Sarah Newcomb, behavioural economist at Morningstar, explores the relationship between finance and psychology concepts in her latest book, Loaded: Money, Psychology and How To Get Ahead Without Leaving Your Values Behind. Adrien Paredes-Vanheule finds out more…
When she was young, Sarah Newcomb (pictured) hated money. She grew up fearing that earning a lot of money would change her for the worse.
Newcomb realised she had no logical reason to be troubled, however, when she earned a degree in mathematics, and subsequently studied connections between psychology and money.
Every financial decision starts with a story we are telling ourselves, she says. Newcomb believes some
of those stories lead individuals to make financial choices they may later regret.
In her latest book, Loaded: Money, Psychology and How To Get Ahead Without Leaving Your Values Behind, Morningstar’s behavioural economist digs deep into the background of beliefs around money that hold people back.
More specifically, her book targets those who want “to get ahead financially” but still have conflicting feelings about money. It also provides advice on ways to plan a budget that fulfil one’s personal needs while also helping to develop better money-management skills.
Loaded begins by outlining the place that money occupies in society as a cultural and social phenomenon.
Speaking at a Morningstar investment conference in London earlier this year, Newcomb explained that individuals typically avoid talking about money, even though money is nevertheless everywhere in society – for example, in literature and films.
The author also debunks some of the myths that surround money. She says that the expression “money changes people” remains one of the most common fables she hears.
“I think that what money really does is turn up the volume. When we have more money, we have more
opportunities to express who we already are.
“It doesn’t change us, it just allows us to more readily express our priorities,” she argues.
Another idea she puts down is that money comes from hard work.
“Sometimes this is true, but not always. Sometimes, hard work does not pay well at all, and sometimes
very well-paying work is not hard,” Newcomb says.
The book invites its readers to overcome stereotypes, such as that of the greedy rich businessman, which Newcomb calls simplistic labels that can lead people to make poor judgement calls.
The second part of Loaded offers up tips for handling one’s personal finances.
Every expense is a strategy to meet a fundamental human need, Newcomb explains.
The gist of her argument is that if people come to accept a “healthier” story about money, a wider range of strategies to satisfy their needs opens up.
She points to the example of debt, which is often felt by people as a huge burden.
“It’s important to remember, though, that you got into debt because you were sincerely trying to meet a
need. Student loans are a reminder that you have invested in yourself.
“You can use the payment as an opportunity to reflect on what you have gained and built as a result of
that investment,” she says.
“By changing the story from ‘Look at all this money I am wasting paying down debt! I will never get ahead at this rate’, to one of gratitude and progress – ‘I have made some great investments that are helping me build up my assets – my education, my land, and my health’ – your relationship with that debt and the payments will feel different,” the author adds.
Newcomb crushes the traditional budgeting method. According to her, planning a budget instead deals with resources and needs, rather than income and expenses.
“We learn how our money moves when we are taught to budget, but nobody talks about why we spend the way we do and why we earn what we earn.”
What is the Loaded method, then?
Combining the “how” and the “why” into one model, Newcomb tells us. ■
Loaded: Money, Psychology and How To Get
Ahead Without Leaving Your Values Behind
John Wiley & Sons