David Krueger MD
Men and women both share a desire for autonomy and effectiveness, as well as for connection and emotional caring. Yet the unconscious whispers of “you have evidence of worth by doing these things” differ considerably for each:
- For men, the early models and reinforcements probably had more to do with being strong, unemotional, doing more, and making more money.
- For women, the model more likely leaned toward being perfect, pretty, thin, quiet, loving, and giving to others.
These gender-specific expressions of attempts to live into an ideal – and thereby counter shame – can hitchhike on money as an emblem of care, worth, power, or any meaning assigned; money is a Rorschach of our own individual strivings.
Three considerations of gendered money psychology and investing lessons from women:
1. Self-awareness is an important characteristic among elite investors. Self-awareness fosters both objectivity and balance in decision-making. Women tend to be more empathic with others, and thereby more empathic with themselves. Women tend to share emotions, regard of friendships, discussion of relationships, and collaboration of feelings more than men.
2. Unlike men, women are less likely to let their narcissism and pride get in the way of decision-making processes. It’s the same reason that men are significantly less likely to ask for directions, viewing it as a weakness. (Not me – I asked once back in February, 1993).
3. When men have disagreements, they tend to act on their feelings. Typically, they revert to physical activity, or some form of action. Women more likely create a contemplative pause to reflect and plan, and engage more mentally. This means that men get on “tilt” more often. Poker players use this term for the emotion following a significant loss or significant success, causing them to respond emotionally to subsequent hands.
Being ungendered, money can convey any message, and represent any message—the one true metaphor that can represent anything. It’s a stand-in for what we idealize and desire, yet fear and lack; for what we covet, crave, spurn, chase, or follow.
Money is a simple unit of value. It can’t speak, promise, regret, or forecast. Money doesn’t even know who owns it, any more than the war bonds knew about the war. So it can’t possibly create fiction. Yet the owner can, and the money stories that we consciously and unconsciously write become powerful influences in our lives.
David Krueger MD
“I’m now aware of everything I spend – of every dollar. Previously, whatever came up, whatever was stressful, I’d go shopping. Now I can’t do that in the same unconscious way. You’ve helped me cue my radar to be aware of everything that I do that is money-related. Now I even go shopping my closet. I discovered an elegant dress that I had forgotten about, and when I wore it to a wedding over the weekend, got several comments. Some of my friends would say, “You’ve been very successful in your shopping.’ I simply smiled and said, ‘I have’.”
This astute spender and shopper is a Money Coach in training with me to become a New Money Story® Mentor. She continued, “I wanted to do the training with you to work better with my clients to help them understand their relationship with money and change their money stories. With my background in finance and business, I didn’t expect to surprise myself with this kind of self-awareness.”
Here’s a study that relates to the same process my insightful colleague experienced.
Ben Fletcher at the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom devised a study to get people to break their usual habits. Each day the subjects chose a different option from poles of contrasting behaviors, e.g., lively/quiet, introvert/extrovert, reactive/proactive, and behaved according to this assignment. So an introverted person, for example, would act as an extrovert for an entire day. Additionally, twice weekly, they had to stretch to behave in a way outside their usual life pattern to eat and read something they would never have done.
What do you think was the biggest change in the group?
The remarkable finding was that after four months, the subjects lost an average of 11 pounds. Six months later, almost all had kept the weight off, and many continued to lose weight. This was not a diet, but a study focusing on change and its impact.
The rationale: requiring people to change routine behavior makes them actually think about decisions rather than habitually choosing a default mode without consideration. They became aware that every behavior—even each bite of food—was a choice. So they could reflect on whether that choice was in their best interest.
Once becoming aware of actively making choices, you can decide to make the most informed and strategic choices possible.
David Krueger MD
We each have a running account of what is happening, what it means, and what we should do. Our minds constantly monitor and interpret. Mindsets frame and fuel the stories we create about ourselves.
The view you adopt—the software program of mindset you use—can significantly affect the way you live your life. Let’s examine two simple versions of mindsets.
Those with a fixed mindset try to make sure they succeed. A consuming goal is to prove oneself: in the classroom, later in a career, or in a relationship. Each situation calls for a confirmation of intelligence, personality, or character. The repeated internal questions are: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be rejected or accepted? Will I be a loser or winner?
Yet with a fixed mindset, and a preoccupation with how you’ll be judged, no amount of confirmation can dislodge the hypothesis of mediocrity or the need for proof.
A fixed mindset shares some of these characteristics:
- You learn things, but intelligence is basic and essentially unchangeable
- Since your traits are fixed, success is about proving that you are talented or smart
- Problems indicate character flaws
- Self-esteem repair occurs by assigning blame or making excuses
A growth mindset is based on a belief in change. You believe you can enhance and develop yourself. You become open to accurate information about talents and abilities. You use it to adjust and grow. To improve.
The growth mindset of learning is based on a belief that basic qualities are developed and evolve throughout life. The fundamental assumption is that everyone can change and grow through experience and application – that you can even change how intelligent you are.
Dr. Howard Gardner, in his book Extraordinary Minds, concludes that exceptional individuals with growth mindsets have a “special talent for identifying their own strengths and weaknesses.”
Whatever remains unconscious will be attributed to fate. Beliefs are often not conscious, yet we can pay attention to the best indicators of beliefs: our behavior. We can nudge ourselves toward a growth mindset:
In adulthood, whatever we experience we either create or accept.
- Am I taking ownership of my mistakes?
- What can I learn from this?
- How can I improve?
David Krueger MD
“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” (Stuart Chase)
You can’t entirely let go of an old story until you have a new one to inhabit. This is, after all, the way scientific theory works. Thomas Kuhn, the science philosopher, summarized: “A scientific theory is declared invalid only if an alternate candidate is available to take its place.”
Some change is slow. Consider how, at an earlier age, you were adamant about a particular point of view. A dozen years later, you look back, and may even mock your former position. In between, a gradual process of transformation lets go of a belief, to take on a new one. This is the stuff of time-lapse photography: slow and gradual, imperceptible in any moment or month.
Our sunk costs in a belief determine how loyal we are to it. The more we invest emotional currency in a belief, the harder to extract ourselves from it. We leave the security of our known stories, and the certainty and predictability of how those stories – and we – will turn out. It feels like a lack of control, so we’re motivated to avoid new information. Especially if we expect bad news. The ultimate mistake is to avoid the truth about ourselves.
One woman said to me as her last child was about to depart for college, “If I’m not a parent, then I’m not sure I know who I am.” I heard a man say, “If I don’t believe that every word in the Bible is true, I don’t know what to believe.” (One possibility is that I need some new friends).
To embrace change by recognizing the limitations of a belief, or admitting the wrongfulness of a notion, brings with it various emotions. Initially it can feel lost, alone, perhaps scared. Neuroscience teaches us that a fundamental belief is an anatomical reality in our brains; to change it can feel like an amputation, even tampering with our identity.
No matter how psychologically minded (or resilient) we are, facing up to mistaken beliefs challenges us. Since the past can’t be changed, restitution involves admitting mistakes to use them to inform a different story.
Invincibility bias – that seemingly inextinguishable sense of immortality that crested in adolescence – still has whispers in adulthood. Some adventures in this error:
- 19% of people believe they’re in the upper 1% of income bracket
- 75% of people believe they are healthier than average
- 90% of people believe they are better drivers than average
The challenge is to recognize, own, and assess certain aspects of our own stories:
- We tend to seek information that confirms our beliefs rather than disproves them.
- New information may cause unpleasant feelings and a departure from our comfort zone.
- Different behavior disrupts our default mode; e.g., consulting a doctor confronts denial and the pain of undergoing testing.
C.S. Lewis addressed this challenge by saying, “If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”