Willful Money Blindness & Social Pressures

“Surely, consumers argue, tanning salons wouldn’t be allowed if they were harmful – would they?”  This is an example of social validation that Margaret Heffernan covers in her book Willful Blindness. 

Even though both The U.S Department of Health and Human Service, plus the International Agency for Research on Cancer both state that tanning beds have known carcinogens people continue to use them. Nearly 30 million people tan indoors in the U.S. annually. A tan still represents leisure and wealth in North America to many people. So people put themselves in harm’s way by using tanning beds or laying outside all summer, and bow to the social pressure of looking successful. 


 Habit Can Even Trump Health

“They have become creatures of habit. They don’t want to change. So they just pretend they don’t know (about tanning bed risks).” says Professor Hawk, a dermatologist at St. Thomas’s Hospital in London, quoted in Margaret Heffernan’s book. 

 Change means conflict – within us.  We would end up mentally fighting with our need to be socially accepted or validated, with the need to be more disciplined, more healthy, or better at managing our money. So we often avoid it through willful blindness.

Willful Money Blindness? 

How often do we socially validate our ability to purchase the latest SUV’s like our neighbors, or clothing and gadgets like our friends and colleagues?  Are we assuming that they’ve done the research and know that they can legitimately afford these things?  If we know we’re in the same snack bracket, or live in the same neighborhood, then we rationalize that we must be able to afford these same things.  It is easier to say that, than to deny ourselves when our friends have these items. 

Are you a creature of money habits and not sure how to change?  Social validation is important to our sense of self-worth.  But will it be equally as validating when we all have no retirement savings – like our friends?  

Related Topic: Are You Spending & Eating on Autopilot?


 Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. Behavioral Cents, LLC and any third parties listed, linked to or otherwise appearing in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies.

BehavioralCents.com is a web site for women to help them understand and change their own money behaviors. Our mission is to better prepare women for financial independence by helping them save more through everyday habits. Thoughts always welcome: carrierattle@behavioralcents.com.

Categorized as BC Blog

By Carrie Rattle

Carrie Rattle is a Principal at BehavioralCents.com, a website for women focused on mind and money behaviors. She has worked in the financial services industry for 20+ years and hopes to inspire women to better prepare themselves for financial independence. Read More

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