MONEY Shopping

10 Things Millennials Buy Far More Often Than Everyone Else

For real, snakes?

Roughly a year ago, we at MONEY rounded up a fun list of 10 things millennials won’t spend money on—at least not to the same degree as older generations. Cars, cable TV, and Costco were all on the list, as were houses. A freshly released Pew Research Center study indicates that a larger-than-expected percentage of young people are still living with their parents rather than moving out and perhaps buying a place of their own.

Yes, millennials are stingy when it comes to spending in certain categories. Yet even as they aren’t following in the footsteps of their consumer forebears in terms of embracing big-ticket items like houses and cars, millennials spend far more freely on certain other items compared to older generations. Here are 10 things they buy more often—sometimes a lot more often—than Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, including a few big surprises.

  • Gas Station Food

    Customers line up for their free Slurpees in a 7-Eleven store in New York
    Richard Levine—Alamy

    Millennials have been referred to as the grab-and-go generation, with 29% saying that they often purchase food and drink while on the run, compared with 19% of consumers overall. You might think that Chipotle or perhaps Starbucks would be the biggest beneficiary of this habit. But according to the NPD Group, Gen Y restaurant visits are actually on the decline, particularly among older millennials who are more likely to have families. What’s more, in terms of drawing millennial food and beverage visits, the fast-casual segment is handily beaten by an under-the-radar retail category: the gas station.

    Whereas fast-casual accounted for 6.1% of millennial food and beverage stops in 2014, NPD researchers point out that 11.4% of such visits took place at convenience stores like 7-Eleven, Wawa, Cumberland Farms, and Sheetz, where the hot to-go offerings include salads, wraps, healthy(ish) sandwiches, pizza, and wings alongside old standards like hot dogs and microwaveable burritos. Some even have espresso and smoothie bars, which is probably news to most older folks. “If you’re 50 or over, you still think the convenience store is primarily a gas station,” the NPD Group’s Harry Balzer explained to USA Today.

  • Same-Day Delivery

    FedEx Same Day delivery truck
    courtesy FedEx

    Patience is not exactly a virtue among consumers who grew up with smartphones and social media. Consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow sums up this mindset as “I want what I want, when I want it,” and points to a Shop.org survey indicating that millennials have been twice as likely as other generations to pay extra for same-day delivery of online purchases.

    Earlier this year, the New York Times took note of a surge in same-day delivery, in particular among services supplying alcohol directly to the customer’s door. “It has not hurt that millennials, who are used to ordering food for delivery on their smartphones, have come of legal drinking age,” the Times noted.

  • Hot Sauce

    Sriracha bottles on shelf
    Patti McConville—Alamy

    Sriracha is everywhere. It is spicing up potato chips and croutons, adding some extra kick to Heinz ketchup, and offering a strange twist at Pizza Hut. Heck, it’s even in beer. And the overwhelming reason Sriracha is ubiquitous is that it’s evolved into the go-to condiment of the all-important millennial demographic. More than half of American households now have hot sauce on hand. Sriracha specifically is stocked in 9% of them—and in 16% of households headed by someone under age 35.

    The hot sauce craze has translated to a constantly changing roster of ultra-spicy items on fast food menus. Part of the reason that millennials prefer spicier foods is that they were exposed to different tastes at fairly young ages. “Millennials like hot, spicy foods because of their experience with more ethnic foods, like Hispanic and Asian,” said Kelly Weikel, senior consumer research manager at Technomic.

  • Snakes

    snake collar
    Luca Gavagna—Getty Images/iStockphoto

    This past spring, an odd extension for Google Chrome was desisnged to allow users to sub the phrase “snake people” in the place of “millennials” on screens. It was a fun goof that now seems like ancient history. But it turns out that millennials really are snake people, in the sense that they have more interest than other generations in buying and keeping snakes—and all reptiles—as pets.

    “This age group, 15-35 years old, is the generation that is most active in reptile keeping and searching for related material online,” Keith Morris, national sales manager for the reptile product site ZooMed.com, told Pet Age last summer. Data collected by Pet Age also indicates millennials are more willing to splurge on their pets with luxuries like custom beds: 76% said they’d be likely to splurge on pets rather than themselves, compared with just 50% of Baby Boomers. Yet another survey indicated that millennials are far more interested than Boomers and Gen Xers in pet healthcare as a job benefit. So the big takeaway is: Millennials really love pets in all shapes, sizes, and species.

  • Athleisure

    Yoga Pants
    Kirsten Dayton—Alamy

    The demographic that overwhelmingly gets the credit for yoga pants replacing jeans as the mainstream go-to casual bottom of choice (and even coming to be seen as legitimate work clothes at the office) is of course the millennial generation. Yoga pants, hoodies, sweatpants, and other leggings are lumped into the “athleisure” or “leisurewear” clothing category, which has been most warmly embraced by millennials—and in turn inspired retailers ranging from Ann Taylor to the Gap to Dick’s Sporting Goods to ramp up their selections of women’s exercise wear that’s not necessarily for exercise.

    “When I look at athleisure bottom business—the yoga pant, sweat pant, sweat short—it has displaced the jean business one to one,” NPD Group retail analyst Marshal Cohen said recently. Sales of such clothing rose 13% during a recent 12-month span, and now represent roughly 17% of the entire clothing market, according to the market research firm. “For every jean we are not selling or used to sell we are selling an athleisure bottom. It has become as important to the market as denim would be.”

    Side note: Yoga pants aren’t the only skin-tight garment getting a boost from millennials. During the 12-month period that ended in May, spending on women’s tights was up 24% among millennials, who now account for 45% of all sales in the category.

  • Organic Food

    Organic produce sections in The Whole Foods Market in Willowbrook, Illinois
    Jeff Haynes—AFP/Getty Images

    According to a Gallup poll conducted last summer, 45% of Americans actively seek out organic foods to include in their diets. Millennials are a lot more likely than average to feel that it’s important to go organic, however, so the preferences of younger consumers skew the overall average up. Whereas only 33% of Americans age 65 and older actively try to include organic foods in their diets, 53% of Americans ages 18 to 29 do so.

  • Tattoos & Piercings

    Millennial with the words "Hustle" and "Money" tattooed on each leg using his iPhone
    Petri Artturi Asikainen—Getty Images

    It’s been estimated that 20% of Americans—and nearly 40% of millennials—have at least one tattoo. Surveys conducted for Pew Research several years ago indicated that about 30% of millennials had piercings somewhere other than their ears, which is six times higher than older Americans.

    Despite the growing acceptance of tattoos simply by way of them becoming mainstream, millennials remain somewhat cautious about getting one because it could hurt their chances of being hired. Or at least they’re careful when deciding the placement of a tattoo. In a recent University of Tampa poll, 86% of students said that having a visible tattoo would hurt one’s chances of getting a job. It’s understandable, then, that 70% of millennial workers with tattoos say they hide their ink from the boss.

  • Energy Drinks

    Monster brand energy drinks on sale in a convenience store in New York
    Richard Levine—Alamy

    American parents, likely exhausted by nighttime feedings, hectic schedules, and such, understandably feel the need to resort to energy drinks. A recent Mintel survey shows that 58% of U.S. households with children consume Red Bull, Monster, or other energy drinks, compared to just 27% of households without kids.

    Meanwhile, millennials are even more likely than parents in general to throw back energy drinks: 64% of millennials consume them regularly, and 29% of older millennials (ages 27 to 37, who are more likely to be parents themselves) say they’ve increased the number of energy drinks they consume in recent months.

  • Donations at the Cash Register

    signing electronic bill at register
    Juan Monino—Getty Images

    Some shoppers feel annoyed and put on the spot when a store clerk asks if they’d like to make a charitable donation while ringing up a purchase at the cash register. This isn’t the case with the typical millennial, however.

    According to a report from the consultancy firm the Good Scout Group, of all generations “Gen Y likes being asked to give to charity at the register the most.” What’s more, millennials say that they donate at store cash registers more often than any other generation, and they also felt “most positively about charities and retailers once they gave.”

  • Craft Booze

    Growlers on a table outside Faction Beer Brewery, Alameda, California
    Silicon Valley Stock—Alamy

    More so than other generations, millennials have demonstrated a distaste for mass-market beers and spirits—and a preference for the pricier small-batch booze. In one survey, 43% of millennials say craft beer tastes better than mainstream brews, compared to less than one-third of Baby Boomers. As millennials have grown up and more and more have crossed the age of 21, craft beer sales have soared at the same time that mass-market brands like Budweiser and Miller have suffered. A Nielsen poll showed that 15% of millennials’ beer money goes to the craft segment, which is impressive considering the limited buying power of this college-age demographic. By comparison, craft brews account for less than 10% of money spent on beer by Gen X and Baby Boomers.

    Millennials are also given an outsize share of the credit for the boom in craft spirits over household brands handled by the big distributors. As with craft beer, researchers say that millennials like craft liquors partly because it’s easier to connect to the back story of the beverages, and there’s an air of “inclusive exclusivity” and uniqueness about them. For that matter, millennials seem to care more in general about liquor brands. In one survey, 64% of millennials said that including the brand of spirit in a menu cocktail description was important or very important, compared to 55% of Gen Xers and 50% of Baby Boomers who felt that way.

MONEY Spending

When It’s Okay to Splurge on Yourself

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Dave and Les Jacobs/Kolostock—Getty Images

"It's a shame to work so hard all the best years of your life, just so you can afford to survive in the worst years of your life."

When Stan Calow was growing up, frugality was a way of life: “You spend as little as you need to, and then save everything else.” So, the 58-year-old engineer and U.S. Army veteran from Kansas City, Missouri always hated spending money.

It took his financial planner, Cindy Richey, to drill the point into him that it was actually okay to enjoy his savings once in a while.

After much prodding, the message finally got through. Calow and his wife just returned from a trip to France, touring the chateaux of the Loire Valley, just like they had always dreamed.

Says Calow, who learned about the fragility of life by serving in Kosovo: “I wanted to live life while I’m still young enough to enjoy it.”

It’s a tricky dilemma for many of us. As much as pundits tell us to scrimp, and save, and sacrifice for the future, when is it actually okay to spend a little on yourself and enjoy this life that passes all too quickly?

Indeed, according to a new survey, many of us are not enjoying it enough.

When Wells Fargo asked affluent Americans about what they regretted most about their finances, 15% said “not having enjoyed their money more”.

It is an honest answer that you do not often encounter in financial surveys. After all, splurging on yourself is typically seen as selfish and gauche.

But as some planners point out, it’s your money, and you should not be made to feel bad about enjoying it occasionally.

“People are so nervous about outliving their money, and sometimes they shoot too far in their saving,” says Joe Nadreau, director of innovation and strategy for Wells Fargo Advisors. “You don’t want to come to the end with $3 million saved, but having sacrificed your whole life along the way.”

Of course, leaving an inheritance is still an important consideration, according to 57% of affluent Americans in the Wells Fargo survey.

But just remember that once the will is read, you are six feet under, and no longer around to witness your family enjoy that wealth.

A Bank of Memories

So try thinking of the concept of ‘inheritance’ a little differently: Instead of purely in terms of dollar bills, consider it as a set of memories, which you can create together as a family while you are still alive.

“We have recently noticed a sizable uptick in clients who are more interested in sharing their wealth in the form of experiential gifts,” says John Fowler, a planner in Keller, Texas.

“It might mean taking the entire family on a cruise, or paying the airfare to fly in to see grandma and grandpa in Arizona, Colorado, or Florida. At the end of the day our clients realize stuff is just stuff, but with a little effort, they can create a memory for their families that will last a lifetime.”

Keep in mind that splurging on yourself doesn’t mean you become miserly with others. It is not an either/or proposition; You can treat yourself once in a while, and also be generous with charitable causes that are meaningful to you.

“People call me all the time to get permission to enjoy their money, which I heartily give them,” says Dave Ramsey, a popular radio host and author of “The Legacy Journey.”

“Often the thing that breaks it loose for people is to increase their giving. Because the more generous you are, the more you get permission to spend on yourselves.”

As for Kansas City’s Stan Calow, he looks forward to traveling the world with his wife, and enjoying future grandchildren. It was hard to get him to enjoy those savings, but now he’s making up for lost time.

This thought, in particular, came to mind when he was walking the streets of Paris recently:

“It’s a shame to work so hard all the best years of your life, just so you can afford to survive in the worst years of your life.”

Read next: When It’s Okay to Splurge on Yourself

MONEY Shopping

How Summer’s Black Friday Is Like the Real Black Friday

Some Prime Day deals are terrific. Most are nothing special.

From the beginning, Amazon has been comparing Prime Day to Black Friday. On the surface, Black Friday and Prime Day—a big sales event being held today, July 15, if you somehow haven’t heard—are quite different. Today’s sales are online-only, whereas Black Friday remains dominated by the in-store shopping experience. Only Amazon and a handful of competitors are offering special sales today, whereas virtually every retailer offers deals for Black Friday.

Yet there are many similarities between Black Friday and what’s being billed as the summertime Black Friday. That includes many of the criticisms about Black Friday, which has been losing shopper interest for years due to a wide range of factors.

Shoppers should take the following into consideration before buying things on a day pumped up as “Black Friday”—no matter what time of year this day takes place.

There are some truly amazing deals. According to the deal trackers at BestBlackFriday.com, some of Amazon’s Prime Day prices for specific items like printers, video games, Blu-ray movies, and TVs indeed beat the best Black Friday prices offered on the day after Thanksgiving last year.

But the vast majority of deals are meh. The hashtag #PrimeDay is trending on Twitter today. Glance through the comments posted, and you’ll see multiple mentions of words like “disappointing,” “underwhelming,” “boring,” and “meh.” There are also more colorful comments that demonstrate people are hardly amazed by Amazon’s offers, like that Prime Day is “not the risk to my wallet I thought it would be,” and “like a dollar store going out of business sale,” with deals “so random and bad that hipsters couldn’t even buy them to be ironic.”

For the most part, the same can be said of Walmart’s “Rollback” sale timed to coincide with Prime Day. Some deals seem terrific—think $13 for a video game that retails for $30—while most are random and underwhelming. How excited can anyone get, after all, about a plush puppy toy that’s marked down from $12.50 to $10.91?

Best deals are selling out very quickly. Many customers trying to get in on Amazon’s “Lightning” deals have expressed frustration that the items are sold out and they’re being put on a “waitlist.” The limited quantities and rapid sellouts are not unlike the doorbusters regularly offered on Black Friday, which some customers feel are tantamount to bait-and-switch because few get to actually purchase the items at the advertised prices. You’d think that Amazon would have an endless supply of it own products, but even they are selling out. As of 11:30 ET, Amazon’s Fire HD 7 deal—priced at $79, down from the usual $139—was 98% sold out.

Consumers are under pressure to buy right away. Prime Day lasts only one day, and with the exception of a somewhat vague sneak preview of deals released yesterday, shoppers didn’t know what exactly would be on sale today. Many of the deals will be exceptionally short-lived and can sell out, disappearing soon after they’ve surfaced.

The net result is that shoppers have very little time to assess each deal, compare prices with other retailers, or think things through much at all. It’s similar to what we might call “Black Friday brain,” in which the crowds, limited quantities, and frenzied atmosphere conspire to pressure shoppers into buying whatever’s in front of them, regardless if it’s actually a good deal—and regardless if it’s something the purchaser actually wants. Speaking of which …

You probably don’t need any of this stuff. Amazon created Prime Day out of the blue, in order to manufacture shopper interest at a time it didn’t otherwise exist. In other words, people aren’t shopping today because they need anything in particular; they’re shopping today because it’s Prime Day. Yes, you might find some stuff that’s fun and remotely useful, at a good price. But don’t kid yourself: You’re probably not shopping out of a genuine need. As a Detroit Free Press columnist put it, “Don’t get so overwhelmed by the hype that you buy stuff now that you really don’t need.”

Read next: 12 Ways to Stop Wasting Money and Take Control of Your Stuff

MONEY consumer psychology

Millennials Will Pay for Something That Used to Be Free

opening velvet rope at red carpet event
Peter Dazeley—Getty Images

Gen Y is cool paying to join loyalty programs

It’s almost impossible to overstate how much marketing types have written about millennial consumers. They’re finicky, they want everything instantly and just-so and uniquely customized for the individual special snowflakes that they are.

They drive brands bananas.

But new research shows that there’s a big potential payoff for companies willing to cater to this high-maintenance crowd.

Marketing consulting firm LoyaltyOne finds that a surprising 77% of 25-34 year-olds say they’d be happy to pay for the privilege of being part of a loyalty program, compared with just over six in 10 consumers across all age brackets. Three-quarters of younger millennials—those in the 18-24 age bracket—say the same, and just under 80% of consumers in that age group say it would be worth paying for loyalty rewards if the perks offered fit their needs.

If you’re a member of an older generation, that might sound crazy. You probably came of age with the understanding that a loyalty program is a kind of trade-off in which a company gives you rewards just for spending money on its products. The idea of pay-to-play programs turns this on its head completely.

“To millennials, loyalty programs are not just about freebies, but being part of a special club or experience,” explains Jason Dorsey, a millennials researcher at the Center for Generational Kinetics. “Members are willing to pay to get the extra benefits and feeling of being special.”

And they’re more likely to feel they deserve those benefits if they’ve put down money up front. “With dollars invested, customers inherently use the benefits they’ve already paid for to improve their payback,” says Jeff Berry, senior director of research and development for LoyaltyOne. “Free shipping, exclusive perks, and big discounts can be persistent mental reinforcements of a good decision.”

Companies love this because it creates a positive feedback loop that gets members spending more—and makes it less likely that they’ll take their business elsewhere, Berry points out, since they’d have to forfeit rewards if they walked away.

Amazon Prime, while not exactly a loyalty program, was the game-changer in how people think about customer perks. “The concept created the expectation that it makes sense to pay to get a slew of instant benefits,” Dorsey says. While traditional programs made loyal customers wait until they accrued benefits, Amazon Prime promised something new: rewards without waiting, and with an admission price.

Berry says customer fatigue also is responsible for the trend. The number of people who sign up for loyalty programs but never use them is growing, mostly because we just don’t think it’s worth the effort to participate. “Accruing small, delayed monetary rewards feels like a one-sided exchange for loyalty,” he says. Charging people to join lets companies offer bigger and better perks.

With millennials accounting for an ever larger percentage of consumer spending, expect to see more pay-to-play loyalty programs. “While the idea of paying to join a loyalty program may be shocking or even offensive to older generations,” Dorsey acknowledges, millennials think differently. “It’s a fast way to get status, access, and benefits that they might otherwise not be able to get.”

Read next: 10 Things Millennials Won’t Spend Money On

MONEY groceries

This Grocery Shopping Habit Could Be Making You Fat

grocery-bag-junk-food
Katrina Wittkamp / Digital Vision

What's good for the environment might be bad for your waistline.

Eco-friendly grocery shoppers beware: Toting a reusable bag to the market can be a diet destroyer, new research finds.

The study, conducted by Harvard and Duke business school professors, suggests that when people do something that feels noble, they’re then subconsciously motivated to seek out a reward—often in the form of junk food.

“Grocery store shoppers who bring their own bags are more likely to purchase organic produce and other healthy food,” write the authors, “but those same shoppers often feel virtuous, because they are acting in an environmentally responsible way. That feeling easily persuades them that, because they are being good to the environment, they should treat themselves to cookies or potato chips or some other product with lots of fat, salt, or sugar.”

This effect seems to be stronger on non-parents than parents, perhaps because people with children are more influenced by what their kids want than what they themselves want, the authors suggest.

Generally speaking, these findings seem to support the classic wisdom that grocery runs are best done with the aid of a shopping list to keep you on track. Other studies have found that shoppers are easily (and intentionally) led to buy extra groceries because of carefully engineered store layouts, among other retail tricks.

And—in any case—there’s some good news: Those lightweight plastic bags at the grocery store might not be as bad for the environment as you thought, after all.

Read More: Here’s How to Save Hundreds on Groceries

This Is America’s Favorite Supermarket

Whole Foods Is Accused of Overcharging Customers Again

MONEY consumer psychology

Here’s the Root of Our Financial Problems

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Jeffrey Coolidge—Getty Images

Why people screw up.

Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, an Italian cognitive psychologist, was once asked a simple question: Why do people err?

He responded: “Inattention, distraction, lack of interest, poor preparation, genuine stupidity, timidity, braggadocio, emotional imbalance, ideological, racial, social or chauvinistic prejudices, as well as aggressive or prevaricatory instincts.”

Just to name a few.

I’d add a couple to the list relevant to investors.

No room for error
In 2008 a money market fund called Reserve Primary owned some Lehman Brothers bonds. Then Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, causing the per-share price of the Reserve Primary fund to fall from $1.00 to $0.985.

By any sensible measure this was not a big deal. Investors lost 1.5% of their money. It happens. It was less than they gave up to inflation in the previous 3 months.

But the money market funds spent years convincing investors they could enjoy high returns with no chance of loss. So the tiny dip in Reserve Primary led to a run and near collapse of the entire money market industry. It was one of the lead causes of the 2008 financial crisis, and a reminder that a small loss mixed with unreasonable expectations is far worse than a huge loss with reasonable expectations.

Unless someone with deep pockets has explicitly insured your outcome, you, your family, your friends, your advisors, your employers, and your politicians will screw up from time to time. It’s usually not a big deal. But the trifecta of obliviousness, leverage, and unrealistic expectations can cause small mistakes to snowball into catastrophic losses. Look hard enough and you’ll see that most long-term wealth isn’t caused by prescience, but the opposite: room for error.

Wrong about what it means to be wrong
Say it’s 2006, and I predict the housing market is a bubble and its inevitable collapse will cause a huge recession and bear market.

Then those exact things happen.

Was I right?

Probably not.

A handful of investors predicted the financial crisis before 2008. They were called heroes and financial geniuses. But most of them were right for the wrong reason.

Most predicted surging interest rates and a collapsing dollar would cause the impending crisis. Instead, interest rates fell to negative levels and the dollar surged to the highest level in years.

Here’s what Peter Schiff — one of the guys who predicted the crash but got the mechanics backwards — said in Dec. 2006: “Interest rates are one of the problems for the housing market, and they’re going a lot higher.” The 10-year Treasury bond yielded 4.7% that day. Six years later it was at 1.5%, an all-time low.

“Most people, whether bull or bear, when they are right, are right for the wrong reason,” blogger Jesse Livermore wrote.

People are wrong so often that being right for the wrong reason feels good enough to call it a win. The irony is that being right for the wrong reason is worse than just being wrong, because it falsely inflates your confidence about future predictions.

Constantly smiling
Psychologists Lauren Alloy and Lyn Abramson have shown that those with mild depression have a more realistic assessment of the future than most people. They’re better at predicting their longevity, odds of unemployment, odds of divorce, and the likelihood of illness.

In her book The Optimism Bias, Tali Sharot wrote:

Optimism protects us from accurately perceiving the pain and difficulties the future undoubtedly holds, and it may defend us from viewing our options in life as somewhat limited. As a result, stress and anxiety are reduced, physical and mental health are improved, and the motivation to act and be productive is enhanced.

Relentless optimism, in other words, is a great way to live a happy life. But it’s a form of ignorance, blinding us to the realty that the history of almost everything is filled with failure, disaster, ruin and scandal.

Optimism wins in the long run, but only if you can ride out inevitable bouts of pain and bad luck. Too much optimism prevents you from doing that. Embracing the reality of how the world works requires you to be a little bit depressed.

Poor imagination
When Warren Buffett started looking for a successor he said he needed “someone genetically programmed to recognize and avoid serious risks, including those never before encountered.”

Preparing for risks “never before encountered” requires imagination. Or at least it requires the ability to think beyond spreadsheets and historical data.

Ten years ago, Lehman Brothers going bankrupt, the federal government shutting down, bond yields going negative, and printing $3 trillion of money without sparking inflation could hardly be imagined. But they all happened.

In his book Antifragile, Nassim Taleb wrote:

Risk management professionals look in the past for information on the so-called worst-case scenario and use it to estimate future risks — this method is called “stress testing.”

They take the worst historical recession, the worst war, the worst historical move in interest rates, or the worst point in unemployment as an exact estimate for the worst future outcome.

But they never notice the following inconsistency: this so-called worst-case event, when it happened, exceeded the worst case at the time.

I have called this mental defect the Lucretius problem, after the Latin poetic philosopher who wrote that the fool believes that the tallest mountain in the world will be equal to the tallest one he has observed. We consider the biggest object of any kind that we have seen in our lives or hear about as the largest item that can possibly exist.

People say “I’m saving for a house” or “I’m saving for vacation,” but “I’m saving for an unknown future event or opportunity that I can’t comprehend today” makes you sound paranoid. Given enough time, though, it’s one that nearly all of us will benefit from.

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MONEY consumer psychology

10 Reasons You’re Not Rich Yet

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H. Armstrong Roberts—Getty Images

#5: You’d rather complain than commit.

As a financial advisor, I have spent many years helping other people overcome financial stumbling blocks so they can become rich. Ironically, the one person I have had the most trouble helping is myself.

Being “rich” can mean different things to different people, but I believe it means having the financial freedom to achieve your goals and live the life you want. I am great at giving advice; I am not always so great at taking my own advice (know anyone like that?). So, when it came to helping my clients understand why they weren’t rich yet, the easy part was explaining the culprits, because I was all too familiar with most of them.

Regardless of our upbringing, education, profession or lifestyle, most of us are not where we want to be financially and our reasons are probably more similar than different. The good news is that it is never too late to become rich if you, like me, are ready to own up to the reasons you’re not and do something about it.

Want to know why you aren’t rich yet? Keep reading.

#1: You spend money like you’re already rich.

Sure, it feels good to buy expensive things, whether it’s a luxury car, designer clothes, a big house in the burbs, or a tropical vacation. Even if you don’t necessarily buy pricey items, if you consistently buy stuff you really don’t need, it still adds up fast ($300 trip to Target for toothpaste? AHEM). But the shopping high only lasts until the guilt and regret set in or the credit card bill arrives. Most of us are guilty of living beyond our means and using credit cards more than we should. The problem is that as long as we continue to spend more than we have, we can’t start building wealth. Chronic overspending and high-interest, revolving credit card debt are your worst enemies when it comes to financial success. Spend like you’re poor and you are much more likely to become rich.

#2: You don’t have a plan.

Without clearly defined short, mid and long-term goals, becoming rich will just seem like an unattainable fantasy. And that turns into your go-to excuse for why you shouldn’t bother saving or stop overspending. As we say in the financial industry: those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Creating a financial plan may seem overwhelming or intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether you do-it-yourself or decide to work with a financial professional, the process simply starts with prioritizing your goals and writing them down. Put that list where you can see it on a regular basis. Visual reminders go a long way in helping us stay on track.

#3: You don’t have an emergency fund.

I know, you’ve heard it a hundred times: you need to have at least six months of income saved in an emergency fund. And yes, it’s much easier said than done. However, I’ve seen too many people (including myself) get hit with a major unplanned expense, whether it’s a car or home repair or a medical bill, or an unexpected job loss, accident or illness that’s led to a drastic reduction in income. When these things happen–and they do, more often than you might think–not having a financial safety cushion can make the situation much, much worse. If you’re forced to rely on credit cards, you’ll end up sinking deeper into debt instead of, yes, saving to become rich.

#4: You started late.

With every year or month that goes by without saving, your chances of becoming rich decrease. Time and compounding interest are your two best friends when it comes to growing money, so wasting them really hurts. Just like exercising, the hardest part of saving is starting. Even if you’re in debt, making little money or have a lot of expenses, you can still always save something — even if it is a small amount. The sooner you get yourself into the habit of saving — regardless of how much — the easier it will be for you to continue and eventually increase those savings. I like to think of saving as a muscle you have to work out and build with practice. Even if you start saving late, you can still become rich if you’re committed enough. But you need to start. Now.

#5: You’d rather complain than commit.

“Life is too expensive.” “I’ll never get out of debt.” “I don’t make enough money.” “Investing is too risky.” I’ve probably heard every excuse for why someone isn’t saving, investing or planning in general, and I’ll admit I’ve used a few of them myself from time to time. It’s easier to be lazy and let bad habits fester than to commit to –and follow through on — changing them. It’s no wonder obesity and debt are epidemics in our country, and that millions of Americans have had to push off retirement. As long as the complaining, excuses and finger-pointing persist, so too will not becoming rich. Instead, take responsibility for your bad habits and focus on what you can do to change them. Then do it.

#6: You live for today in spite of tomorrow.

I get it. It is really hard to think about retirement and other distant fantasies when we have needs and plenty of wants now. The bills have to get paid, the family must be fed, momma needs a vacation — and a new wardrobe to go along with it. The problem is that impulsive and overly-indulgent behavior commonly lead to credit card debt, spending money you might have otherwise saved and, yes, not becoming rich. Do yourself a favor: Ditch the “buy now, worry later” mindset and instead, adopt a “save now, get rich later” mindset.

#7: You’re a one-trick investor.

You might be lucky enough to become rich by betting all your money on one type of investment. Just like you might be lucky enough to win the lottery. But that’s not a strategy for getting rich (at least, not one I’d ever recommend).

One of the worst financial mistakes you can make is putting all your money eggs in one basket. Doing so puts you at too much risk, whether it is being too conservative or too aggressive. Sure, the stock market is on a run and real estate is on an upswing again, but are you prepared for when the tides turn? Because they will. And if you are invested in all fixed-income securities like CDs, bonds and annuities and think you’re safe, inflation should make you think again. Your investment portfolio needs to include a good mix of investments with varied levels of risk and return potential and liquidity (so you can get your money when you need it).

#8: You don’t automate.

Here’s the secret to saving: Automation. Saving is seamless when it’s automatic. Unfortunately, we are not born to be savers. We are impulsive and greedy by nature. Being responsible requires much more discipline. However, automation forces us to be responsible without too much effort. And all it requires is setting up regular transfers from a paycheck or bank account to a savings or investment account. Without it, we are much more likely to spend money we could be saving. Even if it is a seemingly small amount that you automate, those steady investments can make a big difference over time. Automate whatever you can whenever you can; just be careful to avoid overdrafting your account and try to increase your savings amount periodically.

#9: You have no sense of urgency.

You might think you don’t need to worry about getting out of debt or saving because someone, or something else will save you. Maybe it’s a pay raise, a new job, an inheritance, a rich spouse, or the lotteryyou’re counting on. Whatever “it” is, you use it as an excuse to put off taking steps on your own to become rich. The problem is that very little in life is certain. Who knows what will actually happen, or not happen, so why not focus on what you can control now? Save now and save yourself — just in case something, or someone, else won’t.

#10: You’re easily influenced.

Maybe you live with a chronic overspender or a typical day out with your girlfriends involves shopping. Or maybe it’s your inner “Real Housewife” that you sometimes can’t control. We all have negative influences in our lives that threaten our chances of becoming rich. The superficial, materialistic, sensational culture in which we live is probably the biggest one. The suffocating swirl of media that goes along with it makes it ten times worse. The trick is not giving in to temptation. How? Some of it is making conscious choices to avoid putting yourself in vulnerable positions. But most of it is having the willpower to keep the goal of becoming rich in the front of your mind, especially when you are tempted to sabotage yourself.

Read next: The 10 Richest People of All Time

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MONEY consumer psychology

5 Foolish Money Myths You Can Stop Believing Right Now

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lina aidukaite—Getty Images

Drink your latte.

Whether you think of yourself as money-savvy or you’re acutely aware of where your personal-finance knowledge is lacking, it’s always good to make sure you aren’t managing your money on assumptions that are faulty to begin with.

Here are a few common money myths to kick to the curb.

Myth No. 1: Credit cards are evil

With the average credit card debt sitting at just over $15,000 per household, it’s easy to think that plastic is the irresponsible way to pay. Not so fast.

It’s not the method of payment that’s the problem; in fact, having credit cards can actually help your credit score. A full 10% of your credit score depends upon having a mix of credit types — installment credit, like a car loan, and revolving credit, like credit cards.

In addition, credit cards offer more security than any other form of payment, allowing you to dispute fraudulent activity without footing the bill.

Myth No. 2: Skipping your morning coffee will make you rich

Cutting back on small expenses might offer some breathing room in your budget over the long term, but money not spent doesn’t necessarily equal money saved. To grow that money, it would need to be put into a place where growth can occur — like an investment account or, at the bare minimum, a savings account.

You may think cutting out a daily expenditure is putting you on a path to financial independence, but that’s only step one.

Myth No. 3: It’s too risky to invest your money

The truth opposing this myth is simple — it’s too risky to not invest your money.

If you’re already diligent about socking away money each month, that’s a great start. But with interest rates sitting so low, money put into a savings account will likely lose more to inflation than it can make up in growth. That’s where investing comes in.

Through the power of compounding, a single $500 investment made at the age of 20 earning a conservative 5% return would be $4,492.50 at the age of 65. Imagine that scenario with ongoing contributions and larger returns. It would put any savings account to shame.

Myth No. 4: All debt should be paid before saving

Unfortunately, emergencies and unexpected expenses occur at all stages of life — even when you’re working to pay off student loans or crawl out from underneath credit card debt.

A study recently released by Bankrate found that 60% of Americans wouldn’t have the funds available to cover even small hiccups — like a $500 medical bill or car repair. Think about how many of those expenses you’ve run into in the last six to 12 months; probably at least one.

If you want to avoid incurring more debt as a result of life’s curveballs, work to save while paying off debt. This will give you a better chance of smooth sailing to the finish line.

Myth No. 5: You should borrow the most money offered to you

Wondering how much house you can afford? Don’t let the loan amount offered by the bank be your guiding light.

Those in the business of making loans are incentivized to offer the biggest loan possible that you’ll be approved for. So while they may be checking out your debt-to-income ratio, this simple equation doesn’t always offer an accurate snapshot of what you can actually manage to pay each month.

The same goes for credit card limits — having a $20,000 limit doesn’t mean your finances can easily handle paying back $20,000 worth of purchases.

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MONEY consumer psychology

How Your Money Beliefs Are Hurting You

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We make things up about money and believe them.

What you believe about money drives your financial behavior. Finding out your beliefs is a key step to solving various problems, such as money conflicts in relationships.

Money doesn’t actually exist in reality. It isn’t gold or bank account balance or the pieces of paper in our wallet — it’s this conceptual thing, a promise, an agreement, delivered in measurable units, which we later exchange for something we want.

To grapple with this concept, we make things up about money and believe them. These beliefs act like a kind of programming language, which I call Money Operating Systems.

Your Money OS is a very basic belief about money that influences all your financial behavior. This system you install, unwittingly, controls how much you save and spend, whether you invest, how you invest, how you negotiate for a salary and how you feel about all of that.

Your past experiences with money, starting with your early memories of it, created your Money OS. It also came from your parents or the environment you were raised in.

Recognizing your belief helps you tackle your money woes, or those with your partner. Here are five of the Money Operating Systems I see most frequently:

  1. “There will always be enough money.” People with this belief can be high earners, but sometimes they’re average earners who just live a simple lifestyle. If you have this belief about money, you need to be careful. Make sure you understand how much money you need for your financial future. Over-optimism causes under-saving.
  2. “If I am good, the universe will give me what I need.” A positive world outlook doesn’t lead to productive financial behavior. Saving and investing rarely happen, because these folks believe that their financial health is a function of virtuousness.
  3. “Money makes me valuable.” They are often the people who drive the big flashy cars, and they work to have other people perceive them as successful. Money intertwines with their self-worth. Their ego grows with their bank account. But if they are unsuccessful, their confidence suffers.
  4. “There will never be enough money.” This one is pretty self-explanatory, and very common. People with this money belief will be either over-spenders or under-earners, and they keep creating the circumstances to prove this outlook true. They may justify holding on to poorly paid positions or overspending their high income.
  5. “Money is bad, the root of all evil.” These people believe that business and capitalism are responsible for social ills. They often righteously live without a lot of material possessions. Their negative opinion of money usually leads to destructive financial behavior.

These are only some of the beliefs that determine what is possible in your financial life. It took me some time to be analytical about my own money. I recognized my own system and how it kept me locked in cycles of overspending and feelings of worthlessness, and I’ve since transformed my experiences with money.

So where do you begin to see yourself here? What about your honey?

Hilary Hendershott, MBA, CFP, is founder and Chief Executive of Silicon Valley-based Hilary Hendershott Financial.

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MONEY consumer psychology

When Money Can Bring You Happiness

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Matt Dutile—Getty Images

Here are 3 reasons to spend yours wisely.

You’ve heard the refrain countless times: Money can’t buy happiness.

Or love. Or class, for that matter.

But a wave of new research suggests that cash can indeed increase your pleasure—if you manage it the right way.

In fact, the influence of money on well-being is such a hot topic that experts around the country have devoted their studies to it.

Want a peek at what some of them have discovered?

We asked three researchers who spend their days delving into the ties between money and satisfaction to divulge their most intriguing revelations—and explain how you can leverage their insights to get happier.

Professor Michael Norton Says … Spend on Others to Be Happy

A professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, Norton has an interest in the intersection between finance and personal satisfaction that stems from his diverse academic experience.

After earning a Ph.D. in psychology, Norton received a fellowship to study business at the MIT Media Lab and the Sloan School of Management.

“Considering how much time people spend thinking about how to increase money and happiness, [I wanted] to figure out the relationship between the two,” the co-author of “Happy Money” explains. “[I wanted to know], when it comes to how we spend, are we getting it right?”

His Key Findings Initially, Norton, 40, uncovered that people spend most of their money on themselves.

“But my fellow researchers and I thought maybe this wasn’t the best way—that an outsized focus on the self might be part of the reason why having more money doesn’t necessarily make us happier,” Norton says.

To test his hypothesis, Norton designed a study in 2008 in which participants rated their happiness before being handed an envelope containing cash. Half were instructed to spend the money on a personal expense or gift for themselves; the rest were told to donate it or buy a gift for someone else.

The results? Those who gave the money away reported higher levels of satisfaction, whereas those who spent on themselves weren’t any happier.

Curious to understand the implications, Norton conducted a few more experiments.

In one, Belgian salespeople received 15 euros to spend either on themselves or on a co-worker. In another, recreational dodgeball players were asked to use $20 for their own purposes or for a teammate’s.

Time and again, people who gave money away reported increased happiness compared with the control group.

Not only that, but their performance improved. For every $10 a salesperson spent on herself, the employer reaped $3 in sales—but every $10 employees spent on co-workers translated to $52 in sales.

Likewise, charitable dodgeball teams scored more goals. Every $10 spent selfishly led to a 2% decrease in wins, but $10 spent on teammates increased them by 11%.

How to Boost Your Own Bliss While any degree of generosity will up your joy, some kinds of giving are more powerful than others. “The closer you are to the recipient, the happier you’ll be,” Norton says.

So buying flowers for your mom has a greater effect than, say, contributing to a stranger’s Kickstarter campaign.

And while the amount you spend doesn’t influence your happiness, Norton says, theimpact of your contribution does.

For example, when it comes to charitable giving, you’ll get the most bliss for your buck if you donate to organizations that create a personal link between the giver and the recipient, such as Kiva or Adopt A Child.

But regardless of who you give to, try to make it a habit. “The happiness surge you feel from a one-time gift eventually wears off, but people who chronically give are happier overall,” Norton says.

Professor Cassie Mogilner Says … Shell Out for Experiences to Be Happy

In 2004, when Mogilner was working her tail off as a marketing Ph.D. candidate at Stanford, she perpetually found herself strapped for cash and time.

“In business school, there’s so much attention focused on the bottom line,” says Mogilner, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “But I realized that, for me, time felt like a much more precious resource than money.”

Intrigued, she began to channel her research efforts toward investigating the association between time, money and happiness.

Her Key Findings Over the past 10 years, Mogilner, 35, has found that time is a significant happiness predictor because, more so than your possessions, how you spend your spare hours reveals your interests and unique “you-ness.”

Just look at social media: People share photos of weddings, vacations and delicious dinners—but you don’t see many posts about trips to the mall.

To that point, Mogilner has also investigated how long we enjoy the mental boost that comes from temporal experiences versus material goods. “We get used to a new pair of shoes very quickly—it’s a phenomenon known as hedonic adaptation,” she says.

So while you might be psyched about your new boots at first, before long, they’re relegated to the back of the closet. Instead of being a source of joy, they now serve a purely functional purpose.

“In contrast, we adapt more slowly to experiences,” Mogilner says. “The way we spend time becomes a part of our memories—our personal narrative.”

People also tend to feel less regret after shelling out for a good time, adds Mogilner.

“After you spend $100 on a dress, you can see the other dresses you didn’t buy right there in the store,” she explains. “But if you spend $100 at a restaurant, you’re less likely to second-guess your decision because you can’t see the alternative meals you passed up.”

How to Boost Your Own Bliss Mogilner’s latest research focuses on the concept of buying more positive time—such as renting an apartment closer to work as opposed to buying a luxury car in which to commute.

“Our lives are the sum of our experiences, so we should be supremely deliberate in spending our time in the best and happiest ways possible,” she says.

Her preliminary findings? People are more satisfied when they outsource a chore anyone can do, like cleaning the house or picking up dry-cleaning.

And when it comes to deciding how to use the time you’ve just freed up, Mogilner says you can maximize your happiness by keeping a few points in mind.

“Activities with a social aspect have the strongest effect,” she says, pointing to things like a family picnic, a concert with friends or a date night with your spouse. “Social activities increase happiness because they cultivate relationships with others—and having strong, stable connections with others is the most important ingredient for well-being.”

Another satisfaction inducer, she says, is experiencing out-of-the-ordinary events—such as taking a vacation somewhere new and exciting—which will have a greater impact on happiness than everyday pleasures.

Speaking of vacations, you can get even more happiness bang for your buck if you book your trip well in advance.

Research published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life found that just anticipating a getaway is as enjoyable as the trip itself. So start planning your winter break—now!

Professor Jeffrey Dew Says … Get on the Same Financial Page With Your Partner to Be Happy

Fifteen years ago, Dew and his wife were colleagues in the mental health field, but partway into his career, Dew had a change of heart and decided to enroll at Penn State for a dual Ph.D. in human development and family studies.

His transition back to student life had major consequences: He and his wife lost their benefits and half their income.

“I wondered how the change in our financial situation might impact us as a couple,” says the 38-year-old Dew, who’s now an associate professor in the department of family, consumer and human development at Utah State University. “I looked at the scientific literature, and found that not many researchers had asked this question.”

So he decided to explore it himself—ultimately uncovering a major connection between money and marital happiness.

His Key Findings In 2012, Dew and his colleagues analyzed data after following married couples over the course of five years. In an initial survey, the spouses were asked how often they fought about various topics, including money, chores, intimacy and time spent together.

Dew was particularly curious to see if any of those arguments correlated to divorce rates, and found a striking trend: For men, money fights were the only conflict that predicted a split. For women, money and intimacy were equally loaded—but financial disputes were a much stronger divorce determinant.

In fact, couples who argued about money several times per week were 37% more likely to divorce than those who only had financial spats once a month.

Why are finances such a fraught subject? Dew has a few guesses.

“Money fights are frequently a stand-in for bigger relationship issues,” he explains. “On the surface, an argument might appear to be about overspending, but underneath, it’s a struggle over trust or power.”

Plus, if you’re under financial duress, there’s likely an added layer of stress to a relationship—and that can take a serious toll.

So Dew and his team did a follow-up study in 2013 with 450 married and cohabiting couples, with the goal of determining how happy couples combat financial pressures.

“We looked at the frequency of their financial management behaviors, such as creating a joint budget and putting money aside for retirement,” he says. “[And what we found is that] the more often couples engaged in sound financial practices together, the more likely they were to be happy.”

How to Boost Your Own Bliss The secret to happiness, according to Dew, is to get on the same financial page with your partner by opening the lines of communication as soon as possible.

That’s not to say you have to agree on everything. “Most issues can be worked through, although it will take compromise from both sides,” Dew says.

Dew’s suggestion: Commit to regular money dates—be it monthly or quarterly.

“And try sandwiching these financial discussions between two enjoyable activities, so that they’re less stressful,” Dew says. Consider opening a bottle of wine while you go over the numbers, and then head to dinner or a movie afterward.

One thing to focus on during your money date nights? A financial goal that’s meaningful to both of you, such as saving for a dream trip to Hawaii two years from now or paying off your house by 2020.

“It’s so easy for money to drive people apart,” Dew says. “But by having a shared objective, you can instead use it to bring you closer together.”

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