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Date:8/15/2008

Studies suggest why some people save while others spend

FRIDAY, Aug. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Can't save money? Spending too much? Both? Don't blame just the economy or old habits.

Psychologists and marketing experts have found that the time frame of your savings goals, plus your sense of well-being and your spending style, could all play a role in your personal cash flow situation.

"Some people think, 'We have no incentive, that's why we don't save,' " said Leona Tam, an assistant professor of marketing at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., who was expected to present her study findings at the American Psychological Association's annual meeting, Aug. 14-17, in Boston.

But Tam has found that the ability to save money has more to do with whether people focus on short-term goals -- planning to save money next month -- rather than long-term goals -- planning to save next year. Those who focus on short-term goals do better, she said.

Tam asked 678 adults to estimate how much they could save in the next month, and then how much they could save in a specific month in the future, or the next year. The participants always saved closer to the estimate -- or even more -- for their next-month goal, and fell short for a specific month in the future.

"Savings are significantly lower for people who estimate higher for a future time frame," she said. "They think they can actually save more in the future," compared to the very near future. "That could explain why most of us don't save enough."

The solution? Set short-term savings goals, Tam said, to close the gap between estimated and actual savings.

A second study scheduled for presentation at the meeting found that your consumer "type" and your sense of well-being affect your spending habits.

In past research, study author Miriam Tatzel, a professor of psychology at Empire State College, State University of New York, found
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