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5 Reasons It Is So Difficult to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

5 Reasons It Is So Difficult to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Most of us start the year with high hopes for the health of our bodies, minds, careers, and — of course—bank accounts. But you probably don’t need a statistician to tell you that when it comes to keeping your New Year’s resolutions, the odds are stacked against you.

A popular study published in the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology found that while nearly half of Americans usually make resolutions, just 8% are successful in keeping them, and about one-quarter report that they fail to meet their goals year after year.

[Are you ready to become debt-free in 2017? MagnifyMoney has created a FREE online guide to help you get out of debt.] 

Why do these plans fall apart so easily? We talked to two certified financial planners to find out what held people back from sticking to their self-improvement plans in years past — and what can be done to overcome these obstacles in 2017.

No. 1: Your resolutions are unrealistic or unclear.

Vague, lofty goals like “lose weight” or “save money” can do more harm than good; undefined targets can leave you overwhelmed and discouraged when you don’t immediately succeed. That’s why resolutions should start small, according to Kristen Euretig, certified financial planner and founder of Brooklyn Plans in Brooklyn, N.Y., a company specializing in helping today’s women with their finances. “Take into account a realistic but ambitious goal that can be achieved in a year and would be forward momentum toward an even larger goal,” says Euretig. “Buying a house may be too much to tackle in a year, but saving the first 10% of a down payment could be a realistic starting point that would also be quite an accomplishment.”

Another trick to keep you from getting overwhelmed? Be as specific as possible. Euretig recommends breaking up big resolutions into defined subgoals with set deadlines. Rather than resolving to pay off student debt, says Euretig, start by figuring out if your payment plan is working to your advantage. That way, you’ll better understand the time and effort required to reach your goal and appreciate any incremental progress along the way.

No. 2: Your resolutions don’t align with your needs or lifestyle.

Ever find yourself rationalizing your way out of a behavioral change? Maybe you can’t go to the gym today because you have important errands to run, or you neglect that book on your nightstand because there is a movie on Netflix you’ve been meaning to watch. Your reasons may be legitimate, but using them as a means of abandoning your self-improvement plan is detrimental to you in the long term.

Melissa Ellis, certified financial planner at Sapphire Wealth Planning in Overland Park, Kan., knows that a thorough understanding of your current behaviors and lifestyle can help you anticipate the setbacks you will face throughout the year and think up solutions that will keep you on track when challenges arise. If your goal is to max out your Roth IRA, Ellis notes, you need to make sure you have the discretionary income to make it happen; if you know at the start of the year that you’ll have to cut back somewhere else in your budget (like your take-out habit) to find the extra money, you’re more likely to stick to the plan.

No. 3: You sacrifice your future well-being for your present happiness.

Most of us treat our future self as a different person. Unfortunately, it’s often a person we don’t seem to care much about. This phenomenon — our willingness to sacrifice our future well-being for immediate gratification — is called myopia temporal discounting. It’s one reason why many people continually put off diets, start saving for retirement later than they should, or rack up credit card debt for items or experiences they can’t afford. In fact, credit cards are the ultimate trap for people who like to live in the present vs. think about the future.

“It’s easier to put off the intangible, because it’s not an immediate need,” says Ellis. Try connecting with your future self by visualizing what you would like your life to look like at age 40, 60, or 75, and think about what steps, however small, you can take today to make that vision a reality.

The Time Personality Quiz - Be Well Versed In Your Financial Future

You should know your financial personality — that is, how you perceive time and how that perception impacts your financial  habits — before you make any financial resolutions. The better you understand your strengths and weaknesses, the more likely you will be to succeed.

Take the Time Personality quiz here > 

No. 4: You don’t hold yourself accountable.

Can you remember what your resolutions for last year were? It typically only takes about three weeks for most of us to get back into our old routines and forget all our intentions for the new year, especially if you don’t have a time frame for achieving the goal or a way to measure your progress.

“The best way to stick to resolutions is to make them real and to hold yourself accountable,” says Euretig. “Write goals down. Make a vision board. Put a picture of the vision board as the wallpaper of your phone. Share your resolutions with an accountability partner who you can check in with along the way or with your social media community.” Setting aside time each week or each month to check in with yourself about your success will help you remember the resolutions throughout the year. If you need an extra boost, tap a friend or family member who can help remind you to stay on track or, even better, join you on the journey.

No. 5: You forget to reward yourself.

It’s easy to lose motivation as the year goes on and you settle into old routines. Any sense of urgency goes away, and you can end up putting off behavioral changes indefinitely until it’s January again.

That’s why Ellis recommends rewarding yourself throughout the year if you are successfully sticking to your resolution. If you meet your goals of, say, paying off a department store credit card, maybe buy yourself a pair of shoes — but be sure to do it in cash, so you’re not buying something you can’t afford and racking up more debt. “It’s something concrete you can look at to remind you that you have made a change,” Ellis says.

Whether your goals are about money, your career, relationships, or fitness, it’s important to remember that good things typically don’t come easily. Taking time to set the right goals, define an execution plan, and regularly track your progress will make sticking to your resolutions a little less painful — and a lot more likely to happen.

Are you ready to become debt-free in 2017? MagnifyMoney has created a FREE online guide to help you get out of debt.

Adrianna Gregory
Adrianna Gregory |

Adrianna Gregory is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Adrianna here

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Time Perspective

4 Tips for Financial Balance When You’re Future Focused

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.


When I took MagnifyMoney’s Time Personality Quiz, my results got a little sassy with me. “Even your mom probably tells you to live a little,” they said snidely. (Okay, they didn’t say anything snidely but I couldn’t help but imply the tone.)

But the thing is, those results are accurate. I’m extremely future-focused when it comes to both time and money. That means I delay gratification today so I can save more for tomorrow – to the point where I’ve admittedly missed out on worthwhile opportunities because I wanted to invest my money instead of spend it.

“A balance of focus on the future with a dash of living life to the fullest in the present will help keep your mind and bank account well balanced,” advised my results from the Time Personality Quiz. I think they’re right – and that I could be doing a little better with that whole balance thing.

Are You Future Focused?

You might be too future-focused yourself if you’ve ever been afraid or stressed about spending money, even when you had the cash in the bank. Your focus on future goals may leave you neglecting your present wellbeing if you haven’t taken a trip for fun in years, or bought something new for yourself, or invested in different experiences.

You may also be too future-focused if you can relate to one of my worst habits, and one I’m trying hard to break this year. I hate to say it, but more than a handful of times I’ve caught myself wishing away the present because I wanted to hurry up and achieve a future goal.

Because financial independence is a big goal, I tend to periodically catch myself thinking, in just 10 more years I’ll get to do X, Y, and Z [that I’m putting off now] because I’ll be financially independent!

It’s easy to get caught up in all your big future plans and miss out on enjoying the present as it happens when you’re too future-focused.

It’s Not All Bad News!

This is not to say being mindful of the future is a bad thing. It’s important to think about your future stability and security, and to have a plan for how you’ll achieve your big, long-term goals.

But the goal should be, as my Time Personality Quiz results reminded me, finding a balance between enjoying and appreciating the present while saving and investing for the future.

My resolution for 2015 was to allow myself to live more in the present in order to find more balance. Here are the action steps I’m taking to help me achieve this and develop a better mindset about time and my financial goals.

Practice Gratitude

The quickest way for me to stop stressing about financial goals and what I can do right this minute to achieve them: practice gratitude. Nothing grounds me in the present faster than taking a moment to ask myself, what good things happened last week? What can you appreciate about your finances and your situation today?

This helps me change my thought process and patterns. Before, I thought about financial independence and what I can do to get there even faster.

I’d start thinking of ways I could save more money, earn more money – and then I’d cut back on something small that I could have enjoyed in the present (like attending an event) or I’d spend the next week working as many hours as I could to earn more money.

Now, I think about financial independence and I appreciate that it will realistically take me at least 10 more years to achieve it. Then I go grab a notebook and write down all the good things that happened last week, all the things I’m happy about today, and everything that I’m looking forward to doing in the next week.

This helps me stay grounded and focused on what’s happening now. I’ve done what I can to get myself set up for my big financial goal, and the only factor missing now is consistent action over time. Instead of wishing away that time, I’m practicing gratitude and not taking any day for granted.

Keep a Close Eye on Your Budget

My budget is a helpful tool when it comes to reining in my future-focused mindset. It allows me to track my spending, both on necessary expenses and discretionary purchases.

At the end of the month, I can see exactly where my money went. I know how much I saved, how much I had to pay for bills, and how much I spent on wants.

This enables me to do two important things:

  • Understand exactly how much money is usually available for spending on fun stuff, so I can allocate some money for present spending without feeling guilty or stressed
  • Celebrate the amount I put into savings and investments

Balancing the present with the future doesn’t mean I can’t get excited about the progress I make on a regular basis, and a budget helps highlight that for me. I can allow myself to feel happy about those future goals I’m working toward – but I can also see that I do have a set amount of cash I can put toward enjoying life today, too.

Prioritize Wants and Needs

Thanks to practicing gratitude and appreciating what I do have, I find that I want less stuff on a day to day basis. This makes it really easy to forego a lot of little things – and allows me to prioritize wants and needs according to what I truly value.

I prioritize travel, books, and new experiences. When I want to enjoy one of these things, I do not allow myself to feel guilty about it. This ties into keeping a budget: because I track my finances carefully, I know I have a set amount to spend on things simply because I want to.

This makes it easier to allow myself to make purchases that, before, I would have agonized over. I save for wants that I value and prioritize above all others, and then spend on those things in the present – without feeling guilty about it.

I also do this intentionally. I still avoid impulsive purchases so I’m not stuck with things I don’t need (or even want!) and a whole lot of buyer’s remorse.

Have a Plan

It’s hard to stop worrying and focusing on the future when you have no clue what the heck it looks like. Sure, no one has a crystal ball and there’s no telling what any one of our tomorrows could bring.

But you can create a plan that you want to follow and enjoy. This helps give some structure to your time – and once you set up your plan and automate your action steps, that means you can worry less about the future and enjoy today more.

My plan is, as I mentioned, to reach financial independence. Once I achieve this milestone, I want to live abroad and travel frequently.

After crunching the numbers, I know I need to invest at least $2,000 per month for the next 10 years to reach financial independence. As long as I’m doing this, I’ll achieve my goal. I can then automate my investment contributions – and use the rest of my time to focus on making my present just as great as I’m working to make my future.

I’m finding more balance with living in the present moment while still taking care of my financial future by practicing gratitude, keeping a budget, prioritizing my wants and needs, and creating a plan I can automate. You can take these steps to focus on that balance between your present wants and your future needs, too.

Discover how your time-perspective impacts your relationship with money! 

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Kali Hawlk
Kali Hawlk |

Kali Hawlk is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kali at


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Time Perspective

Are You Healthy Because of Your Financial Habits?

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Credit Check 1

Yes, you are healthy because of your financial habits. Or at least that’s the conclusion of a recent study the New York Times highlighted by researchers from the Olin Business School at Washington University.

They found that the people who decide to contribute to 401k plans are more likely to act on poor health indicators, even when adjusting for factors like income and initial health levels. They showed improvements in negative blood test results 27% more often than those who don’t contribute to 401ks.

They say it’s because of an “underlying individual time-discounting trait” – which makes perfect sense to us.

Our recent global study of time personality and money decisions with Dr. Philip Zimbardo supports that time perspective has a profound impact on personal finances.

Dr. Zimbardo’s Time Perspective Inventory measures five dimensions, which explain our individual views of time. And these drive every action we take.

They are:

Past positive: Our degree of positive memories

Past negative: Our degree of negative past memories

Present hedonism: Enjoying the present

Present fatalism: Having a feeling of helplessness

Future orientation: Acting on future outcomes

People who aggressively contribute to 401ks are future oriented.

They spend disproportionate amounts of their time thinking about and acting on things that they perceive will better their futures.

That naturally includes things like 401k contributions and following doctors’ orders when a test comes back with a negative result.

But is being future oriented the best thing for your finances?

It’s rare that contributing to a 401k is a bad thing in itself.

But we have found that future oriented people don’t have materially better financial acumen or outcomes, at least when it comes to avoiding the most damaging pitfalls – bankruptcy, foreclosure, and late payments (we did not explore investment returns).

That’s in part because future oriented people may be tempted into other, riskier investment vehicles that may lose them money. Such as choosing to buy a home they will ‘grow into’ that they later cannot afford, or chasing stock picks.

They may also be more prone to buying more insurance than they really need, siphoning cash away from everyday necessities.

Rather, a balanced time perspective that has some heightened level of future orientation is healthy. But extreme levels can undermine impact.

The researchers say that time traits are difficult to change.

And while it is challenging, we don’t believe it’s impossible.

The first step to change is an understanding your own time personality and its dominant traits.

You can take our quiz to find out your own time personality at

You’ll get tips on how to avoid the traps that financial products use to prey on your time personality type, and that awareness can put you on a path to better health, financially and personally.

Have questions for us? Get in touch via TwitterFacebook, email or in the comment section below!


Brian Karimzad
Brian Karimzad |

Brian Karimzad is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brian at


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Time Perspective

Once-Bitten, Twice Shy: How Past-Negative People Should Handle Their Money

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Once upon a time, a generation of people grew up to be past-negative individuals. They had a great distrust of the banks, were wary of investing in the stock market and embraced frugal mentalities – their mainstream music even glorified thrift shopping.

We’re not talking about Depression era babies; we’re addressing the millennials who experienced the Great Recession.

The many millennials graduated college and entered a job market, which either fell out from underneath them or made it incredibly difficult to find a job. A substantial percent of the generation struggled with student loan debt; others saw their parents or grandparents lose their retirement funds in the stock market. It’s understandable why the generation tends to be once-bitten, twice shy about money. They are hung up on negative memories and are overly cautious towards the future.

Typically, past-negative people are those who live a life of regret and focus on their unhappy memories instead of enjoying the present. While not all Millennials are past-negative individuals, a frightening portion of the generation are past negative about their finances and prefer to “invest” in cash.

Frugality and thrift shopping may be great financial habits, but an overly cautious approach to money can cause issues in the future.

The Financial Implications of Being Past Negative

Historically, being a past-negative person has been viewed as strictly an unfortunate scenario for a person’s mental wellbeing, but it can actually play a positive role in their financial health.

People who are past negative (or once bitten, twice shy) are less likely to fall into financial trouble because of their overly cautious nature. They evaluate consequences and financially plan for the future, which means they likely always pay their bills on time, may have a retirement account and likely have savings, an emergency fund and budget their spending.

The downside of being once bitten, twice shy is the tendency towards being overly cautious with money.

Past-negative people who have debt are likely managing it well by making on-time payments, but they should still shop it around and look for the best rate possible.

Past-negative people are less likely to succumb to financial issues like bankruptcy, foreclosures or massive debt – but they’re more likely to miss out on returns from investing. The desire to stick with the status-quo and stay within their comfort zone, often makes past-negative people hesitant to invest in the stock market or take any risks with their money. They’d prefer to just tuck money away in a savings account instead of taking a chance on losing money in the stock market.

Sure, this mentality will likely help avoid financial ruin, but it also means missing out on return on investments and making money in the stock market. Money just stored away in a savings account, especially earning only 0.01% interest, won’t be beating inflation. Their money would actually be losing purchasing power.

Year-to-year there may be some dips in the market, but a diversified portfolio will be much better in the long-run than money just stored in a low-interest savings account.

Practical Tips to Harness your Past-Negative Feelings:

1. Switch to save: If you’re stuck in debt, then don’t expect an existing lender to help. You can reach out and shop around elsewhere to find a better deal.

2. Make new memories: It’s important for your mental health (and financial) to enjoy new positive experiences, like a new restaurant, quick trip or a new class. Experiences should trump material possessions.

3. Smooth(er) sailing ahead: Set aside some time to think about investing, and not just throwing money in a savings account. Your employer’s retirement plan probably has someone you can speak to for advice.

4. If you’re going to tuck away money into savings, at least find an account that pays more than 0.01% in interest.

Find out your time perspective by taking our simple quiz.

Got questions? Get in touch via TwitterFacebook or email


Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at

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Time Perspective

MagnifyMoney Presents Time Perspective and Financial Health Study in Poland

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We just finished an excellent day in Warsaw, Poland where we presented the findings of our research with Professor Zimbardo.

There are so many applications of Zimbardo’s work, and we really enjoyed having the opportunity to share our work, and learn from others.

We presented during a special session on Finance and Time Perspective. After our presentation, we heard from a team in Poland who did similar research on time perspective and financial literacy. It was amazing to see that they found very similar findings about each time personality, and its impact on financial decisions. It was also interesting to see the difference in culture.

The past negative individuals in Poland literally keep their money in their homes, in cash, rather than put in the bank. In the US, they keep it in a savings account (we call it cash, but not literally), rather than investing. And future oriented people in Poland are likely to be mis-sold insurance, a truly global risk.

We had an excellent reception to our presentation, including a healthy debate and vigorous questions.

Time Perspective & Financial LiteracyWe also met people who are using time perspective in therapy sessions to help treat people. There were some amazing stories about losing weight and ending drug addictions by rebalancing time perspectives.

Perhaps most exciting was the desire of academics from multiple countries who are looking for ways to leverage our research so that they can educate (starting at university) people on time perspective and financial decisions.

This was a proud moment for MagnifyMoney, as our research has now been shared with the academic community more widely. Our real hope is that time perspective can be used to help people make better financial decisions, and today’s conference was a great way to continue to spread and improve the message.


Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at


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Time Perspective

YOLO Isn’t a Financial Plan: How Present Hedonists Should Handle Their Money

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.


The bass is thumping as you slam your credit card down on the bar and ask for another round of shots for you and your 15 closest friends you just made in the club. The bartender gives you a big smile as you throw down a $20 tip. Your new friends scream “cheers” and you shuffle back off to the dance floor.

Life is good as a present hedonist.

Living in the present to such an extreme often means you’re the life of the party, first on an exclusive invite list, and always willing to help spot a friend some money if it means enabling your fun-loving experiences. It’s healthy that you enjoy life fully, unfortunately, the pursuit of short-term happiness can have devastating consequences on your finances.

Financial issues with being a present hedonist

The “YOLO” attitude of a present hedonist makes him or her more susceptible to issues with credit cards, saving for the future and falling victim to investment schemes.

Credit cards

Banks love present hedonists so much they have a special term for them: “impulsive indulgers.”


Because if you give a present hedonist something now they’ll take it and the bank can then charge whatever they wanted.

Credit cards can be dangerous for present hedonists because it gives them access to using money they don’t have. It enables them to live fully in the moment without evaluating future financial consequences.

Remember to always pay your credit card bills on time and in full. If you can’t pay in full, at least pay the minimum due on time. A missed credit card payment can destroy your credit score.

Saving for the Future

Simply put, they usually don’t.

Present hedonists tend to live fully in the now without giving much regard to the future, especially something distant like retirement. The problem is, without saving in the present, they’ll end up having to work their entire lives to pay for their lifestyles. They are also less likely to have an emergency fund, which is an important part of financial health.

An emergency fund can help ward off incurring debt when an unexpected cost occurs like an unforeseen medical bill, loss of a job or car maintenance.

By adding a dash of future thinking, a present hedonist can enjoy the present while planning for the future to escape the 9-to-5 grind.

Perfect victim for bad investments

Present hedonists tend to get swept away in the moment, which makes them susceptible to sales pitches from crooks trying to hawk a bad investment.

If you know you’re a present hedonist, then be wary of anything that offers big, fast return on investments.

Instead, put a little research into your investments and make sure you have a well-diversified portfolio. Don’t forget, if your employer offers a 401(k) with a match, you should really be contributing.

Practical Tips to Harness your Hedonism

1. Switch from credit cards to prepaid or debit cards if you find controlling your impulses is tough.

2. Put a freeze on your credit report so you won’t be tempted to open a new card at the cash register.

3. Switch to a no fee bank account. In the U.S. several online banks let you get accounts with no overdraft or ATM fees, so temptation doesn’t bite you with fees.

4. Take time to shop around for better rates or accounts with lower fees at least once per year.

5. Have a basic savings plan with an emergency fund included.

6. If you have a savings fund that’s more than your emergency cash, be sure it’s in a well-diversified investment portfolio and not just stuck sitting in a checking or savings account.

7. Get insured.  Definitely have health insurance and if you have kids, basic term life insurance should be a goal on top of health coverage. It might seem overwhelming, but if you have a choice between a splurge today and handling a premium, go for the coverage.

Find out your time perspective by taking our simple quiz.

Got questions? Get in touch via TwitterFacebook or email

Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at


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Time Perspective

Q&A with Professor Philip Zimbardo on Time Perspective and Financial Health

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.


MagnifyMoney and Stanford University Professor Emeritus of Psychology Philip Zimbardo joined forces to create a cross-cultural study examining how a person’s time perspective influences his or her financial decisions. This study worked as a base to understand how financial health is more intricately related to our relationship to time than our ability to do math.

We sat down with Professor Zimbardo to discuss his take on the intersection of time, psychology and money.



MM: Tell us a little more about the Time Paradox

PZ: The Time Paradox essentially focuses on the fact that the most important decisions we make are based are something inside of us, in our brain, that we are unaware of. Namely that each of us lives in a different time zone – a different time perspective orientation: past, present and future.

The paradox is, we’re making decisions big ones and small ones, and we’re unaware that our time perspective is determining our decisions.

Within the three main time perspective categories there are subcategories:

  • Past-oriented you’re either past negative or past positive.
  • Present-oriented individuals are either hedonists or fatalists.
  • Future means all your decisions are based on the probability of its consequences. There is also transcendental future, which means living life on earth in preparation for dying and a greater reward in the afterlife.

MM: What is the ideal combination of time perspectives?

PZ: It’s important to have high past positive, so you aren’t being weighed down by negative memories from your past. Then combine that with being future oriented. Future orientation is essential, because they weigh consequences. People become middle class or successful by figuring out how to be future oriented.

However, excessively future orientated people are likely to become a workaholic. You need a dash of present hedonism.

MM: Will you share your time perspectives with us?

PZ: I’m excessively future oriented, but working hard to be present hedonistic with a high past-positive. I think about the good old times rather than the bad times.

MM: What was your initial reaction to the idea of applying your time paradox research to financial health?

PZ:  I was curious, interested. I never thought about it in those ways – I don’t think much about finance, because I never had much money. Imagine, in 1960 I was a professor at a university and my salary was $6,000 a year before taxes, so I was always broke. I was always living on the margin and trying to make due.

As soon as they talked to me I realized it seemed natural. There was an internal logic between time perspective and financial decision-making.

MM: Did you find anything about the cross-cultural study surprising?

PZ: A number of things were surprising. In general, being past negative and being present fatalistic were always negative. Now it turns out that from a recent cross-cultural survey, if you’re past negative it could be beneficial in one way.

You’re once burned, you made a bad decisions, you’re not going to do that again – so you’re going to more conservative and going to take less risk financially. The problem is, you’re not going to take a risk when the risk presented to you is a good risk with a big pay off.

MM: Can you think of a time when your time perspective influenced a financial decision?

PZ: When I first got to California and was first introduced to delicious wine from Napa and Sonoma. I realized this is going to be a big industry and I would really like to invest in wine companies. Had I done that in 1970 I’d be very wealthy now.

I had mentioned this to a friend seeking economic advice and he said, “Well you should invest in this company who is buying land in the central valley of the United States and is converting apple and walnut orchards into vineyards.”

So, you invested $15,000 a year for five years and at the end of five years the vineyard would start producing grapes. The owner was the head of some airline. It looked very promising, so I invested in it and lost everything. At the end of five years he declared bankruptcy.

In retrospect, it was stupid because why would you invest in that when you could’ve invested in wineries in Napa and Sonoma that were already producing wine. So here it was taking advice of somebody who was giving bad advice. Saying you could make a bigger profit here when it wasn’t a bigger profit I wanted, it was just a profit. Had I invested, I guess it was $60,000 in 1970 in any winery in Napa, Sonoma it would’ve been worth hundreds of thousands. Instead, at the end of five years I had nothing to show.

Zimbardo’s future orientation impacted his decision because future-orientated people tend to leap blindly into financial opportunities and are susceptible to bad financial advice because they base their decisions on expectations of future scenarios.

MM: Why is money often a taboo topic?

PZ: In one sense, nobody ever wants to do anything for money. Money is a byproduct, but most people want to say I do my job because I like the job, not because I do it for the money. When you do it for the money it objectifies the work, it diminishes the work, especially in academia. Most professors would say I would work for nothing if they would pay my room and board because I do it for the love of teaching and the money is a bonus.

In academia business is almost the enemy. People who are moneylenders, money managers, and money borrowers: those are the evil people of the world. Therefore, most academics I know are really ignorant about money, about best investments, and don’t really think about wise investment or having an adviser until it’s towards retirement and they’ve lost out on a lot of potential profit.

Everybody has a strange relationship with money. It’s never clear what is enough money. For me, it’s always been I’d like to make enough money that I don’t have to think about money. I’d like to be comfortable so I don’t have to think about “can I afford this.”

When you’re poor – which my family was for my early life – every decision is about money. Can I afford it? Can I do without it? And that became a negative obsession – which as a kid I always hated.

Now for adults, it’s almost the opposite. Middle class people spending beyond their means thinking not “can I afford it?” but “can I afford not to have it?” There are social comparisons, how can your kids not have the best Adidas or the best Nike shoes or how can you not have the best Louis Vuitton purse or fancy dress.

So fortunately, I’ve never been involved in that part of it, but it was always the other thing. Every decision was never “did I like it, was it good for me?” It was always, “could I afford it?” “What do I have to sacrifice, if I buy this rather than that?” or “if I take a vacation, what do I have to give up?” [When you’re on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum] It’s almost always a negative psychology transformation that I hated as a kid.

MM: Any final thoughts on applying your time perspective to financial health?

PZ: I’m really excited and encouraged to think that abstract knowledge I’ve been working on for many, many years can actually be used in a very productive, concrete positive way to help people make wise financial decisions. That in the long run people are happier having made the right decisions that helped them have more money in their accounts.

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Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at