Money DNA

Do your genes influence how you save?

DNA –the stuff that makes your eyelashes too short, the thing that can determine if you really are 1/16th Viking after all and also great as evidence for solving crimes. But can DNA tell you anything about the way you deal with money?

A couple of researchers set out to find out if our genes influence the way we save by studying identical and fraternal twins in Sweden[1]. Spoiler alert! They do. About one-third of our approach to savings stems from genetics.

Wait, what?

Because identical twins share 100 per cent of their genes, while fraternal twins share 50 percent of their genes on average, the researchers figured that if identical twins had more similar savings behaviour than the fraternal twins, that means our propensity to save partly comes from our genes. And they did. Identical twins savings rates were much more correlated than the fraternal twins, with correlations of .33 versus .16. Other factors like the family environment and parenting play a role too. But the researchers found that the influence of those factors decayed over time. Our genetic predisposition to a specific savings behaviour however was found to stick around later in life. 

So, is my ability to save predetermined at birth?

These findings may feel like you’re set on a savings course from birth that you can’t control. Is it all set in stone? The short answer is no. Sorry. While one third of your approach to saving is determined by your genes, that leaves two thirds to you. You don’t need to be a mathematician to see that while genetics play a role, dealing with money is mostly a learned behaviour. And the good news is, despite what they say, you can always learn new tricks. You can blame your parents for your less than impressive height or weird ear lobes, but you can’t blame your DNA for buying your 4th pair of jeans in the last month.

When it comes to money habits, the buck stops with you. (Get it?).

It’s on you

So if it boils down to you, and your goal is to boost your savings, one way to shake off the psychological grip of your DNA and get ahead is to form a saving habit. That means putting a bit of money aside, consistently. A little bit, often, until it becomes second nature.

[1] https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/679284?read-now=1&seq=4#page_scan_tab_contents