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  • Nature versus nurture: DNA’s influence on your financial behaviour.

    Nature versus nurture: DNA’s influence on your financial behaviour.

    by:
    Laurie Campbell

    toronto credit counselling

    Let’s turn to the age-old debate known as nature versus nurture. Over time as human beings, are we predisposed to act as we do largely because of our genetic make up, or is our behaviour mostly based on life teachings and our environment? As a specialist in the field of credit counselling and financial literacy, I have long put in with those who believe that one’s upbringing and education by far hold the strongest influence on behaviour, though I’ve never discounted that DNA hardwiring plays a role, too. Only recently did I discover that genetics may play a role greater than imagined, particularly in relation to the way people save and manage their money.

    Reportedly, one-third of conduct associated with money is influenced by nature, or genetics. Financial behaviour within this margin has nothing to do with wealth, sex, or upbringing.

    Witness a study published this spring by a respected international journal of economics. Using an in-depth database, researchers looked into the savings habits of identical and non-identical twins living separate lives over a four-year period. The thinking here was that nature versus nurture could be gauged through analysis of the financial habits of identical twins (who share 100 per cent of the same genes), and non-identical twins (who share 50 per cent of the same genes). The study concluded that fully one-third of conduct associated with money is influenced by DNA, and that financial behaviour within this margin has nothing to do with wealth, sex, or upbringing. That’s surprising to me. I didn’t think genes held that much sway. It necessarily got me musing about how life rolls out financially for people depending on their biological make up and upbringing.

    Based on the findings, we must assume that those who come into this world with strong money genes have quite an advantage over those with weak money genes.

    Based on the study’s findings, we must assume that those who come into this world with strong money genes have quite an advantage over those with weak money genes. The former, if additionally they are fortunate enough to be raised by financially literate parents, will have a much easier go of things money wise. They’re naturals, so to speak, apparently disinclined at an instinctive level to spend foolishly or rack up problem debt that might require credit counselling. The latter apparently are at a significant disadvantage. Even if they too grow up amidst money-smart parents, they may be less capable of saving and managing money by a margin of up to about 33 per cent in comparison to their DNA-blessed contemporaries.

    Variants of behaviour are as diverse as individual human beings themselves, and they are always subject to happenstance for good or ill as life goes on.

    But let’s step back for just a moment. Compelling as studies and statistics might be, they can never fully flesh out reality in relation to human activity and human fate. There are many factors – many grey areas – requiring consideration. Indeed, variants of behaviour are as diverse as individual human beings themselves, and they are always subject to happenstance for good or ill. Providence does play a role in life, so our twins in this study really provide only very general signposts in terms of the nature versus nurture debate.

    In any event, findings of the study essentially affirm that all people of reasonable intelligence and means have the potential to save and manage money skilfully. All genetics aside, we’re talking a margin for learning here of 67-plus per cent, which is certainly a thought worth nurturing. 

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