Shlomo Benartzi, a professor at UCLA's Anderson School of Management and co-chair of its Behavioral Decision-Making Group, told me this: Brain imaging shows that we use the same parts of our brains to think about our future selves that we use to think about strangers. If we are so estranged from our future, how can we be taught to care?
If our brains are the problem, how can we trick our brains into better financial behavior? This is the province of behavioral economists. Traditional economists tell us what we should do—how much to save and how to invest. Behavior economists investigate how to get us to do it.
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Three of the foremost behavioral economists are Benartzi, Richard Thaler at the University of Chicago and Cass Sunstein at Harvard University. Their works, including the books "Nudge" and "Save More Tomorrow," are fascinating peeks into the inner workings of human financial behavior.
Surprise, surprise: We're not entirely rational about our money. Some people think that because money is quantitative, it's analytical. That's wrong. Money is intensely emotional. More couples divorce over money than divorce over love and sex.