How Your Personality can Destroy Your Wealth

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Your personality and other personal traits may have more of an impact on how fast you spend your retirement savings than factors such as your age, marital status, desire to leave an inheritance, and whether you continue to work during retirement according to a recently released study of retirees undertaken by financial planning professors Sarah Asebedo and Christopher Browning of Texas Tech University.

They found that two traits – conscientiousness and financial self-efficacy – had the strongest relationship with the rate at which people used up their retirement savings. Conscientiousness is being organized, thorough, hardworking and cautious, while financial self-efficacy is a sense of resilience and control over financial situations. People with these traits used up their savings much more slowly.

On the other hand, people who are more open to new experiences (for example, those who are creative, imaginative, adventurous and curious); more agreeable (for example, those who are sympathetic, caring, warm and helpful); and more neurotic (for example, people who are frequently nervous, worried, moody and are not calm) were more likely than others to use up their retirement savings at a greater rate. People who experienced a lot of negative emotions in the past month — such as being afraid, scared, upset, frustrated, guilty, ashamed, bored, hostile, jittery, nervous, sad or distressed — were also more likely to withdraw at a higher rate.

According to the authors, greater neuroticism and negative emotions can result in impulsive financial behaviour and poorly timed investment decisions. Those who are greater in agreeableness tend to be warm, sympathetic, accommodating, and caring and therefore may prioritise giving financial support to others (e.g., friends, family, charity) over preserving their wealth. However, a high withdrawal is not necessarily a bad thing if it doesn’t lead to running out of money. It may instead indicate a life well lived.

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