I am a born saver. When I was little, I could make my Halloween candy stretch for weeks. My ability to ration Valentines Day candy was a source of torture for my little sister, whose candy always disappeared seemingly before the cover was off of mine. When I was a teenager, I babysat for neighbors’ kids for money. I always had cash and strategically saved for whatever was on my list of must-haves. So it comes as no surprise to just about anyone that my husband, Jeff, and I have been able to save enough money to achieve financial independence long before we are eligible for Social Security.
Is that really a thing? Can a person be born to save? As it turns out, yes they can. In a paper titled “Personality, Past Behavior and Saving Intention: A Test of an Extended Model of The Theory of Planned Behavior”, researchers at the University of Padova, Italy identified a few personality traits that predicted whether a person was more likely to be a saver. Using the “Big Five Observer” personality profile, which measures people’s personality on a sliding scale for five traits (openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism), they tested whether personality influenced a person’s intention to save. People who scored low on the extroversion scale (introverts) were more likely to be savers than people who scored high on the scale (extroverts). Scoring high on the conscientiousness scale also was associated with saving.
In a separate study titled “Psychological, Social and Economic Determinants of Saving: Comparing Recurrent and Total Savings” done by researchers at the University College London, London UK, it was found that savers tended to be people who believed they were in control of their own destiny, whereas non-savers were more likely to believe that external forces had a large influence on their lives. Savers tended to be more structured, particularly in their approach to money management, whereas non-savers tended to be more flexible.
So it seems I come by my saver tendencies naturally. I am an introvert, have always believed that whatever happened to me was my own doing, and structured would be a kind way of describing just how inflexible I can be. However, you would not describe Jeff in this way. He is an extrovert. In fact in personality profiles, he and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum. He is also very flexible and willing to try new things. We do share the belief that we are in charge of our own destinies, but in most other respects we are the poster children for opposites attract. Yet, Jeff is a saver.
Jeff was not a rationer of Halloween candy as a child. He learned to save. When Jeff finished grad school, he took a job with a company that folded shortly after he was hired. It was the depths of the recession in the early 1980s, and he found himself, with his master’s degree, making burritos at a carnival. This frightening experience left its mark on him, and he has been a saver ever since.
You too can be a saver, whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, and whether you are structured or flexible. And it doesn’t have to take a traumatic economic event to teach you to save. If you are not a natural saver, take advantage of automation. Sign up for your company’s 401k plan, where savings will automatically be deducted from your paycheck before you even see it. For additional savings, take advantage of direct deposit to have money taken from your paycheck and deposited into a separate account from your normal spending account. These approaches to setting money aside before you have a chance to spend it will allow you to be you and still find financial security.
The fact is, we all need to save. No one is going to take care of your financial security for you. For some, saving comes more naturally than it does for others. But in the same way that you don’t have to be a natural athlete to play sports, you don’t have to be a natural saver to save money. Saving is a skill that can be learned, and there are many tools that make saving easier. Even if you did scarf down your Halloween candy in one night, you can learn to save and be financially secure for a lifetime.