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Does Birth Order Influence Your Financial Behavior?

Many people believe birth order is responsible for their status in life.

I happen to be a firstborn child, which is why I love to remind my younger sister that scientific studies suggest firstborn kids are smarter than their siblings.

Proponents of this train of thought usually note that the overwhelming majority of Nobel Laureates happen to be firstborn children, as were 21 of the first 23 American astronauts sent into space.

Others assert that firstborn kids are more apt to be leaders; for instance, surveys show that they’re more likely than their younger siblings to become CEOs. And the majority of US presidents have been firstborn children too.

So are firstborn kids, on average, really smarter? It’s possible.

Do they tend to make better leaders? Maybe.

Less convincing to me, however, are the psychiatrists who want us to believe that birth order also plays an important role in how we handle our personal finances. According to these behavioral scientists:

  • Firstborn children are more likely to keep their finances in order and have higher credit scores
  • Middle children are more likely to hide or ignore financial problems
  • Last-borns are prone to instant gratification and have trouble saving
  • “Only children” are more susceptible to living beyond their means

I know. I don’t buy it either, folks.

If you ask me, these claims are no more credible than the dubious assertions found in a typical financial horoscope. Sorry, Charlie.

Trying to correlate one’s financial behavior to their birth order is preposterous on its face.

In fact, although the press release stated otherwise, their survey shows that there is very little statistical difference between firstborn, middle-born, last-born, and only children when it comes to financial behavior with respect to saving money, investment strategy, and overall financial responsibility.

Firstborn kids don’t have a monopoly on high credit scores, nor are they immune from financial difficulties.

Looking at my two kids, they certainly aren’t following the script. The oldest, Matthew, is a terrible saver and makes no effort to track his income and expenditures. On the other hand, the “baby” of the family, Nina, not only knows how to save and manage her money, but she’s a real entrepreneur with a savvy business sense too.

Let’s face it: Most people in debt up to their eyeballs are in that situation because they lack self-control — not because of their position on the family tree.

Likewise, the majority of folks who successfully manage their money — regardless of their income — do so because they believe in personal responsibility and have good personal finance habits. For example, most all of them:

  • Understand the difference between a want and a need
  • Dutifully track all of their expenses
  • Know the difference between good debt and bad debt
  • Always spend less than they earn

And that’s why birth order has no more effect on our financial behavior than the name our parents gave us when we first entered the world does.

We can’t choose our birth order. However, in most cases we can control our financial fate — regardless of where we fall in the family pecking order. We just have to be willing to make the right decisions along the way.

Photo Credit: vtdainfo

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