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Why your friends don’t save money, eat healthier, or clean their garages

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I just wrote a monster guest post at Get Rich Slowly. Here’s an excerpt:

“…This is a common phenomenon: As Laura Levine of the Jump$tart Coalition told me, and I paraphrase, ‘Bob doesn’t want to attend his 401(k) seminar because he’s afraid he’ll see his neighbor there…and that would be equivalent to admitting he didn’t know about money for all those years.’

They also don’t like to attend personal-finance events because they don’t like to feel bad about themselves.

Yes, we should max out our 401(k) employer match, but billions of dollars are left on the table each year because we don’t. Yes, we should eat healthier and exercise more, but we don’t.

Why not? Why wouldn’t we do something that’s objectively good for us?”

Read the full article: Why your friends don’t save money, eat healthier, or clean their garages

* * *

PS–I chose the title to be about “your friends” instead of “you” strategically. The first person who can name two psychological principles for why I might have done this gets a free copy of my book. Real, peer-reviewed psychological theories, not what you saw on Dr. Phil. [Note: Someone already won!]

BOOK COUNTDOWN: 6 days until I Will Teach You To Be Rich launches!! Pre-order now and forward your receipt to to get spreadsheets, bonuses, and a way to get your book signed. Get it now:

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  1. They may have technical names, but two reasons to use “your friends” instead of “you” would be 1) “you” immediately puts people in defensive mode, so they will argue that you are wrong, that they don’t fit the description, instead of listening to the information, and 2) pointing out things “your friends” do as silly or in a negative context subconsciously encourages the listener to want to do the opposite, to be better than others.

    • Samantha! You’re actually exactly right. But I’m looking for the names of theories that would describe this. There are a few possibilities, for those who’ve studied psych…

  2. Because I don’t want to admit to myself I have those problems, so I might not want to read if it was about “me”
    and you don’t want to make me feel bad about myself

  3. 1) Avoid accusation.
    2) Indicate the problem as Social Norm.

  4. Mirror technique or third person technique.

  5. One psychological principle would be the reverse halo effect if the article was written with “you” instead of “your friends” people take the one negative thing in their own lives and classify themselves as a “bad person”. Also an individual may think that other parties will classify them this way this third party finds out some trait or skill the individual is lacking.

    The other would be the psychological principle of projection. It is easier for most individual to project their problems onto another person (even sometimes imaginary) rather than going through the process of introspection. Projection separates the person from their problem, but does not disassociate them completely. On the other hand it takes a mentally stronger person to be able to discover their faults through introspection.

  6. 1) Compartmentalization

    2) Projection Bias

  7. Theories are in *’s.

    Firstly, positioning the title like this prevents *cognitive dissonance* within the individual. By insinuating that the reader performs an action that defies their own personality or logic, this cognitive dissonance could cause negative emotional feelings in the reader. By directing the idea at someone else, the reader is able to take in the information and utilize it while avoiding having to actually “confront” their misplaced behaviour.

    The second theory this plays on would be *actor-observer effect*. If the reader were thinking this article referred to their own inability to invest/exercise/etc. properly, they would simply dismiss the argument to external factors (ie. “Oh, I just don’t have time right now because of work. Next week I’ll be back on the treadmill”). By viewing it as people other than themselves, they instead focus on the internal motivations behind the lack of action, and are less likely to dismiss the arguments.

  8. Commented over on GRS already, but just wanted to say… great article! Best PF article I’ve read in a long time.

  9. I would like to state, since we are being picky, that the offer was “Anyone who can name two psychological principles for why I might have done this gets a free copy of my book.”, not just the first person.

    Social Comparison Theory and Attribution Theory 🙂

  10. Do you think there is a correlation on how clean a person’s house is by how clean they keep their garage? No way…. hubby cleans the garage….. I clean the house. Not that men aren’t good housekeepers in general, but mine isn’t the best at it. But I’m not embarrassed to leave the garage door open.