Episode 64 – The Financial Wellbeing Junkie
The guys are back and may have found the secret meaning of life in this episode! They take a look at two key theories of wellbeing – Set Point Happiness and the Hedonic Treadmill – what really makes us happy and can we increase our wellbeing? There is the classic #TightAssTommo and the NEW Bages’ Biases, for a great episode well worth your time.
(scroll to the very bottom of this post to listen to the episode)
Welcomes & Introductions
Born out of a lot of the work that we’ve been doing on this podcast around Financial Wellbeing and the conference that we put on last year, and we got a huge amount of interest from people within the financial services world, and they wanted to get involved in Financial Wellbeing.
What is this podcast episode all about?
- The Hedonic Treadmill
- Set Point theory of Happiness
Could we have found the secret meaning of life?
🌟 BRAND NEW FEATURE 🌟
Every episode, Behavioral Finance expert Neil Bage is going to be giving us his money behavioral tip.
– Link to Episode 36 – Understanding our attitude to risk
– Link to Episode 21 – Financial capability
– Link to BeIQ | Beam App
This episode – Confirmation Bias
Featuring Spring Onions, Loo Roll and the real power behind the podcast
👋 “Hi guys” – Editor Tammy
Today’s Topic – the Financial Wellbeing Junkie
The guys reflect on their lockdown online spending sprees!
Two theroies for Financial Wellbeing:
Set Point Theory
We reach adult life with a level of happiness that is static for the rest of our lives. It is unlikely to change.
If something reduces our wellbeing, we deviate away from our set pint – so we do something to give us a short term burst of wellbeing.
From Chris’ retail therapy he came up with the expression ‘Financial Wellbeing Junkie’ – a short term fix for wellbeing.
The new normal and the signinficant effect of lockdown on our wellbeing
Everybody’s had to make some adjustments
Research into life changing events and the effects on happiness
If something has happened to significantly reduce our wellbeing. We indulge in reckless habits and in the search of wellbeing to try and bring us back to our Set Point
Is it actually possible to deviate from our set level of happiness?
- Catastrophic events can reduce our wellbeing
- increases in our wellbeing are more etheral
Maybe our current level of well being is right for us?
Complications in life have been removed temporarily due to world events – with distractions removed has wellbeing increased?
No choice but to focus on the things that really make you happy.
The importance of Time
What might increase to our longtime well being?
Or at least give longer lasting wellbeing, giving us greater protection against the things that knock us off our Set Point?
Acceptance is important
The importance of maintaining meaningful engagement with the world around you in later life, whether this is through social creative or physical activity, work or belonging to some form of community group.
Financial Wellbeing is one of five parts of wellbeing:
- Career Wellbeing
- Social Wellbeing
- Financial Wellbeing
- Physical Wellbeing
- Community Wellbeing
Financial Wellbeing, itself is really all about how you use your money to support and increase the other areas.
Conclusions from the guys –
It’s not so much about how we spend our money, but how we spend our time.
The Financial Wellbeing Podcast
This is what a good financial planner can do and here at Ovation Finance we can help you. Ovation get to know you and find out your motives – so your money can help you spend time to maximise your wellbeing.
Do you have any financial wellbeing questions you would like us to answer? Or do you have a #tightasstommo money saving tip you would like to share with our listeners?
If so, let us know by going to Twitter @Finwellbeing or email – firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to purchase a copy of The Financial Wellbeing Book please email us at email@example.com
Transcribe of the Podcast Script:
(scroll to the bottom to listen to the episode)
Welcome everybody to another one in our lockdown additions of the Financial Wellbeing Podcast. My name is David Lloyd, I’m at home in my, in my home office, and I am involved at the moment in a Zoom conversation with my two esteemed colleagues who would like to introduce themselves to you now.
Tommo – after you mate.
Producer Tommo 1:18
Oh wow. Oh wow, we usually have a bit of a battle over this. Yes. Tom Morris Chartered Financial Planner and director at Ovation Finance.
So I’m Chris Budd, I wrote the Financial Wellbeing book. I’m also chairman of the Initiative for Financial Wellbeing. And am chairman of Ovation. I’ve got a few things actually, yeah, so there you go. And I’m currently standing in my cabin in the garden which is where I’ve been for few years actually, I mean, not just in the cabin obviously I am allowed out every once in a while. So if you hear little noise in the background, it’s the rain pattering on the roof because it does get a bit noisy when it rains hard in here.
Producer Tommo 1:54
With a desire to add to my back catalogue. As Chris has mentioned it. I’m also on the executive board of the IFW, so just needed to put that in there because I’m always conscious of re-listening to these, how many interests, you two have got.
What is the IFW?
Producer Tommo 2:12
Good, I’m glad you got I’m glad you got that cue. The IFW is the Initiative of Financial Wellbeing, which is an organization that was very much born out of a lot of the work that we’ve been doing on this podcast around Financial Wellbeing and the conference that we put on last year, and we got a huge amount of interest from people within the financial services world, and they wanted to get involved and it’s manifested from there and we are how many members strong now Chris?
160, I think it is, individual members. We’ve got lots of partner members or sponsors as they’re also known. So if there’s anybody working for a company that thinks ‘do you know what financial well being we would quite like to get involved in that’ then get in touch with us, because we are looking for partner member companies to help support our work.
Brilliant. And before we go on with the main body of the podcast today. As I said in the introduction, we still at the moment that this is being recorded still in lockdown we’re still confined largely to our homes, just want to briefly ask the two of you, how are you coping with all? T ommo your at home, you’ve got a toddler and another one on the way, how are you dealing with all of that?
Producer Tommo 3:21
I do that’s hot off the press isn’t it? I, my, my darling wife Lindsay is expecting our second. So that’s all very exciting. And, yeah, I am doing far better than I was, a few weeks back actually. It’s just routine, getting used to the new way of doing things and it’s I find it’s amazing how human beings can get used to a new norm in a fairly short space of time. I have my moments but I’m, yeah, it’s gonna be strange actually going outside again now I think.
Chris, what about yourself?
Well that phrase “the new normal” is gonna come up again later tonight so I’m glad you used that. I’m al right. Yeah, I think, I think it’s fair to say that I am watching a lot of films in the evenings, Im quite enjoying that. Getting to watch some stuff with my son who’s really into his films, so we watched Pale Rider last night, Clint Eastwood, and I have watched a few interesting films recently. So yeah it’s okay, it’s okay. I wouldn’t want this to last forever David but we’re doing all right.
Yeah I find going back to something Tommo said I think routine, I’m finding that really really helpful. I just finished watching actually, with my 16 year old nephew who’s in lockdown with me, the entire series of Game of Thrones. Which we’ve watched two a night for the past five weeks, and I really enjoyed. I’ve seen it before he hadn’t, so we’ve really enjoyed that. So we’re gonna have to break new ground tonight, watch something else. But I think those routines really help as well I’ve had a little, little hash tag going on Twitter called #lockdownlibation – where I feature a different drink, every night, and I’m enjoying that I mean it just started off with me you know with a photograph of a glass of cider and it’s kind of just grown into me now trying to come up with something, perhaps witty, never anything that profound. Anyway,
I think it’s worth saying actually David, you’re a good follow on Twitter so @dave_backwell. I’ve enjoyed your libations as well. I have to say, you know, it’s not that difficult to find a picture of you with a pint of cider is it, lets be honest?
It’s true. All right, thank you for that little plug. Okay, so let’s let’s crack on with today’s podcast, what are we talking about today, Chris?
Well today David we’re going to talk about a concept called the ‘Hedonic Treadmill’ and Spot Theory of Happiness,’ and when I was doing the research and writing some of the stuff for this, I thought I found the secret of life! The secret of the meaning of life. It’s not 42, after all, it’s all to do with the Hedonic Treadmill so anyway well that’s what we’re going to talk about.
Okay. Well, Now, I look forward to that very much. indeed, I’ve never come across the word hedonic before but no doubt you’ll tell us more of that. Before that we have a couple of features that we need to bring to you. So I’m very excited to announce that we’ve got a brand new feature on the podcast – Bages’ Biases. Now every episode, Behavioral Finance expert Neil Bage is going to be giving us his money behavioral tip. He’s been on the podcast before in Episode 36 and 21. But his company BeIQ has just launched a new app called Beam. Now it’s currently only available on iTunes, but it’s coming to Android devices later in the year I’m told. And Beam will help you to uncover your own behavioral biases, the things that often stop us from making good decisions about money. So let’s have a listen to what bias Neil has for us in this episode.
Neil Bage 6:38
Today we start with Confirmation Bias. So, what is Confirmation Bias. Confirmation Bias sees us searching for, or interpreting information that is consistent with our existing opinions or beliefs, whilst at the same time, ignoring any evidence that could prove that we’re wrong. It’s a very powerful Behavioral Bias and is what psychologists call the mother of all Behavioral Biases. Let me give you an example, assume you hold the view, the opinion, that people who have blue eyes are more intelligent than those who don’t have blue eyes. You want to prove your point. So you go online and you search for are blue eyed people the most intelligent? I’ve done this, and the first response up is from a well known British newspaper, we’ve carried out the research of looking into this and have concluded in inverted commas, that A; a series of very bright historical characters had blue eyes, Stephen Hawking, Marie Curie for example, and B; blue eyed people are more studious and outperform brown eyed individuals in exams. Well, that’s all fine and dandy right but it blatantly leaves out some crucial information, such as examples of historically brilliant people weren’t blue eyed, or how people with different eye colors perform in exams. In seeking evidence for my hypothesis, this goes a long way to confirming my beliefs, I could just stop there and tell people that I have evidence that supports my view. Now, what happens if instead you search for eye color and intelligence. Well, this gives us a completely different set of results, much more grounded, much more fact based, but it also gives me access to evidence on all eye colour, and IQ scores, so I can see information that will help me reach a conclusion. Now, I can continue to search for fact based evidence and update my mental model of the world, or I keep searching for information that only confirms my view. And at the same time, ignore any of the evidence that proves that my hypothesis is wrong. Therefore, a great tip for this bias is not to accept your view or opinion as fact. And if you’re looking for information to support your view, start by looking at evidence that doesn’t support your view, see the other side of the story first, and it may just help you keep your Confirmation Bias at bay.
Interesting stuff there. Good to hear from Neil again. It goes back to the assertion by my follower on Twitter yesterday that Boris Johnson the best Prime Minister we ever had, it just goes to show that just because you believe Brexit was a good thing, doesn’t necessarily follow that the man who brought it to us, is the best Prime Minister, capable of doing the job. So very interesting point now from Neil I thought.
Producer Tommo 9:48
I would imagine there’s a little bit of Confirmation Bias going on with you aswell Dave?
Producer Tommo 9:55
I’m gonna give you an example. I’m acutely aware of some of this stuff as you would hope, David as your financial planner! And you’re going to get introduced to the Beam app, and what we’re using it ovation is the back office system for that so we can really get some terrific insight into our clients behaviors and talk about that with them so watch this space on that one we’re gonna have an exciting meeting next time we see each other.
Looking forward to it.
Producer Tommo 10:23
But actually I had this experience myself. So, I’m, a man who likes a spreadsheet. I’m a man who likes data, and I have been tracking the COVID-19 death figures. It sounds terribly morbid, but just trying to get some sense of what the patterns all mean. For me, it was an odd sense of control at least knowing what was going on. And I noticed that it was definitely an outlier that is Germany in Western Europe anyway. And I allowed my suspicions, which are completely unfounded at this point, I think there’s something going on with that numbers. I have no proof of that. So, but I could see it triggering in my mind, hang on a second you’re making assumptions based on no facts at all. So I sent a simple Twitter message out there and just said look could somebody explaine to me how Germany have got the same amount of cases that are positive as the UK but have far fewer death rates numbers. And I got back, some really informed opinions and decision based on quite a lot of good evidence that enabled me to have the counter arguments to my initial grounding and belief. I just completely switched my view on it, I think that we haven’t got the evidence yet to be quite frank, but it just pulled me away from just searching for information that suited my initial thoughts. Does that make sense.
Yes it does. No, absolutely. And I think we look forward very much to hearing more of Neil’s Biases in future episodes. Now is the time to move on though to another one of our features which has proved incredibly popular in all the podcasts that we’ve done. When we get our champion of cheapness TightAssTommo to come up with another one of his great money saving ideas. Before he does Chris have you’ve got anything for us today?
Unknown Speaker 12:14
I do David. It’s a work in progress, but I saw a Tweet from somebody talking about how to regrow spring onions. Now I do love a good spring onion. You know when you chop the end off with all the little roots on it. The idea is that you put that into some water. The roots regrow and then you can then plant it in your garden, and you can get new spring onions. And I assume you can just keep doing this round and round forever and never have to buy a spring and you’re never again.
So I am growing spring onions at the moment so when when I harvest the first one I will do exactly that.
I’ve got a little ball in the kitchen with with 10 ends of spring onions currently in it with some water. So we’ll see whether it works or not.
Brilliant. Okay, Tommo, what have you got for us?
Producer Tommo 13:01
Today, I’ve got a silly practical one for you, and it was actually shared with me by Tammy, the real producer behind this podcast. . .
Producer Tommo 13:12
As the editor would definitely be listening to this. And it was quite a funny one and seems. . . Can you remember when toilet paper was you know more. . . Well, it seems to be available again, but I can remember it was, it was more expensive than gold at one point. And ironically, one loo roll was more expensive in a barrel of oil, you know at some point during this. . .
Bit worried, is this going to be an alternative to toilet roll I’m really worried where this is going!
Producer Tommo 13:44
No, just a bit of context, when we listen back to this in a years time on how how crazy these times have been that loo roll was the currency of choice! But it did make me laugh because the advice was all around making it go a little bit further, and that was to squash the loo roll, before you put it on the loo roll holder, so that when you pulled it to use it. You didn’t actually pull more than you need it because it wasn’t a perfect circle. So, you know, perfect for children who don’t really get the concept of, you know, making sure it lasts, and a lot of adults too. See as I was a terrific tip
Brilliant, brilliant, so Tommo says, wipe your bum with oil. Right. So, Chris, enough of this levity, why don’t you introduce our subject for today.
Okay, so I want to talk about a boxset of Fellini films that I recently bought. But you may remember David that little Twitter chat about,
We did indeed yes you were, you were looking for recommendations between Fellini or Truffaut and I recommended Fellini mainly based on the fact I haven’t seen any Truffaut films.
Confirmation Bias at work!
How are you finding them?
Oh, I really enjoyed it. I’ve watched two so far, I’ve really enjoyed them. But the thing is, when they arrived, I completely forgotten that I bought them, it took me by surprise. I’ve only a few days, and yet I forgotten that I had ordered a boxset of the Fellini films which was a crazy thing to do really and it made me just reflect upon my amazon shopping, and I’d been doing a bit of an online buying spree. So, at about the same time I was doing a bit of research on theories of happiness for a NextGen thing, which is if you’re if your financial advisor hopefully will know NextGen, they do a morning commute, and I’ve been doing a daily tip. So, I kind of came up with this phrase the Financial Wellbeing Junkie. So I’d like to explain what I mean by this which gives me the chance to go through some Financial Wellbeing theory, starting off with how much more I’ve buying online.
Well yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of that as well. You can’t get out to the shops apart for buying food. So I’ve been buying all sorts of things. I had some bamboo canes turn up the other day that I’d forgotten that I’d orderd. Support for my French beans.
Producer Tommo 16:03
I, it’s fair to say we’re getting a few parcels arrived. I’m not ordering them because I’m TightAssTommo. However, Lindsay is is ordering quite a few, and she says it’s the thing that keeps her going because she’s got something to look forward to each day. I I’m like wow, times are bleak when you’ve got locked down with a toddler. But yeah similar, similar things happening this end.
Okay, so listen this is, this is the theory right, this is this is, follow me with this logic. First of all I need to tell you about two bits of theory for Financial Wellbeing. The first is Set Point Theory, now we have looked at set point theory before back in Podcast 39. Basically the idea of Set Point Theory is that we reach adult life with a level of happiness which is then static for the rest of our lives. They reckon it’s between 50% to 80% determined by genetics and the rest is from our childhood. And that when we reach adult life then that level of wellbeing, stays the same for the rest of our lives, it’s unlikely to change greatly. And there’s lots of studies and research I could describe to you the backs that up. So what happens as we go through life is there’s something called the Hedonic Treadmill. Fantastic expression. The Hedonic Treadmill is a way of saying that, when we deviate away from that Set Point of wellbeing, maybe, something happens that reduces our wellbeing – we do something to give us a short term burst of wellbeing, that takes us back up to our Set Point level. So, when we are put off our stride, if you like, like a lockdown, you go and you do things to give yourself wellbeing to bring you back up to your set level. So, like for example, you go online and you buy stuff to get a bit of short term retail therapy, the short term fixes of wellbeing. Which is why I came up with this expression, bit tongue in cheek, a bit of fun the Financial Wellbeing Junkie, because I realized when that Fellini boxset that landed on my doormat, I’d become a Financial Wellbeing Junkie. Buying things to get short term fixes of wellbeing, to bring me back to my set level. Tommo you mentioned earlier on, about this phrase, the new normal.
Producer Tommo 18:13
Yeah, I wonder whether that’s fitting into what you’re saying, you know we were looking for these short term fixes. You know as we try and adjust to this new normal, you know, lockdown has a significant effect on our wellbeing. There is no doubt about that. And I think there’s an element of us just trying to get back to where we were before.
Yeah, I think that’s absolutely true. I’ve been speaking to a lot of people that always say to us, as David did at the start of this ‘How are you feeling at the moment?’ Nobody is saying, ‘I’m brilliant!’ Everybody’s had to make some adjustments. And actually that’s what we do, we make two different changes, we might adjust to the new normal. Or we get short term fixes of well being to keep us up to that level. Let me give you another example – there’s a really interesting, very famous, bit of research where they took two groups of people who’d had massive life changing events. One of them were lottery winners. Like a significant lottery winner. And the other one were people who had an accident, which led to loss of limb. And they asked these people were you happy before this life changing event. And were you happy after the life changing event. So what do you think guys what was the conclusion from that survey?
Well I think they do say money cannot buy you happiness so, I wouldn’t assume that people would necessarily be any happier because they had the money.
Producer Tommo 20:04
I know the answer.
So the answer is, whatever they said, from either group before the event was the same after the event. So if somebody was happy before they won the lottery, or had that loss of limb they were happy afterwards. And if they were unhappy before they were unhappy. In other words, the life changing event didn’t actually affect their long term level of wellbeing. So, this has a really interesting application in clinical psychology. If someone is depressed, then it could be because they’re a long way from their Set Point, and as a clinical psychologist can help trace the events or points of change that led to the move from the Set Point, they can help the patient recover from the depressive spell. And it also explains why, if something has happened to significantly reduce our wellbeing. We indulge in reckless habits and in the search of wellbeing to try and bring us back to our Set Point, such as playing a Fellini boxset!
So understand the theory we have a set level of wellbeing and our actions and experiences only have a finite effect before we return back to that level. I also get the point that the way we spend money tends to have only short term effect. But that does leave a couple of key questions I think. how can we spend money in ways that will have a longer term impact on our Set Point of wellbeing? And is it actually possible to deviate from our set level of happiness?
Unknown Speaker 21:25
I think, I think this is the heart of what the, the podcast has been all about and will be all about. It’s the interesting question so let’s, let’s look at the second one first. Is it possible to increase our long term level of wellbeing? Well there are some things that are accepted will affect long term wellbeing, can be pretty catastrophic, such as the death of a child. The sorts of things that might increase our Set Point are much more etheral things like mindfulness and acceptance.
Producer Tommo 21:52
Well, maybe our current level of well being is right for us. Maybe if we didn’t spend so much time trying to be happier and accepting what we have, wouldn’t that in itself just make us happier? You know I’m thinking right now, if you’re quite naturally grumpy, and you’re thinking you’re likely to have a higher point of happiness or well being, actually, that you’re happy being grumpy?
Are you speaking from personal experience there Tommo?
Only happy when you’re miserable?
I found during lockdown, some of the complications of my life has been removed. Organizing social events which I do a lot of, promoting the Employee Ownership Trust the Eternal Business Consultancy, a lot of that is stopped. So, I’ve been, or at least reduced temporarily so I’ve been able to focus on the things that make me happy. My stress has been removed and I actually think my wellbeing has increased up a little bit, perhaps, never to my set level, because some of the distractions have been removed.
Producer Tommo 22:50
Yeah, I can, if you’ve got no choice but to focus on the things that really make you happy and maybe that’s, yeah falls into why we’re maybe trying to also catch that. Maybe there’s an element, some people lose their purpose during this period, those that are on furlough.
Yeah, I’m not doing any writing, well I’m doing bits of writing for myself, my TV writing has stopped. But I think one thing I’ve discovered that I am really enjoying, not today as it’s absolutely hosing it down with rain, is I’ve discovered that I like gardening. But one of my Confirmation Biases, if you like, is why I don’t like gardening, I’m no good at gardening. I think the truth was I never, I never really had time for it. I never made time, I was busy doing other things. But the things with which I occupied my time which follow my work, and also heavily involved in cricket which is another thing which isn’t happening this time again. I’ve now actually got more time, and because my gardener isn’t calling either, I thought I need to get to grips with this massive garden I’ve got. And actually, I’ve been spending some really enjoyable time out there. And I realized that it wasn’t the fact that didn’t like gardening, it was the fact that I didn’t have time to do it properly.
Producer Tommo 23:59
That’s interesting – time. Time. I think we talked about this in a previous podcast, time is so important to us because we can fill it with the things that we really enjoy doing and then maybe from what you’re saying, Chris about you’re actually focusing on the things that make you happy and David you’re able to focus on the things that make you now you have the time. My comment about your current level of wellbeing being right for you or just accepting it maybe isn’t true if if there is an opportunity to just go and search to see if there are other things that we can explore. I don’t know?
I think that’s very true. And I think the one thing that most of us do have plenty of at the moment is time. Time that we’re not used to having and it’s, I guess how we use that. But I’d come back to the other question, if I may, Chris. What might increase to our longtime well being, or at least give longer lasting wellbeing? So giving us greater protection against the things that knock us off our Set Point.
Unknown Speaker 24:58
I think I would answer that, firstly by just saying, have you ever seen an unhappy Buddhist? You know, Tommo’s point about acceptance I think is really, really important. And this this lockdown time is for some of us is giving us a chance to say well what’s actually important get rid of the noise and accept our level of wellbeing. And stopping the fight, if you like, the rat race. I know there’s a lot in that. Age Concerned did an interesting survey recently about wellbeing in the over 60s. The key sentence from that report, which surveyed some 15,000 people, was the following – The importance of maintaining meaningful engagement with the world around you in later life, whether this is through social creative or physical activity, work or belonging to some form of community group.
Producer Tommo 25:47
That’s, I mean that rings true. A big part of where Financial Wellbeing comes from is, it is just one of five parts of wellbeing. And actually, it can help support these other areas of wellbeing that are arguably more important. Think of community wellbeing, we’ve talked about that in previous podcasts. Social wellbeing, it all comes out in that, in that sentence right there. And I think, focusing on that not just our finances is incredibly important. But if we can, if we can get our finances to be secure enough to support those areas I mean great, imagine that combination.
Unknown Speaker 26:26
So that age concern report cites engagement in creative and cultural activities as being a major part of contributing to overall wellbeing so Financial Wellbeing, itself is really all about how you use your money to increase the other areas of cultural, creative, community, social etc. So if we want to have one thing to do a lockdown time – that’s what we should be doing using this time to make sure we work on the other areas of our wellbeing and direct our money in that direction as well.
So in some ways we may perhaps have been looking in the wrong place when we were running our more active ‘helter skelter’ lives it’s perhaps not so much about how we spend our money, but how we spend our time.
David, you have a brilliant way of summarizing these things. I could have just ask you to say that at the beginning, and we could have saved everybody that time.
It’s been a it’s been a varied conversation today, which I’ve really really enjoyed. And I hope at home that you have to, and that you’ll join us again very soon for another one of our Financial Wellbeing Podcasts.