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Are FIREd Folks Brain Wired Differently?
Old 03-07-2008, 04:17 PM   #1
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Are FIREd Folks Brain Wired Differently?

According to this article, Can't-Save-Blame-Your-Brain: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance

people are wired for instant gratification. Neurophysiology is reponsible for making it difficult for people to save and delay gratification for a future goal! Stems from cavemen times with hunting and gathering for immediate needs.

So---here I thought we were different just due to our behavior (also known as willpower/intelligence/values) but it turns out we may just not have the same brain physiology!!!
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Old 03-07-2008, 04:54 PM   #2
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My parents and DW parents were frugal. Part of it rubbed off on us. But we believe in enjoying the money also.

Our parents were depression era people so they did not take money for granted. They were very careful with it.
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Old 03-07-2008, 05:04 PM   #3
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I think it's more about upbringing than brain neurology. Both DH and I grew up in middle-class but frugal households, and we are both are frugal ourselves (not excessively so, as I sit in a coffee house and type these words on my laptop).

I would further speculate that it's more about your parents' ATTITUDE on money than how much money they actually had. Although frugal, our parents didn't make us feel DEPRIVED. They found ways to make us feel like we could still have fun. I have a friend whose parents definitely made her feel deprived, and as she grew older she was spending way above her means just to mentally compensate for it. To her, it was a way to rebel against her parents and prove herself. However, she's now married to a more frugal guy and sees the light of LBYM. As far as I could tell, she's changed her spending pattern quite a bit. LBYM is a choice. I'd like to think we are above animal-like physical urges to spend money constantly.
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Old 03-07-2008, 07:15 PM   #4
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I'm convinced that there will always be a study that will allow us to get out of blame for virtually anything that we want.

I'm not that old, but it used to be that America was the land of opportunity and we could do anything that we wanted. What happened? In the past 5 years (noticeably) - everyone wants to blame something or someone for ALL of their problems. NOTHING is their fault.

There is almost nothing worse than not taking responsibility for yourself.
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Old 03-07-2008, 07:17 PM   #5
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for years, man (the generic, not the gender) was identified above beast because of his use of tools. then it was discovered that beasts use tools and so man was identified by his ability to construct the tools to use. then it was discovered that beasts also construct tools and again it became difficult to differentiate between man and beast.

i watched a study recently on how to make such distinction, particularly between man and other primates. researchers found a new defining difference which seems, at least for now, to hold some water. humans have the ability to delay gratification.

give a monkey a treat in an experiment which clearly shows that if he does not take the treat that he will be rewarded with a bigger treat and the monkey does not wait for the greater treat. but some children figure out that if they don't take the original treat, they will be better rewarded.

correlation was also found between the capacity to delay gratification and suspected i.q., i.e., the studied children who were found to have a higher capacity to delay gratification were more likely to score higher in (i think it was) s.a.t. tests later in life.
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Old 03-07-2008, 08:42 PM   #6
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I'd like to think we are above animal-like physical urges to spend money constantly.
Well, I'm certainly not above the urges.

But I can (and do) choose not to act on most of them.
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Old 03-07-2008, 08:43 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoodSense View Post
I think it's more about upbringing than brain neurology. Both DH and I grew up in middle-class but frugal households, and we are both are frugal ourselves (not excessively so, as I sit in a coffee house and type these words on my laptop).

I would further speculate that it's more about your parents' ATTITUDE on money than how much money they actually had. Although frugal, our parents didn't make us feel DEPRIVED. They found ways to make us feel like we could still have fun. I have a friend whose parents definitely made her feel deprived, and as she grew older she was spending way above her means just to mentally compensate for it. To her, it was a way to rebel against her parents and prove herself. However, she's now married to a more frugal guy and sees the light of LBYM. As far as I could tell, she's changed her spending pattern quite a bit. LBYM is a choice. I'd like to think we are above animal-like physical urges to spend money constantly.
I never felt deprived. Mother did imply that people, who wanted conspicuous consumption items, were inferior mentally and morally. Part of it is being lazy: most things aren't worth the effort of obtaining.
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Old 03-07-2008, 08:59 PM   #8
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are we FIRE folks wired differently? nah. just smart with money or not.

my mom had a very difficult life, not much money and a lot of stress as a result. i learned my frugal ways from her. even when i finally had money, i was still a cheapskate.

except for my one indulgent purchase - the 'Stang. but it did take me 3 months to even allow myself to test drive it. no loan was needed, i had already saved up for a new car.
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Old 03-07-2008, 09:54 PM   #9
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What about getting a job at a young age? I started working in
grade school. Wonder if other FIRE's started managing money
at a young age.
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Old 03-07-2008, 10:03 PM   #10
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I have my impulses as well.....I think I just know when to stop spending before I do too much harm. I also take 3 days to think about a big purchase and if I am not sure....I don't get it. I am hopeless when it comes to cute toys/neck wear for Casanova....I got him this little tie at target the other day.....I know.....I have issues!
I think that paying myself first really helps a lot.....most people look at saving as something that is done after they pay everybody else.
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Old 03-07-2008, 10:08 PM   #11
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Well, I do agree that my brain is wired differently.
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Old 03-08-2008, 02:59 AM   #12
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What about getting a job at a young age? I started working in
grade school. Wonder if other FIRE's started managing money
at a young age.
Same here.

First paper route at 9, saved almost all of it, graduated high school with $11K, FI at 46, retired at 48.
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Old 03-08-2008, 06:00 AM   #13
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DW and I had a lot of talks about that with a friend who insists that "Fate" will decide whether the money for whatever will be there if it was meant to be. He feels that it is "controlling" to plan ahead, that insurance is a scam based on fear and doesn't even feel the need to pay for health insurance. He pays his bills when he gets around to it and if there's a late charge "that's just what happens" and doesn't care about credit scores. To us, a strange and incomprehensible outlook. But he is also the type who will be content living in a trailer on SS if that is what ends up happening. He's not stupid, he's an aircraft mechanic and a mechanical genius.

We think it is just that he does not want to deal with the complexities of taking responsibility for himself, although we didn't tell him that.

DW and I both grew up in households that were frugal from necessity, and we think that is what most affects the way we think about money; we don't take what we have for granted since we know what it's like to do without. "Been there, done that, don't want to do it again."

Both of us are cautious with credit cards, using them for convenience only, realizing that paying CC interest rates for the sake of immediate gratification is long-term foolish, and are puzzled why so many people run up big CC bills for unneeded "stuff". We do not own a plasma TV, but probably will when the price gets reasonable.

The book Please Understand Me II (I forget the author) is about different personality types. Some are completely incapable of planning ahead long term, focusing on excitement and "doing it now" and worry about the bill later, the reason 1st wife and I got divorced, although she'll probably get away with it because she has a good govt. job under the pre-1978 retirement system. Some also have an outlook of "I worked for it, I want it, I deserve it, I'm getting it now".

DW and I think a lot of those types are going to be living in trailers on SS in about 20 years.
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Old 03-08-2008, 06:44 AM   #14
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I don't think we're really wired differently.

We just don't have as many loose connections as the others.
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Old 03-08-2008, 06:57 AM   #15
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I think there may be something to the wired differently idea. I grew up in a family were there wasn't a lot of extra money. So learned early there were things we couldn't have that others did.

So I am one of those who aren't concerned with having a lot of 'stuff'. Would rather have a few nice things than a lot of stuff I don't really need.

But my brother and sister seemed to have been different. Brother was allways impressed by what others had(still is). If one of his friends family had a bigger house or nicer car, he would be a little envious. My sister would allways want to spend every cent she had as quickly as possible.

They both got in a little too deep as adults, and have changed their ways somewhat. Both realize now they need to wait untill they can afford what they want or need.
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Old 03-08-2008, 08:47 AM   #16
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I think I could argue both sides. We lived very comfortably growing up, not rich but never wanted for anything, but our parents were LBYM. I have turned out to be LBYM for my 30-plus years of adulthood, although I've had the good fortune to also live not rich, but never wanting for anything. However, my sister with the same upbringing, education and opportunities, has been broke and in and out of financial troubles for most of her 35-plus years of adulthood (Dad has bailed her out several times). I hit FI in my 40's, she concedes she will have to work until she is 70 and live a modest lifestyle. So I couldn't tell you if it's upbringing or wiring...
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Old 03-08-2008, 08:51 AM   #17
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What about getting a job at a young age? I started working in
grade school. Wonder if other FIRE's started managing money
at a young age.
My father wouldn't allow me to take a REAL job until after high school. But my brothers and I had so many chores around the house that kids today would think I was making it all up. I had to keep my room picked up, do all the laundry and ironing for a family of five (including sheets and underwear), do the dishes, set the table, cook a couple of nights a week (after age 10), spend 3-6 hours per weekend on yardwork or shoveling snow, and so much more.

For that, and not creating or participating in family quarrels and dissension, I could earn an allowance which was very tiny (10 cents to two dollars depending on what age we are talking about) but it was mine. We didn't get an allowance unless we had done everything right all week, and even though I would never have dreamed of saying "no" to the assigned chores, I suppose I got mine maybe 75% of the times. Allowance was paid on Thursdays.

We each had savings accounts at a local bank so I saved some of my allowance. Still, I spent a lot of it, whereas my (now ER'd CPA/CFO) brother saved every last penny like I should have done. I wanted to buy a black convertible VW bug with mine someday, but never had anywhere near enough for a car.

I loved to watch the interest accumulate in my savings account, even though it wasn't much. So, even though I had no job, per se, I still learned a little about money. My father was a surgeon and so my parents were well to do, but extremely LBYM, having lived through the Depression. They did spend a lot on travel, but would not buy much else. My mother sewed most of her clothes and mine in order to save money. We went to a deep discount shoestore on the black side of St. Louis, in a fairly dangerous area, to get cheap but somewhat odd looking shoes and we never had more than two pairs (every day and Sunday school shoes). All of this was in St. Louis, before they retired to Hawaii in my teens.

I wonder if THAT is why I insist on buying the $120 New Balance running shoes? Must be some sort of inner rebellion to my upbringing, still. Well, that and the fact that I have problem feet that simply demand them if I am to run around without excessive pain.
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Old 03-08-2008, 03:25 PM   #18
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I wonder if THAT is why I insist on buying the $120 New Balance running shoes? Must be some sort of inner rebellion to my upbringing, still.
It could be. Growing up we got our cars from a junkyard and did the necessary repairs ourselves to keep them running. So I go out and drop $30K on a new pickup truck five years ago, even though it was a long-planned purchase and we intend to keep it 15-20 years. If the weather's decent I'll still change my own oil & light bulbs but anything heavier than that it goes in a shop.

The guy next door owns three houses but changes his own brake pads because he feels the shop charges too much.
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Old 03-08-2008, 04:39 PM   #19
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What about getting a job at a young age? I started working in
grade school. Wonder if other FIRE's started managing money
at a young age.
me too. i helped the neighbor lady clean house/rake leaves/plant gardens at grade school age. not a lot, just enough to keep an older lady with bad knees company and make a little mad money for candy bars or kites or books.
babysat, shoveled sidewalks, mother's helper in high school, entered county fair with baked goods for prize money, yadda yadda yadda. all before the age of 18.
i learned to manage money very young. FIREd myself at age 48.
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Old 03-08-2008, 04:49 PM   #20
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for years, man (the generic, not the gender) was identified above beast because of his use of tools. then it was discovered that beasts use tools and so man was identified by his ability to construct the tools to use. then it was discovered that beasts also construct tools and again it became difficult to differentiate between man and beast.

i watched a study recently on how to make such distinction, particularly between man and other primates. researchers found a new defining difference which seems, at least for now, to hold some water. humans have the ability to delay gratification.

give a monkey a treat in an experiment which clearly shows that if he does not take the treat that he will be rewarded with a bigger treat and the monkey does not wait for the greater treat. but some children figure out that if they don't take the original treat, they will be better rewarded.

correlation was also found between the capacity to delay gratification and suspected i.q., i.e., the studied children who were found to have a higher capacity to delay gratification were more likely to score higher in (i think it was) s.a.t. tests later in life.
So does this mean that LBYMers are at the apex of evolution?
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