Do you have the personality to retire rich — and stay that way?
Your personality and other personal traits may have more of an impact on how fast you spend your retirement savings than factors such as your age, marital status, desire to leave an inheritance, and whether you continue to work during retirement, according to a study published Monday in the journal Psychology and Aging.
Two traits — conscientiousness (for example, you are organized, thorough, hardworking and cautious) and financial self-efficacy (which is a sense of resilience and control over financial situations) — had the strongest direct relationship with the rate in which people withdrew from their retirement savings accounts. People with these traits withdrew at a much slower rate.
Meanwhile, people who are more open to new experiences (for example, those who are creative, imaginative, adventurous and curious); more agreeable (for example, those who are sympathetic, caring, warm and helpful); and more neurotic (for example, people who are frequently nervous, worried, moody and are not calm) were more likely than others to withdraw from their retirement savings at a greater rate.
And people who experienced a lot of negative emotions in the past month — such as being afraid, scared, upset, frustrated, guilty, ashamed, bored, hostile, jittery, nervous, sad or distressed — were also more likely to withdraw at a higher rate.
The possible reasons? “Greater neuroticism and negative emotions can result in impulsive financial behavior and poorly timed investment decisions,” Sarah Asebedo, an author of the study and a financial planning professor at Texas Tech University, tells MarketWatch of these findings. “Those greater in agreeableness tend to be warm, sympathetic, accommodating, and caring and therefore may prioritize giving financial support to others (e.g., friends, family, charity) over preserving money in their accounts.”
And, she adds: “Research suggests that those higher in openness tend to place less value on material goods and more on experiences, but also demonstrate impulsiveness and less prudent money management behaviors, which again may result in higher withdrawal rates.”
The study looked at personality data from more than 3,600 people in the U.S. age 50 or older (the average age was 70) and paired that with tax data from the same participants.
The study authors — Asebedo and Christopher Browning, also a financial planning professor at Texas Tech University — caution that a higher withdrawal rate isn’t always a bad thing. “A higher portfolio withdrawal rate is concerning if it places the individual on a path to run out of money too early. However, if the higher portfolio withdrawal rate does not run the risk of running out of money, then it may very well be facilitating a life well-lived,” Asebedo said in a statement.