Apr 28, 2023
In today's conversation, I am joined by Dr. Merle van
den Akker. Merle is a behavioral scientist who has recently
completed a Ph.D. at the Warwick Business School, studying the
effect of different payment methods on personal finance management.
She decided to leave academia to apply behavioral insights in the
real world and has become a behavioral science manager at a
financial well-being unit in an Australian bank. She continues to
research and apply behavioral science to improve financial services
and consumer (financial) well-being. Next to this, Merle is a
science communicator, running the blog Money on the Mind, and the
MoneyPsychologist TikTok account, where she disseminates insights
from the intersection of behavioral science and personal finance.
Last, to not leave academia behind fully, Merle also still teaches
behavioral science as well as courses on fintech developments at
top Australian universities.
Merle was also a finalist for Content Person of the
Year in the Habit Weekly Awards in 2022 along with myself and many
other amazing content creators in the space including next week's
guest who won the award last year.
In today's conversation, we are talking about personal
finance – both for individuals and how it applies to any business.
Stress at home can impact performance at work, and there are some
ways businesses can be helping their employees feel more
comfortable -- and do better work -- if they are thoughtful about
personal finances and what is going on in the world around them.
Even if your company doesn't believe it is impacted by inflation or
the massive layoffs that have been happening recently...think
again. Merle and I dig in on how social media and other
availability-bias- and herding-fueled messaging is impacting
everyone, and what companies can be doing to help their employees
to feel more secure and less stressed.
- [00:42] In today's conversation, I am joined by Dr.
Merle van den Akker. Merle is a behavioral scientist who has
recently completed a Ph.D. at the Warwick Business School studying
the effect of different payment methods on personal finance
- [02:21] Stress at home can impact performance at work
and there are some ways businesses can help their employees feel
more comfortable and do better work.
- [04:34] Merle shares about herself, her background,
and the work she does. She runs the Money on the Mind blog, where
she writes about how behavioral science applies to personal
- [06:42] Spending on a credit card is incredibly
different than spending with cash.
- [07:37] With contactless payments, people tend to
spend a bit more and then they actually have a much worse recall of
what they spent.
- [09:32] Mental accounting is expenditure and research
tracking in your head.
- [11:51] It is important to ask thoughtful questions
in business and research.
- [14:25] You have a mental and a physical account for
savings and your credit whether you are in debt or not.
- [16:54] Behavioral science can contribute positively
to the cost of living crisis in major ways. When people act out of
fear they don’t make great decisions.
- [18:54] Learned helplessness is a very dangerous
state to get into. You need to be able to get into a mindset where
you are still able to act.
- [21:50] Having too much pressure on people’s time is
impacting their ability to do really good, thoughtful
- [24:28] The present bias is a very inconvenient bias
and is something you should be aware of.
- [27:31] As an employee, it is important to know what
would and would not work and ask for that from your employer. An
employer should be open and expectant to have these
- [30:36] There can be more thoughtful and creative
solutions for ways employers can help that don’t cost them a lot of
- [32:45] You can help be a solution for customers and
employees by having this overall awareness of what is happening in
the world and how that is going to be impacting
- [34:09] If your brain is in overload the last thing
it wants is ambiguity.
- [35:42] You don’t want people to act out of fear
because they will make decisions that don’t benefit anyone in the
long run. That is something we should really try to
- [37:53] Social media algorithms give you more of what
you show interest in. Something may feel like it is everywhere,
when in reality the algorithms are just showing it to you a
- [39:46] Always take the time in stressful moments to
breathe and get out of that hot state to look and see what you can
- [41:01] It is a win-win situation to have employees
that are not just cowering under an enormous load of stress and
fear and as a result being rendered almost
- [42:34] Melina’s closing thoughts.
- [43:01] If you focus on helping your people with more
aspects of their lives then just what feels immediately relative to
your bottom line can have really great impacts financially and
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