If you’ve been making excuses for your lack of financial resolve, science may have your back: Believe it or not, researchers have identified a gene that could determine whether you’re good or bad with money.
Specifically, the discovery has to do with self-control—or how some people are better able to resist temptation to make sound financial decisions.
According to a new report from Chase Blueprint®, “Born to Spend? How Nature and Nurture Impact Spending and Borrowing Habits,” a specific section of the human brain lights up when we face a choice, such as, say, spending on something that we know we shouldn’t.
“Only 25% of us are born with the ‘good’ variant of that gene,” says report author Dr. Hersh Shefrin, a professor in the finance department at the Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business. “Some people are simply better than others at self-control, and neuroscientific studies have shed light on why this is the case.” (Note: These annoying people are also more immune to office birthday cake and mid-afternoon candy binges.)
But before you run off to get your gray matter tested, you should know that research also shows that, in this arena, nurture trumps nature—every time. In other words, there are proven ways that you can trick your brain into being smarter about money.
Not convinced? Test out a few scientifically proven strategies to be a better financial version of yourself than you ever thought possible.
1. Adopt a New Mantra
How It Works: For this exercise, you’ll be using the help of a fancy scientific term known as a “heuristic,” which is essentially a rule of thumb that you live by to make decision-making easier. You probably already have many money heuristics that you abide by every day—whether you’re conscious of them or not.
Some examples: “I only buy used cars,” “always take your tax return to the bank” and “I deserve to shop online after a hard day at work.” As you can see, some heuristics are better for your finances than others.
Why It Works: If you’re conscious about adopting helpful heuristics, they can be powerful enough beliefs to override bad money behavior. Case in point: “Banking raises, if it becomes a habit, helps us avoid being tempted to spend the money, when we’d rather save it,” says Dr. Shefrin.
If you have bad money habits that you’d like to improve—from getting zinged by bank fees to overspending on gifts—come up with a specific heuristic to help you combat each one. Psychologists have found that we tend to feel poorly about ourselves for breaking the rule, even if we created it. Weird, but helpful.