You know that line about everything enjoyable being either illegal, immoral, or fattening? Well, stereotyping people, though ill-advised, is entertaining—provided one is not at the receiving end—without being any of those things. Gossip sessions with old friends and new encounters with strangers wouldn’t be half as interesting without putting people into little boxes. Think back to the conversations you’ve overheard or participated in. There’s the “Oh you’re a Virgo. You must drive your wife crazy with your perfectionism. Oh, that’s why you were rearranging the forks at the dining table”. Or the “I should’ve guessed you’re a middle child. You’re such a peacekeeper.” If you’re Japanese, who judge everyone based on how they bleed, you can also gush about your A-type hospitable husband or your AB-type calm colleague. The only irritant is that stereotyping is not always inoffensive. Personally, if I have to hear another “You must be a Feminazi if you’re from that college” or “Delhi people are so aggressive, aren’t they?”, I might just take a baseball bat to the speaker’s head.
And now, as if all the old generalizations weren’t enough, British researchers have found new grist for the masala mill in the way people manage their finances. Financial psychology, according to a report in Financial Times, joins the dots between psychology and behavioural economics. The researchers say it throws up six basic financial personality types.
To start with, there’s the individual who looks confident, trades frequently and believes he can beat the market. But the truth is he’s more often than not beaten by the market and has no idea how his portfolio is really doing. Behavioural scientists call him the ‘Anxious Investor’ and advise him to hire a financial planner to reach his goals. The ‘Hoarder’, no surprise, is one who hates risk and stockpiles cash that he would be better off investing or even spending.
Know someone who perpetually buys things she doesn’t need? Call her the ‘Social Value Spender’ who makes purchases (either for herself or others) to boost her self-esteem, and uses money as a proxy for love and affection. The ‘Cash Splasher’ is her male first cousin. He always picks up the bill and throws money about on big cars, gadgets and other objects that people can see. He considers himself super-generous but, in reality, is edgy about how people perceive his status.
If there’s someone you admire for tracking his bank balance and investment portfolio as obsessively as a sprinter measuring his speed and heart rate, stop right there. The behavioural scientists say this ‘Fitbit Financier’ is probably overcompensating for a lack of control elsewhere in his life. On the other end of the spectrum is the ‘Ostrich’, who would rather bury her head in the sand than fix her finances. Insecurity apparently lurks behind her behaviour too, making a non-decision preferable to a wrong one.
For those who disagree with all the above classifications, remember ‘it’s not a stereotype if it’s always true’.