Guest blog - The gift of self-reflection: Seeing yourself through your finances


Today's blog has been written by Jason Leong, CEO of Pocketsmith - a personal finance app that helps users store and organise transactions, and be productive with their money. Read on to the end - there's a special offer for friends of Supergenerous!

The spectre of uncertainty has loomed large for us over these two pandemic years, spurring on what some have called a widespread existential crisis, and others, a shared spirit of self-examination.

As the coronavirus prods us down the road of life, prompting us to make decisions big and small, how do we make choices that best reflect our values and priorities? 

The American Psychological Association highlights how adults — millenials in particular — struggle with daily decisions owing to upended routines and factors that constantly change. The risk of decision-making fatigue is real, particularly for parents, who depend on these routines to manage a wide variety of responsibilities.

Here at PocketSmith, we make personal finance software for all walks of life. Our customers live in over 190 countries, and from right here in New Zealand, we have the privilege of seeing the world through their eyes.

What we’ve learned is that a healthy dose of curiousity about one's finances can lead to new insights about one's own behaviour, and consequently, aid in the decision-making process.

As fans of Supergenerous, you’ll already have some awareness of how your finances mirror your values. Likely, you’re someone that believes in a cause as well as your ability to make an impact. What else would your finances say about you?

Let's look to kick off a new financial year, and our budding crush on Supergenerous, with some food for thought.

Your data, and you

In the app economy, data plays a big part in helping us better understand who we are. We use apps to be productive, express ourselves, and fulfil our desires. In the process, data is volunteered and created in order to personalise and enhance our experiences.

Netflix and Spotify offer recommendations on what to watch and listen to next. Photo apps compile memories for us based on where we've been and the people we've been with. 

We make playlists of things we like to watch and listen to, follow people we want to hear from, and upvote content we like. We tailor images and stories of ourselves for social media, and in return, we receive — for better or for worse — curated perspectives on the world.

Over time, our apps become stores of our identity and shortcuts for describing our personalities. Consequently, losing access to an app would feel like losing a definition, or a memory, of who we are.

Now let's think about another activity that generates volumes of data about ourselves: paying for stuff.

Every purchase we make has a date, a location, an amount and a category. In doing so, we continuously generate enough data to create a well-formed picture of what we have, where we were, how much we spent, and how often we spent it.

Where the apps described above require a degree of curation, apps that reveal our spending reflect an immediate and honest record of our behaviour. And perhaps this is why financial data is undervalued by people: it has the potential to betray truths about ourselves that we don’t want to know.

Knowing thyself

The phrase “know thyself” is often attributed to the ancient wise-person and revered duck whisperer — the latter by unverified accounts — Socrates. It can be interpreted to mean that an essential part of knowing yourself is in recognising the limits of your own wisdom and understanding. 

Put another way: it’s also important to be curious about our finances because they contain potent insights that can have a material impact on our futures and overall wellbeing.

If you tap into those curation skills and take a page from Spotify playlists, like sorting your music into lists by genre or mood, what would you learn from your financial data when you categorise it?

You would find that categorisation unlocks spending insights in different ways: over time, by amount, by volume. You would start to see patterns in your finances that naturally reveal your values and priorities. 

What brings you joy, and what doesn’t? Where is your time and money best spent? 

A lot has been written about the early 2020s, but I hope that it will also be remembered for how the world leaned into an inclination for change. 

How we look back on this period of history largely depends upon the decisions we make. So for those of us with the luxury of time, we should take every opportunity to define who we are, in order to make the choices that result in the best impact.

PocketSmith is teaming up with Supergenerous to offer you 50% off your first two months of a PocketSmith Premium plan. You can use it to easily find the facts in your finances, including your charitable donations. 

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