Good Money: Understand Your Choices by Nathalie Spencer

The Blurb On The Back:

We all make choices with money – understand yours.

Using a unique, visual approach, Nathalie Spencer uncovers the science behind how w think about, use and manage money to guide you to a wiser and more enjoyable relationship with your finances.

From examining how cashless transactions affect our spending and decoding the principles of why a bargain draws you in, through to exposing what it really means to be an effective forecaster, Good Money reveals how you can be motivated to be better with money and provides you with essential tools to boost your financial wellbeing. 

You can order Good Money: Understand Your Choices by Nathalie Spencer from Amazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Nathalie Spencer is a behavioural scientist at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.  In this very broad book that doesn’t offer much new to those seeking to get control over their finances, she looks at the psychology of financial decision making and how behavioural science can be used to boost financial wellbeing.  If you’re wondering why you keep avoiding dealing with your finances, then this book offers an additional means of procrastination.

The book is divided into 5 parts and a total of 20 lessons: 

1. MONEY AND US

– money matters – what we talk about when we talk about money;

– our deep past – why we buy (so much stuff we could live without);

– miswanting – do we even know what will bring us happiness?

– prices, fines and incentives – money changes the situation.

2. MONEY IN THE DAY TO DAY

– ostrich effect – I don’t want to know!

– from cash to cashless – how does the changing medium of money affect us?

– friction – how slick is your app?

– that’s a bargain – or is it?

3. RESILIENCE

– role of luck in success – it matters more than we think;

– rose-tinted glasses – overoptimism can leave us unprepared;

– the attention tax – juggling finances requires a lot of headspace; and

– dealing with debt – paying down credit cards and unsecured loans.

4 LONG-TERM PLANNING

– playing the lottery – it’s tempting;

– trust and long-term mindsets – reliability matters;

– why is it so difficult to prepare for the future?; and

– retirement ready – think of your future self.

5 BETTER WITH MONEY

– can’t keep up? – the pressures of the hedonistic treadmill;

– setting goals – think of the big picture;

– willpower – developing self-control; and

– spending to improve happiness – how to spend it.

Each part ends with a summary of the main points (I think it’s a misnomer to identify it as a ‘toolkit’) and an additional reading/materials section, which has some interesting suggestions for those curious to know more about this topic.  

There is some useful advice in here, e.g. goal setting and will power (notably about creating if/then strategies and creating friction to avoid spending that’s merely instant gratification) and looking at the interest you’re paying on debt to work out which to pay down first.  There is also some interesting information about psychological behaviour (e.g. the discovery in Switzerland that offering financial compensation for being near a nuclear plant actually reduced approval of the project).  However it’s all quite high level stuff and, in some cases, tells you things that you probably already know.  This isn’t to say that it’s without merit – if you know you’re the kind of person who ignores their financial situation, then reading the section on the ostrich effect might help you identify it and Spencer goes on to suggest some ways of facing up to it like making lists.  In addition, some of the sections (notably the cash or cashless section) risk falling out of date given the speed with which western societies are abandoning cash – something that Spencer acknowledges but doesn’t really seem to consider in the context of adopting a coping strategy.

All in all if you’re interested in psychology generally, I think you’ll get more from this than if you’re someone seriously looking for suggestions to get to grips on your finances. 

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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