Chase Blueprint Delves into Behavioral Economics with Mindful Spending

baby_moneyAre we stuck with our bad financial habits, or do we have a chance to reform them?

That’s the question asked by a new report that is part of an initiative to encourage better financial habits within JPMorgan Chase’s free Blueprint offering.

The report is called “Born To Spend?: How nature and nurture impact spending and borrowing habits,” by Dr. Hersh Shefrin, Ph.D., of Santa Clara University’s School of Business. It’s available on Blueprint’s Resource Center on the JPMorgan Chase website.

Blueprint is a set of tools to help customers manage their Chase credit cards. The service allows cardholders to choose one of four plans to use their credit cards more responsibly. “Each plan is customizable and designed to save you money,” Blueprint’s webpage says. The plans help consumers pay off large purchases, pay down balances, avoid interest on certain purchases, and save toward goals.

Among other findings, the study analyzed the financial habits of sets of twins, to test out whether nature or nurture is more important in determining our financial habits.

The report asserts that just 33% of spending habits are due to genes, so nurture wins the day, luckily.

It’s certainly an interesting question to investigate, but why is Chase looking into the psychology of spending?

“The initiative was started to try to understand the motivations behind consumer spending and saving,” Tom O’Donnell, Chase’s SVP of Quality told Bank Innovation. “Most studies focus on the what and the how. We believe a big part of the answer is why.”

During the credit crisis, customers adopted what O’Donnell calls “mindful spending,” wherein customers knew how they planned to pay off purchases. Now, as some economic indicators are pointing up, O’Donnell expressed concern that customers might experience “frugality fatigue,” and seek refuge in the pleasure associated with buying things.

That pleasure is genetic, but mindful spending is learned — nature vs. nurture.

“There is an opportunity to turn learnings into habits,” O’Donnell said. “You can train your mind to counteract the good feelings associated with buying things.”

There are other programs out there like Blueprint, such as Ally‘s Walletwise and Bank of America‘s Better Money Habits, but nothing that takes a deep drive into behavioral economics like Chase is doing with Blueprint.

Chase began the program during the credit crisis. Three million Chase credit card holders signed up and created savings plans. The bank communicates with Blueprint planners on statements and in special communications, encouraging them to continue toward their spending goals.

Another Blueprint report is a joint production from JPMorgan Chase and the financial planning service LearnVest, which has partnered with Chase for several years, according to O’Donnell.

JPMorgan Chase is the largest credit card issuer in the United States, according to its 2013 first quarter earnings report. It has approximately 64 million credit cards in circulation.

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