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Money: Herd mentality and
financial innovations

For the most part, we're in control, or are trying to be, of our finances.

But sometimes, external factors can help or hurt our money management efforts.

Sheep herd (3) CBS' Sunday Morning program earlier today featured a piece on what motivates us humans to run with the herd. Specifically, the feature asked whether our innate animal instincts have anything to do with the recent selling frenzy on Wall Street? The answer seems to be "yes."

A reliance on natural instincts is understandable. All of us, in money and other matters, have depended on our gut feelings to make a decision.

And sometimes, those primal reactions work out just fine.

But the power of the herd got me thinking. In this 24/7 instant Internet news world, does the availability of more money information exacerbate a financial herd mentality or help ease the pull of the pack by giving us additional data to make different decisions?

In most widespread money crises, I believe our primeval fight-or-flight impulse wins. If we see, for example, most people fleeing the stock market, then for good or ill, we just add to the thundering hooves running away.

Financial innovations: In less fiscally frightening times, all this money info generally is a great thing.

In fact, Steve Randy Waldman at interfluidity cites the democratization of access to financial information as he sings the praises of financial innovation

Waldman list several other good financial innovations: exchange-traded funds, the growth of venture capital and angel investing, and the democratization of participation in financial markets. But he also looks at some less-than-welcome financial advances. Be sure to click on the link above and check out the good and bad.

Yves Smith at naked capitalism, whose Twitter comment tipped me to this topic, elaborates on financial innovations here.

Smith also offers some differing perspectives on financial innovations. I found of particular interest his look at what he calls the faux science that's sprung up in connection with some professional money management.

I urge you to check out both interfluidity and naked capitalism posts.

Other mental money musings: Our predispositions and personalities also affect how we handle money. Check out the stories and blog posts below for insights into our minds and our money.

You also might want to take this money personality test to see just which type of money manager you are.


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You're wise to build up the short-term, emergency fund first. In this economy, most of us will probably need to dip into it at least a bit. There will still be stock values later.


I've also heard that the feeling one has when something bad happens is greater than the feeling one has when something good happens. This means that the negative feeling are more intense than positive feelings. For this reason, folks are more likely to sell their stocks when they are going down than just riding it out.

Our big debate is whether we should tap into our short-term savings to take advantage of the market. The issue is that Doug's job isn't very stable and if he's laid off in the next month, we will need that short-term savings.

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