Why austerity is so hard: ‘We like to bury our heads in the sand’ | Currently

Why austerity is so hard: 'We like to bury our heads in the sand' |  Currently

Now that everything is more expensive and purchasing power has diminished, it is increasingly important to take a look at your spending pattern for yourself. But saving is not easy, because it goes against what your ancestors taught: keep what you have.

Why we save less quickly than is good for us has to do with behavior that has evolved through evolution. That’s what Martijn van den Assem, professor of finance at the Free University of Amsterdam, specializes in in human choice behavior.

“We find it hard to let go of something we already have,” he says. “We go for short-term gratification and like to bury our heads in the sand when there is potentially bad news.”

According to Van den Asim, we as human beings have learned this in order to survive. “In the Stone Age, if you lose your ax or your food, it could kill you. We have an aversion to losing what you have because of it. The future was uncertain anyway, so we had to get what was inside and they were mostly involved in short-term planning.”

“We give more weight to the present. We give in to the experience over and over again.”

Martijn van den Assem, Professor of Finance

Taking a step back is annoying

The National Institute for Budget Information (NEBOD) provides people with all kinds of practical money-saving advice. However, we do not always follow them. According to Van den Asim, this has something to do with our behaviour.

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Take tipping for fewer A-brands as an example. “People get satisfaction from buying a top-notch brand. Sometimes the quality is better, but it’s also the prestige that such a purchase implies. Falling back from what you’re used to is more annoying than if you didn’t have it before,” says the professor.

Most importantly, we pay very little attention to our future needs. Van den Asim says: We focus mainly on the present. “This is why, despite good intentions, we find it so difficult to quit smoking, eat less or save enough for retirement. We give more weight to the present. We give in to temptation again and again.”

The brain is especially bad at looking into the future, says consumer psychologist Patrick Wessels. “The brain subconsciously assumes that any setbacks that are present now will not occur in the future. Next week or next month we will have more time, money and energy than we have now.”

“It’s a kind of exaggeration that comes from optimism,” he continues. “This is a good thing, because it allows us to take risks, make progress, and adopt new ideas or activities. Unfortunately, this also means that financial planning is difficult for many people.”

The scheme is verified by the perpetrator

Van den Asim says: We act like ostriches. “If we can prevent unpleasant emotions, we will. This is very humane. It is difficult to change the behavior that is in our DNA. But unlike animals, we are also born and have the ability to think about our own behavior. We can use this talent to our advantage.”

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“We each have two people fighting each other: the planner and the actor. The actor seeks short-term satisfaction. The planner thinks ahead and is the voice in your head that says, ‘Don’t do it, it’s not good for you.’ the wise “.

Wessels believes that the fact that everything is now more expensive than before is finally what motivates us to act. “The brain doesn’t like to lose, so you don’t lose those extra euros either. That’s why even a relatively small increase can get people moving. Every time someone goes shopping, eats, drinks or goes shopping, they stand a lot of interest in The media. This makes people vigilant, then more economical, then become more uncertain or even more anxious about the financial future. This helps in the short term to maintain the budget.”

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