Are you the kind of person who can visualize exactly what your retirement will look like, but your eyes glaze over when someone starts to discuss the details of an actual retirement plan? Or do you love crunching numbers to determine how to best invest your money, but haven’t given much thought to what you want your future to look like?
According to right-brain, left-brain theory, people who favor their right brain tend to be creative, artistic and imaginative – intuitive thinkers who can see the big picture. Left-brain dominant people are more likely to be logical, rational and organized – people who aren’t afraid of a spreadsheet and crunching numbers.
Though overstated by pop psychology, left-brain right-brain theory does provide a valuable way for people to understand and think about themselves, believes Laughrin: “I believe some people are more intuitive and others more analytical, certainly. Getting them to better understand their strengths and weaknesses can help them better manage finance and in many other areas of their lives.”
Intuitive or impulsive?
Right-brain dominant people tend to make decisions more intuitively, trusting their instinct when considering a retirement plan or investment options. The problem with this approach is that right-brained thinking can lead to impulsive investment and financial decisions.
“Right-brained people tend to be impulse buyers, which doesn’t lead to good returns,” says Rick Ferri, author of six investment books and columnist for Forbes. “They tend to move their money around based on what sounds good at the moment according to what they’ve heard in the media. Too often they buy high and sell low.”
You shouldn’t entirely disregard your intuitive, gut reaction however. “Sometimes you are picking up cues and clues in your environment, but you can’t exactly put your finger on what those are,” says Laughrin. “It’s important, though, to use the other side of the brain and rationally think through what is making you think something might be a good or bad investment or financial decision. You might uncover a reason you were unaware of.”
The logical left brain
People who are left-brain dominant tend to be more analytical in their approach to managing their finances. “Left-brained people spend more time looking at the facts and comparing the results,” says Ferri. “They are more likely to sit down and actually do a budget and put together a savings, investment and insurance plan.”
The important thing is to put a plan into action. “Many people put a lot of thought into planning their career or their children’s education,” says Ferri. “An equal amount of effort needs to go into coming up with a financial plan and then actually doing it. If you don’t actually follow the plan, then it can’t help you.”
A left-brained approach to managing personal finance, however, may ignore the big picture.
“A rational approach that makes sure all the percentages are right is certainly important,” says Laughrin. “But the emotional side is important too. Maybe an exotic vacation doesn’t make the best fiscal sense, but it enriches your life. Sometimes we get caught up in making sure we have all the money in the right piles, but lose sight of the fun of life. The two sides of the brain can definitely learn from each other.”
Balanced is best
So what is the best approach? Stepping outside this popular paradigm and not pigeonholing yourself as either a right-brained or left-brained person. For example, engineers, who tend to be left-brain dominant, can learn to develop their dormant creative side and see the big financial picture. Right-brained creative types, such as artists, can channel their inner Spock and develop the logician within.
“When we approach any problem with both sides of the brain, we come up with a better solution,” says Laughrin. “You should always check your ‘gut’ decisions against the numbers to make sure they line up. We all need to get out of our comfort zone and explore the side of ourselves that is less dominant.” by Kevin Orfield
Are you left- or right-brain dominant?
Visit sommer-sommer.com/braintest to find a quick, 8-question test to determine whether you are left- or right-brain dominant or use both sides equally.
Regardless of the results, your Modern Woodmen representative can help you build a financial plan that takes everything into consideration. Find his or her contact information on the back of this magazine and make an appointment to review your plan for life today.
Used with permission from Sommer+Sommer.