How to wire your brain for wealth: Find pleasure in saving money – Dawn Ridler

EDINBURGH — For many years, scientists believed that the human brain didn’t change much with age. But advances in neurobiology indicate that the way we think can and does alter. In fact, everything we do impacts on our neuroplasticity. Our brains are continually changing. This is the subject of a fascinating Ted Talk by Dr Lara Boyd, who has explored how to improve life for stroke victims and shares how neuroplasticity gives you the power to shape the brain you want. The clip, about 15 minutes long, has been viewed about 16m times. It is well worth watching if you are pondering how to boost your brain capacity or change your outlook on life. Johannesburg financial advisor Dawn Ridler highlights that understanding brain plasticity can also help you build wealth. In a nutshell, you can rewire your thinking so that you find saving a real pleasure, she explains in her latest column. – Jackie Cameron 

By Dawn Ridler*

Saving is silent

At the most basic level, the only way to grow wealth is to earn more than you spend and save the rest. If you can get that wealth equation to work for you, then you’re not going to have to worry about financial independence at any time in your life, but we all know that life happens, but more importantly emotions happen.

Financial emigration
Money expert Dawn Ridler

Humans are complicated, add money into the equation and it really becomes a mystery. Money has the power to completely change someone’s character, and let’s face it, it is also one of the major motivations for murder. We all have a money mindset, and often that is deeply entrenched in how we’ve been brought up, or challenges we have had to face getting to this place. That doesn’t mean to say that that mindset cannot be changed, the brain is a powerful thing, and more importantly it has plasticity, the ability to grow new connections all our life. We might have the most neurons we ever are going to have at birth, but considering we only ever use 5% of that brain, we have billions of ‘spare parts’.

If you’re out in the bush, you’ll probably be aware of barren areas, usually caused by overgrazing by animals (wild or domesticated). If these spots are in arid areas, they can become part of a desert – but it doesn’t have to stay that way. With the right conditions even a desert can turn into a spectacle of wildflowers – even for just a couple of weeks. In those short weeks the plants flower, collect energy (via the leaves) and produce millions of seeds that fall onto dry ground, and wait for the next rains. This is nature’s way of adapting to conditions – and humans can too.

Building up a habit is the equivalent of walking a well-worn path in the brain, so deep it can become a rut. When we’re out and about, we naturally walk down paths, they are easier and more comfortable – the same with our habits. We are often oblivious to our habits – how we dress, eat or talk. We all have money habits that we are probably just as oblivious of, and most of those are wrapped up in emotion.

Do you get a sinking feeling in your stomach at the beginning of the month when the cacophony of notification after notification signals the decimation of your bank account? There is a very good reason stores have payday specials – it isn’t that we are all looking for a great deal, we’re often looking to get a retail therapy high – because we deserve it.

Most of us boost our self-esteem with physical things we wear, drive or live in – that hasn’t changed, what has changed is the social media platform where all that and more can be ‘shown off’. Somehow, unless you take a selfie of yourself in an exotic place, eating a magnificent meal or attending an extravagant event – then it never happened, and there is no memory of it. The equivalent of a tree falling in a forest, if nobody hears it, then did it happen?

Consumption, aka spending, is conspicuous. You can take a selfie of it, or of you doing it – and be rewarded by ‘wow’ or ‘love’ emojis, all giving your self-esteem a nice little boost of serotonin. Saving is silent. We don’t screen save our bank statements or investments. There is no validation for your good saving – only for your consumption.

Habits are continually reinforced because they are easy, or because they give us pleasure (and the brain hormones of course play a part). The brain rewards us for taking the path more travelled, getting the brain to take another route is stressful, and often downright unpleasant. One obvious pathway to wealth, is to get pleasure out of saving, not just consuming. That saving needs to be smart, not just effective.

*Dr Boyd is Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Neurobiology of Motor Learning, Director, Brain Behaviour Laboratory, CIHR Delegate & Health Research Advisor to the VP Research.

  • Dawn Ridler is an Independent Financial Advisor with extensive experience in both financial advisory and business. Her unusual combination of an MBA, BSc and CFP ® has evolved into an ‘ecological’ and holistic approach to advisory, which she has tagged ‘Wealth Ecology’ in her company, Kerenga.

This article is published here on with the kind permission of Dawn Ridler. Copyright: Dawn Ridler

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