Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for October 2nd, 2022

Money is emotional — but personal finance advice rarely accounts for that

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I just updated my post on budget planning and tracking with a link to L

Financial literacy — the ability to understand how money works in your life — is considered the secret to taking control of your finances. Knowledge is power, as the saying goes, but information alone doesn’t lead to transformation.

In putting financial literacy above all else, many in the personal finance industry have decided that repeating the same facts about how much money folks should have in their emergency savings account will, somehow, change people’s money habits. This approach doesn’t account for our human side: the parts of us that crave connection, new experiences, and fitting in as members of our communities. Most of our decisions around money are emotional; no amount of nitty-gritty knowledge about interest rates will change that.

As a financial therapist, I’ve seen spending behaviors driven by emotions and not logic time and time again. One young couple that came to see me was so caught up in having the “perfect” wedding that they put a large cash gift meant for a house down payment toward their wedding venue. Another client whose parents had saved for them to attend a state college debt-free confessed that they took out private student loans to finance a semester abroad; they’re now paying a hefty monthly bill. Another family put a pricey Disney trip on a zero percent interest credit card, telling themselves (and me) they’d pay it off before the interest rate skyrocketed, only to procrastinate on paying it down and owing nearly 22 percent in interest on their trip over several years.

These people weren’t doing anything “bad.” They were doing what most of us do: making money-related decisions based on feelings. In my work, I help people understand how their emotions are driving money decisions, assess if their money is going where they want it to go, practice financial self-compassion, and know when to ask for help. Here is what I tell them.

All decisions are emotional

It’s imperative to understand that emotions drive most decision-making. For example, we know we shouldn’t read on our phones in bed because it’s bad for our sleep quality, but we do it anyway. We know we should move our bodies regularly for our physical and mental health but still let exercise become another chore that we put off. The same is true when it comes to money: We know we should spend less than we earn and save for the future, but many people find it really hard to do that.

An individual’s relationship to money and the emotions it brings up starts when we’re young. When we’re children, our brains are sponges, soaking up information. We take in what our peers have (for example, their toys or clothes), what our caregivers say (like arguments about bills), and what’s being marketed on TV, and make meaning of them. According to Cambridge researchers, people have developed some fundamental concepts related to financial behaviors by the time they are 7 years old.

A person who grew up in a household hearing things like You can’t take it to the grave, so you might as well spend it when you’re alive from parents who splurged on clothes and toys when tax refund season came around might be inclined to spend money quickly as an adult. Alternatively, if a child absorbed messages that talking about money was “rude” or that people who made a lot of money were “greedy,” they might grow up to feel guilty about going into a lucrative field, or struggle to talk to their partner about money.

To better understand your relationship with money, think about how money makes you feel. What emotions come up when you make a credit card payment, get a tax refund, or have to negotiate a deal at work? Do you feel calm and confident? Or do you feel anxious and avoidant? Maybe you feel a pleasant rush of adrenaline — or maybe it depends on the scenario.

Spending a week jotting down the emotions you associate with different financial situations as they happen is a good first step in sorting out where you’re starting from. Document how . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 October 2022 at 5:19 pm

Butternut-Kale Soup (aka Lotsa Lutein Soup)

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After I posted about the brain’s strong preference for lutein as an antioxidant (picky brain!), I of course started thinking about tailoring some of my eating to the brain’s preferences. (I am aware, of course, that it is my brain making these choices.) I picked up a bunch of Lacinato kale and a butternut squash (found in this post) and figured I’d make a soup. I also got some corn tortillas made locally. (See this table for corn tortillas — a double win: both lutein and zeaxanthin.) I figured I would eat the tortillas with the soup.

A quick search found at this recipe by Ramses Bravo, executive chef at TrueNorth Health Center in Santa Rosa, California and the author of the cookbook, Bravo! The ingredients:

4 cups diced butternut squash
2 cups tightly packed chopped kale [and I might use collards sometimes – LG]
2 cups diced yellow onion
8 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons chopped ginger

Changes I’ll make:

• Red onion instead of yellow (because red — darker than yellow — has more nutrients)
• Add 4 cloves garlic and 1 good-sized turmeric root (and black pepper for the turmeric)
• I don’t have veggie broth, so I’ll use water with some MSG (it’s okay) and salt substitute (which brings in some potassium and some iodine — and omits sodium). And I probably won’t use half a gallon, as he does. More like a quart n— I want it thick, maybe even a purée.
• Maybe a couple of Serrano peppers.
(Red cayenne season seems to be over, alas.)
• Maybe some beans or lentils
• The name — new name is Lotsa Lutein Soup.

Written by Leisureguy

2 October 2022 at 2:03 pm

H2O Sculptures

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Check out all the images. (It’s a store, so you can buy physical copies.)

Written by Leisureguy

2 October 2022 at 1:18 pm

Posted in Art

Boredom is telling you something (if you pay attention)

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Richard Sima has a useful report (gift link, no paywall) in the Washington Post:

In one famous experiment, people were asked to sit quietly for 15 minutes in a room with nothing but their own thoughts. They also had the option to hit a button and give themselves an electric shock.

Getting physically shocked is unpleasant, but many people preferred it to the emotional discomfort of boredom. Out of 42 participants, nearly half opted to press the button at least once, even though they had experienced the shock earlier in the study and reported they would pay money to avoid experiencing it again. (One male outlier opted to shock himself 190 times.)

Boredom is a universally dreaded feeling. Being bored means wanting to be engaged when you can’t. It’s our brain telling us to take action, much like pain is an important signal for danger or harm.

Boredom is also how our brains alert us that things aren’t going well. Scientists who study the emotion note that every episode of boredom creates an opportunity for making a positive change instead of reactively looking for the fastest, easiest escape. We just need to pay attention.

“Boredom is sort of an emotional dashboard light that goes off saying, like, ‘Hey, you’re not on track,’ ” said Erin Westgate, a social psychologist at the University of Florida who studies boredom and co-authored the shock experiment. “It is this signal that whatever it is we’re doing either isn’t meaningful to us, or we’re not able to successfully engage with this.”

Boredom is a warning sign, she says, and it’s “really necessary.”

Can boredom make you mean?

In a 2021 study, Westgate and her colleagues found boredom led participants toward more sadistic behaviors. In one experiment, bored participants watching a mundane 20-minute video were even more likely to do something presumably none of them had considered doing before: shred maggots named Toto, Tifi and Kiki in a coffee grinder. (The researchers named the maggots to humanize them.)

Among 67 participants who watched the boring video, 12 of them (18 percent) dropped a maggot into the coffee grinder. By comparison, in another group watching an interesting documentary, just one out of 62 study subjects tried to shred a maggot.

(It’s worth noting that the maggot-mangling machine was fake. No maggots were actually harmed during the experiments.)

Other experiments have shown a link between boredom and different kinds of bad behavior, from online trolling to bullying in the classroom to verbal and physical abuse by members of the military toward one another.

The good news is that boredom doesn’t always make us meaner — it just calls us to take action, good or bad. When better alternatives are available, boredom can also make us do good deeds.

In another set of experiments involving nearly 2,000 people, Westgate and her team asked study subjects to watch either a five-minute video of a rock or a more interesting video. Everyone in the study had the option to . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

2 October 2022 at 1:09 pm

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