Money makes you mean. Sorry about that.
Jess Ellerm - behaviour - 3 Oct 18

We all want to be better people, right? Kinder, happier, more compassionate, charitable, accepting, loving…the list goes on.

And while many of us may seek out the better version of ourselves via traditional means – religion, spirituality, friendship, relationships – there is one thing we probably aren’t even aware is holding us back on our quest. Our bank balance.

You’ve got a money blind spot

Over the years social psychologist Paul Piff has explored the connection between money, morals, emotion and social hierarchy. His research shows increasing levels of wealth create a proverbial ‘blind spot’ in our rear-view mirror of life. As our net-worth increases, our feelings of compassion drop, our empathy decreases and our sense of entitlement and deservedness increase.

The last point is fascinating. Because while many of us are successful to a large degree by having won the life lottery, our sense of that advantage becomes far less attuned over time.

What troubles Piff the most is not that these relationships exist – it is human after all to pursue self-interest – but that in a world that faces increased inequality, the macro and compounding effects of these behavioural traits on humanity, if left unchecked, will pose a serious risk to society.

We can harness self-interest for good

In an unequal society, the rich ultimately lose out alongside the poor. Obesity, violence, imprisonment and punishment are all things that flourish when fertilised by unequal wealth distribution. To counter this, could we harness the same self-interest drivers to neutralise this threat?

I believe we can, and my solution is a Money Mirror. A set of questions we can reflect on regularly as our wealth increases.

Similar to how we have come to embrace self-reflection in our relationships, with our families, and in our workplaces, we should do the same with our money. Here are my suggestions on how to start.

Check your privilege It’s not easy to acknowledge you may only be somewhere because of luck. Take the Buzzfeed Check Your Privilege quiz to see how you stack up.

When you start checking off all the things you don’t have to do, simply because of your ‘luck of the draw’, it’s a stark reminder. I scored 74/100 - my life has been far easier than most, and I should find ways to use my advantages to help others.

Be honest with yourself on your charitable giving Less well-off people give more than wealthier people. A study in the states showed that on average, households that earn $50,000 to $75,000 give an average of 7.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for people who make $100,000 or more.

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In Australia, a study showed Police were the occupation with the highest percentage of donations, followed by School Principals and Policy and Planning Managers.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes To see if the egalitarian gap could be bridged between the rich and poor, Piff assembled a study that had wealthy participants watch a brief video about childhood poverty. Following this they were just as likely to help a stranger in distress in the lab as poorer study participants.

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So get out and watch something on Netflix that challenges your world view, or makes you feel a little uncomfortable. It may pay back in more ways than one.

So what’s this all got to do with super?

Zuper is all about you having a better, more prosperous life. It’s about building the world you want to live in by making a conscious decision about how your money is invested.

Use this moment as a chance to check your privilege that you even (a) have super and (b) can do something with it. Take this opportunity when joining to give back through our Instant Impact program. And finally, put yourself in your future self’s shoes, and use that to drive you to take action with your money today.

This article is general in nature, and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider if the information is appropriate and whether you need to speak to an accredited professional.

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Jess Ellerm

CEO and Co-Founder at Zuper Superannuation. Loves fintech, writing, pilates, Campari and sodas and, as of 2018, marathon running.