Set a goal. Make a plan for meeting it. Stick to the plan. Don’t let setbacks pull you off course; refocus and press on.
What is this advice about? If you’re like me and your work relates to financial services, it probably sounds like the basic recipe for saving and investing. If you’re a weight loss counsellor or personal trainer, it probably sounds a lot like advice you give clients for losing weight or improving their fitness.
Financial well-being and physical well-being have some similar psychological foundations. These include an ability to imagine the long term, defer gratification, and recognize that day-to-day habits have consequences that accumulate, for better or worse.
So when I came across an odd correlation in our Social Values data, I was struck by it—but not really surprised, once I gave it some thought. Through the many research studies we have done, I have come to understand that as age, income and financial assets grow, so too do an investor’s engagement with, and participation in, the financial planning process. When we look at more affluent consumers, we see key trends like Saving on Principle, Hyper-Rationality and a desire to accumulate a financial Legacy to bequeath to the next generation. A finding that stood out for us during some recent data analysis, however, was that financially engaged people scored unusually high on the value Effort for Health.
Effort for Health is a value that not only indicates a desire for health (everyone wants to be healthy, of course), but a tendency to treat one’s health as a priority, and to take active steps to promote good health through regular behaviour. What we were seeing was that people who were more likely to pay attention to inputs and performance when it came to their portfolios were also more likely to pay attention to inputs and performance when it came to their bodies.
Further examination could tell us more about how exactly these two orientations connect. Perhaps people who care a lot about their health see their finances as an extension of themselves. Perhaps they know that their healthy lifestyles will increase their years, so they figure they’d better take retirement finances seriously. Maybe they just strive for success in every area of life.
What’s clear is that the most financially engaged Canadians stand out on two key dimensions associated with personal control and well-being. They see that fostering their health and managing their investments is a continuous process, not something they can ignore for years and fix with silver-bullet wonder drugs and hot stock tips. This has interesting implications for those who advise them. One thing we can say for sure is that a dismissive, “just trust me” approach will not be accepted—not only because of its dubious credibility, but because these people thrive on paying attention and putting in some effort. And if you offer snacks at meetings, you might want to skip the donuts.