Extremely frustrated, I waited in a parking lot for one last person that was running late. They were supposed to arrive at 7:30am and the instructions clearly stated the youth group would leave the church at 8:00am sharp.
It was this person’s tardiness that broke my wife’s perfect parent streak. You know what I mean; the mom who waves to her child as they drive away in excitement to a five-day excursion of hiking, singing songs by the bonfire, and getting yelled at by counselors because you’re making everyone in the cabin giggle when you should be sleeping.
Here it was, almost an hour later and we could wait no longer. We said our goodbyes and drove off.
I can remember feeling angry, irritated, and a bit resentful at this person who seemed to lack a conscience by making the whole bus load of people wait. I didn’t know who the person was, yet I had determined he/she was a slacker.
Why was I so upset? And what does this have to do with money? Stick around to the end, we’ll get there.
A lack of conscientiousness
The answer came in a completely unrelated email. PsyBlog released a one-minute personality test that reveals how conscientious you are compared to others. I was certain to score a perfect 40 out of 40 because I’m a very conscientious person: I plan ahead, try to pay attention to the details, and understand my actions can affect others.
The results of that survey would tell me another story.
Are you a conscientious person?
Take the multiple-choice survey yourself: One Minute Conscientious Test
Did you score more than 20? Then you lean towards being a conscientious person.
Conscientious people are careful, vigilant and thorough. They love ‘to-do’ lists and plan out their day. Conscientious people tend to do better in school and find the obligations they make to others are important to themselves.
I thought for sure I’d fall into the 30 percent of respondents who were classified as conscientious.
Nope. Moving on…
Not-so conscientious people
Those who are not gifted with extra conscientiousness are laid-back, less concerned with obligations towards others, and are classified as unorganized.
However, they tend to be more fun and exciting to be around at parties. Do you know a few not-so conscientious people? Of course you do – they could be some of your best friends. Actually, my best friend fits perfectly into this group. He is always late and never finishes tasks on time, yet he makes friends everywhere he goes.
How can this be? How can a non-planner who misses deadlines and doesn’t plan ahead be accepted by the well-organized group in our society? To put it simply: we need each other. A person scoring high on the conscientious scale needs someone with a low score to spice up their life.
Alternatively, free spirits need super-conscientious people in their lives or the iPhone would have never been created and their taxes would never get done.
Again, 30 percent of people scored in the lower range of this survey.
Muddled in the Middle
What if you are in the middle? I scored a 20 – what does that say about me?
My natural tendencies are to work on the things I want to, not the things I should. For instance, I’m writing this article a week after the date I set aside on my calendar.
I also follow the Seth Godin philosophy of “Ship it” instead of trying to get every detail perfect before putting it out there. For example: How many grammatical and punctuation errors can you find in this post? 10 points goes to the first person to point them out in the comments below.
Does this make me a not-so conscientious person? I think my response to this morning’s events prove otherwise.
Contrary to what you might think; Those of use who are in the middle (40 percent of the survey respondents) are not perfectly balanced between the two. In fact, I believe those who are on the extreme ends of this survey have an easier time being true themselves.
In other words, it’s more exciting to be on one end of the teeter-totter or the other instead of the guy standing in the middle. That guy (or gal) is expending a lot of energy just trying to stay balanced.
How does this all tie into personal finance?
It is very likely you are either a conscientious spender or you make more than your share of impulse purchases.
A conscientious spender finds joy in making meal plans, creating grocery lists, and measures their wireless data usage to see if they can save $10 by switching to a smaller plan next month.
A slacker, or “free spirit”, makes impulse purchases, spends money when the situation arises, and hates the “b” word (budget). But boy howdy – they can share some stories!
Maybe you’re a muddler like me. I have forced myself into the middle – moving away from my natural “free spirit” tendencies toward super-conscientious behaviors. Why? I realized the importance of having a plan, spending wisely, and looking towards the future.
In my journey to become a more responsible and conscientious person I fight the old tendencies that could get me into trouble. How do I know they will resurface? Let’s just say I haven’t been a very conscientious eater.
Is it better to be conscientious or a slacker?
If your goal is to be responsible with your spending and have some money later in life then you need to be a conscientious spender more often than a slacker. However, slackers are good for the economy: If we didn’t have slackers then a lot of plastic trinkets would be collecting dust on the Dollar Store’s shelves.