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An Ounce Of Financial Prevention

Syble Solomon. Photo courtesy of Solomon.
Syble Solomon. Photo courtesy of Solomon.
October 22, 2012

BOSTON – New research is helping families break the cycle of constant financial crisis, and it doesn't cost much to do it. According to financial educator Syble Solomon, the key findings confirm that people make mistakes when under stress. She says this helps explain why people make the same errors over and over again - because each problem makes the next one harder to deal with.

The good news, she says, is that if families on the edge can save something and get even a little bit ahead in terms of their finances, they can learn to be in better control.

"That 25 or 50 dollars soon becomes 100 dollars, 200 dollars. And if that's left as untouchable, then when there is an emergency, they're actually able to handle it and every emergency doesn't become a crisis."

Solomon says behavioral economists are studying people's decision-making processes, using new information about how the brain works. They're finding that if people are under enough pressure, their habits and emotions will tend to override their logic.

She points out that people at all income levels make financial decisions based on such considerations as status and the desire to be well liked - instead of, say, a budget. For families on the financial edge, it can be especially hard, she adds.

"When people are stressed about money, they make bad choices. And when people have very little money, they frequently feel they don't have any control; and therefore they make decisions that, in the long run, are not in their best interests."

She notes that people can learn to make better decisions, and don't need much to feel in control of their financial lives. She points out a simple mental trick that can help.

"H is hungry, A is angry, L is lonely, and T is tired. And when people are hungry, angry, lonely or tired, you want them to get in the habit of saying, 'Halt!'"

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA