, habits, and hot states, but there was something vulnerable, honest and cathartic about raising our desire to keep up with the people around us. It was as if we’d touched on a hidden shame.

The psychology here involves a mix of social comparison, status anxiety, social norms and herding. Perhaps most interestingly it points to the discomfort of being open about money and the perception that everyone else is doing just fine. Many of us are walking around in our own personal financial hell.

When thinking about “keeping up with the Joneses,” it may pay to be mindful that you’re not alone. Australian’s are in record household debt, and one in three are experiencing debilitating financial stress.

Given our instinct for social comparison and easy misperceptions of other people’s financial well being, we should all probably have an honest conversation with ourselves - and each other. It can only help.

Helping people secure their financial future through facilitating these conversations is one of the things Zuper is doing through our monthly event, The Fin Gym in partnership with General Assembly. The Fin Gym is a place where people can come learn, chill, and ask any embarrassing questions in a safe, welcoming place.

Beyond this Zuper will be giving you new tools to help you along your way. Like Zena, our always on chatbot, who can answer all your money related questions, any time.

Jones is the second most common surname in Australia. Smith is the first. But the Nguyens, Chans, Patels, Singhs and Ahmeds are rising.

Let’s aspire to move on from being as miserable as the Joneses and keep it as real as the Smiths, Nguyens, Chans, Patels, Singhs and Ahmeds.

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Kris White

Kris White is the Chief Behavioural Officer at Zuper. Using behavioural science and evolutionary psychology his goal is to help the Zuper community increase their wealth and wellbeing.

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