Do illogical beliefs in superstitions sometimes control your financial destiny? Yes, they do – that’s according to C. Daniel Crosby, Ph.D. a corporate psychologist that works closely with financial advisors to help their clients avoid superstitious behavior and become more knowledgeable about the science of risk assessment.
Crosby has identified a handful of motivations that overwhelm common sense and allow our finances to be ruled by superstition.
- We want a “gift.” People want to buy into the belief that they can control whether good – or bad — things to happen to them. That makes us feel powerful and that nothing is left to chance. “Research has shown people will pay $8.67 for a lotto ticket that they have chosen as opposed to $1.96 for a lotto ticket they have not chosen, even if the odds are the same because they feel they’re skilled in choosing the right numbers,” he says.
- We are emotional. Fear and hope are two major players in the game of superstition. “We want something like an item, ritual, or action to have the power to calm fears or prolong joy,” says Crosby.
- We are followers. “We see others experiencing success or fighting off failure because of a superstition.” For instance, your sister picks up a penny that’s not heads up and then gets into a car accident. Or your friend wins $100 in the lottery because she was wearing a lucky sweater when she bought the ticket.
At one point or another, you’ve probably relied on a superstition or two.
Here’s a look at what some common superstitions really mean, and how to keep a level head so they don’t lead you down the path to financial ruin this Halloween.
It’s honest Abe or nothing. You wouldn’t be caught dead jinxing yourself with all the bad luck that comes from picking up a penny that’s not heads up!
Psychologists say this thinking is often traced back to Honest Abe, our 17th president. Subconsciously, we’ve been conditioned to think a penny that’s “tails up” or face down represents Lincoln’s ill-fated night at the theatre. So you think you’ll somehow suffer similar “bad luck” if you handle a penny the wrong way.
Crosby says these type of superstitions that are tied to loss — even in a loss of luck — are fueled by fear.
So next time you spot some copper on the floor, don’t stroll past the free loot, worrying that snapping it up will end in bad luck. “Focus on all the good luck you have experienced through the years,” says Crosby. Then pick up the penny. After all, isn’t is silly to walk past free money?
Long term planning will jinx your life. You wouldn’t be caught dead buying life insurance because that means… you’ll die, and your heirs will need it.
“Taking out a life insurance policy reminds us of our mortality,” says Crosby. And even though purchasing a policy can’t shorten your life, the thought that someday a family member will receive benefits can freak you out. “And lead to your mind playing tricks on you and have you thinking the policy is tied to your mortality,” adds Crosby.
You rip out unlucky checks. Are you worried that if you buy something with a check that has the number 13, the item will break or be a dud? Or that you can’t make financial decisions on the 13th?
The number thirteen is so scary it has its own fancy Greek term: triskaidekaphobia. And if it creeps you out, you’re not alone.
Often linked to the Last Supper (13 people were present), 13 has spooked many major hotels and high rises to either build only twelve floors, or skip labeling the 13th floor entirely. Most airports don’t have a thirteenth gate. And in Topeka, Kansas, where zip codes start with 666, they skip from 66612 to 66614.
But “13” is getting a bad rap.
“This superstition is popular because it preys on our fears. We’re terrified we’ll fall victim to the evil of ‘13’ when in fact, there’s no such thing,” Crosby says. He suggests starting small to prove that 13 isn’t any less lucky than any other check in your register. “Buy a gallon of milk or a few groceries and pay for them with that check.”
When nothing happens, you’ll see that 13 really is harmless.
Itching palm. If your left palm itches, it means you will soon receive money; if your right palm itches, it means that you will lose or have to pay money.
And if both itch…you’ll what? Break even?
This one resonates with a lot of people since money plays such a key role in our lives. Quite literally, on one hand you have luck and the other fear. It’s a superstitious thinker’s dream.
Other than the need to apply some lotion to your dry skin, experts say buying into itchy palms is a sign you want to grasp control over your finances. A twinge begging to be scratched on your left might subconsciously motivate you to work harder and shoot for a raise. While the right offers an explanation for your credit card’s interest rate being raised, even though you’ve gone over your credit limit and violated the terms of the lower rate, says Crosby.
Keeping it in check. Want to regain control over superstitions?
Crosby says taking a deep breath can help superstitions from taking over. “Give your head a chance to catch up with logic. In most cases, you’ll realize that an itchy palm has nothing to do with your bank balance.”