Can't Buy Happiness?

Money, personality, and well-being

Resolution For the New Year: Focus On the Future

Focusing on the future leads to good money management thriftier purchasing.

 Human beings have the ability to experience not only the present, but to project their thoughts and attention to the past and future as well. Psychologists have begun to study the psychological consequences of focusing on various time frames, and have found that time perspectives have a bigger influence on psychological health than one might guess.

Researchers at the academic research website BeyondThePurchase.org were interested in the spending habits of people who show a tendency to focus on the past, present, or future. Visitors to the website completed the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory, a Money Management Scale, and the Experiential Preferences Scale.

Results indicated that the people who emphasize future comforts and rewards, as opposed to satisfaction of current desires, were most likely to have good money management skills (such as tracking their finances and avoiding debt).

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Thus, future-oriented people tend to save for a rainy day, while present-oriented people often do not pay attention to their finances, possibly because they just don’t want to know when they might be getting into financial trouble.

Additionally, the researchers found that people who manage their money well, tend to prefer purchasing less expensive experiences, such as hiking.

So, remarkably, despite the fact that good money managers may have more money to spend, they still tend to be thriftier in their purchases. The association between time perspectives and money management, that good money managers focus on the future, offers an explanation for this apparent contradiction.

Do you tend to focus more on the past, present, or future? Visit BeyondThePurchase.org, login or register, and take the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory to find out.

BeyondThePurchase.Org helps people make the connection between their spending habits – how do you spend your money and who do you spend it on – and their happiness. To learn about what might be influencing how you think about and spend your money, Login or Register with Beyond The Purchase, then take a few of their spending habits quizzes:

How materialistic are you? Find out by taking the Materialistic Values Scale.

Are you a compulsive buyer? Take the Compulsive Buying Scale and learn about your spending habits.

In what ways do you hope your purchases will transform your life? The Transformation Expectations Questionnaire will tell you about what you expect from your next big purchase.

 

Ryan T. Howell, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University.

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