Webinar: Smart habits and behaviors to achieve financial wellness 

Discover smart strategies and behavioral science tips to support your financial wellness.

Tags: Savings, Goals, Budgeting
Published: September 08, 2021

In this webinar, you’ll discover some great tips and ideas to help achieve your financial goals.


View video transcript

Smart habits and behaviors to achieve financial wellness

MICHELLE GRAFF: Good afternoon and welcome to today's webinar, "Smart habits and behaviors to achieve financial wellness." My name is Michelle Graff, and I'll be moderating today's session, compliments of U.S. Bank. Before we'll get started, I'll go over a few housekeeping items. All participants have been placed on listen-only mode to prevent any background noise.

Today's webinar features powerpoints and polls, and we will not host a live Q&A session. Please book your appointment with the banker at your usbank.com/book if you have additional questions following today's presentation. And also don't forget to share your feedback with us directly using the post-session survey.

This Webex conference will be recorded. If you object to this recording, you must disconnect from the conference line at this time. This recording will be posted to usbank.com/financialiq in the next week. I'm turning on the recording now.

We'll start with a poll. Please use the radio buttons on the right side of your Webex screen to answer, how are your money habits? Do you feel comfortable with your money habits, or maybe you feel that your money habits are good but there's room for improvement? Perhaps you have both good and bad habits when it comes to money, or maybe you're not sure where to even start.

You'll have a couple more moments to take the poll. While we tally the results, I'll pass it to our presenters. Take it away, Jill.

JILL ROSS: Thanks. Hi, everybody. I'm Jill Ross. I'm one of the goal coaches here at US. Bank. Prior to joining the company in 2019, I was an HR director for several years before moving into project management for a global health care company. I am a Navy veteran, and I recently completed an MBA in project management. I'm going to hand it over to Soumi.

SOUMI CHATTERJEE: Thanks, Jill. Hi, everyone. Hope you all are doing well. I am a behavioral sciences architect at U.S. Bank. I work in the personalization studio, and there I work on diverse multidisciplinary-- on diverse multidisciplinary team to create tools and programs that can help U.S. Bank customers focus on more mindful spending and savings.

Prior to joining U.S. Bank, I taught at UCLA, and my research focuses on group and individual decision making. I have a PhD from UCLA and masters degrees from Syracuse University. Jill, I'll pass it back over to you.

JILL ROSS: Awesome, thank you. So let's jump into the webinar today and talk about financial wellness, what that looks like, and how one size really doesn't fit all. And I say that because as a goal coach, I talk to so many different types of people every day, and I get so many different perspectives about their ideas around what financial wellness really looks like to them that we can't and we shouldn't try to fit everybody into the same boat.

So what do people mean when they describe financial wellness? Well, some people believe that it means if we don't have to worry about money, then we don't have to worry about anything else. And I think generally speaking, that's pretty accurate.

One young mother that I had told me, if she wasn't worried about money all the time, she'd have more time to spend with her child, and she would feel more engaged. An entrepreneur feels like financial wellness means having enough money not to worry about feeding himself as he's coming up with that next big idea.

From a personal standpoint, financial wellness for me means drinking wine in my backyard during my retirement and not having to worry about if I want to go someplace else, like France where wine comes from drink wine. I can just get up and go.

So though I just said financial wellness looks different to different people, the basic components, however, are very similar. They're pretty much the same. So one of those pieces is knowing your credit score and what that means to you and how it will be an effective key factor in reducing that financial stress. I'm sorry, guys. I had so much coffee today. I can't speak. My words are all jumbled.

Having healthy savings habits. I know the minute that I said those words, there are people in the audience that cringe. Maybe some of you cried a little inside because you think I'm going to say, never leave your house, eat packaged ramen, forget there's a Starbucks 12 feet from your front door because those days are over. OK, I'm not. That's not what I'm to say.

Creating healthy savings habits means finding that balance between financial wellness and enjoying life that works for you and building a guideline that works for you. Now another way to say that is creating a budget. This is another one of those cry on the inside moments for people because they want to avoid that dreaded budget.

The fact is that unless a person has absolute unlimited wealth, we have to track what we're bringing in and what's going out. But what ends up happening-- but what happens when we hear the word "budget" is that we immediately start to think of absolute terms. We think in terms of spend this, save that, write down every penny, never vary.

When I work with my clients, I advise them to actually stay away from budgets. I want them to create guidelines that work for them. So we create ways to track the absolutes, the items that don't change-- like the mortgage or the rent the car payment, the cell phone bill. Those are the absolutes.

After that, I encourage them to think about what they can do with the money that's left over. What do you have to buy versus what do you want to buy? This really helps people feel a lot less restricted and much less stressed out about their money.

And finally, financial wellness really means having a feeling of peace with your finances because you've created a plan that works for you and it feels right. Michelle, I think you were going to share the results of the poll here.

MICHELLE GRAFF: Yeah, and it looks like the results are in. So for our question was, how are your money habits, it looks like B was the winner. My money habits are good but there's room for improvement. So with that, we'll pass it to Soumi and keep on going.

SOUMI CHATTERJEE: Thank you. So I want to talk about habits. Habits are something we all have. We use the word "habit," "habitual." We just kind of feel like we have this intuitive understanding of what habits are. But for psychologists, behavioral scientists, habits are a really rich area of study.

So according to Wendy Wood, who's a psychologist at the University of Southern California, she's the foremost scholar of habitual study. She calls habits-- she thinks of them as a type of behavior that are formed through repetition, and they're performed without active thought. The habitual behavior automates, and we humans, we form a routine. And over time, that routine behavior, the habits, are cued by context.

Habitual behavior is cued by the context that you're in-- the environment you're in, the place you're in, the stuff that's around you, the people that are around you. It's not necessarily directed toward a specific goal. And with repetition, our thoughts, those cognitive associations, they form a link between those contexts cues and our responses.

So again, behavior comes to be activated by the context, the environment we're in and not directed by a goal. So if we really think about it, habits are kind of learning systems, and they're intertwined with memory. You're in the same place, you do the same thing over and over again, you learn this behavior, and then it becomes this automated thing drawn out of your memory, and you just start doing it.

And over time, we start to associate our habitual actions with our identities. So let's say to use an example that's less and less common but we're all familiar with is smoking cigarettes. It's one thing to say, I smoke cigarettes. It's another thing to tell yourself the story, write the script, and live the script through habitual actions that I am a smoker.

About 20 years ago, Wendy Wood-- and I guess now it's more like 10 years ago-- Wendy Wood and some of her colleagues, they ran an experiment about habitual action, and I'll take it out of the academic concepts and make it more concrete. They ran this experiment on movie eating-- sorry, movie eating, popcorn eating in a movie theater.

So the habitual action was eating popcorn, and the context cue was the movie theater. The twist was-- and this is the psychological treatment, to use the academic jargon-- was that participants in this study were given either stale or fresh popcorn. And what Wood and her colleagues found is that habitual popcorn eaters were not really influenced by their hunger or even how much they liked the food. They ate equal amounts of stale and fresh popcorn.

Coach Jill is slightly horrified by what I'm telling her because she's not in that context. She's not in the movie theater. Like you sit down, and then you dive into the bucket. There it is. You're just going to habitually eat it.

And so that's why when scholars of habit study talk about habits, there's this emerging consensus that habits are more powerful than your preferences. You prefer fresh popcorn, but the habitual action of eating the popcorn in the movie theater, that is, in fact, more powerful in terms of popcorn consumed.

There's also this belief that habits are more powerful than knowledge. There's other studies that show that folks, even when they're told that their habitual actions are and should be changed, can't. So they can't change it. So coming back to the smoking thing, this is like decades and decades of public health information about smoking's detrimental health effects doesn't change people's behavior.

Again with the movie theater, folks are influenced by their habits. Again, habits align with their self-image, and habits are highly affected by friction. Coming back to that popcorn study, one of the interesting things that they found-- so, Jill, I know since you're a foodie you're going to get a kick out of this-- you know one of the ways that they got folks to slow down their popcorn consumption, be more aware of it? They had folks eat with their non-dominant hand.

So if you're right-handed, eating with your left hand slowed your consumption. Made you more aware. Now that simple change going from your dominant hand to your non-dominant hand, that's creating friction. Friction is any kind of force that slows down a choice you want to make. I want to eat popcorn. I'm right-handed. All of a sudden, eating with your left hand, it feels weird.

Try brushing your teeth with your left hand. It's not an automated-- if you're right-handed, of course, it's not an automated behavior. Friction is this great force that can be harnessed to effect habitual actions.

JILL ROSS: Soumi, I'm just going to say, OK, first of all, what kind of a monster goes to a movie theater and doesn't eat popcorn? Second of all, I don't think fiction works for me because I can eat popcorn with both hands. There's no problem there. And I'm right-handed.

SOUMI CHATTERJEE: So that just means we've got to find an alternative form of friction. If you are, in fact, an ambidextrous popcorn power eater, we can figure out ways to take friction. But then again, we also got to ask the question, what does this have it mean? We're here in this financial webinar. Popcorn is accessible is an accessible example for everyone, but what does popcorn mean in your broader life? If that's something you enjoy and it's not derailing you, both hands. Go for it, right?

JILL ROSS: All right, I'm going to remember you said that when I go to the movies.

SOUMI CHATTERJEE: Yeah, absolutely. Put that on me. I'll wear that one. That's OK. So if we go on to the next slide, one of the things that is important to understand-- oftentimes when we think about what we want out of life, we think, all right, I'm going to set a goal, and I'm going to achieve it. It goes across different cultures. Set a goal, achieve it, be ambitious, be diligent, you'll get things done.

And it makes sense. This is like how we achieve. But in fact, habits and goals, they're both essential components of human achievements. Goals are these things that we set by our conscious mind, and habits, because they're automated and we do them without thinking about them, they're largely unconscious. But good habits can help us achieve our goals, and bad habits can stand in the way.

So this is why it's important to become aware of our habits and notice their impact on our goals, especially when they run contradictory to the goals we want to achieve. Putting a little more context around this and how prevalent habits are to our just way of living.

There have been lots of studies that have been done on how much action we do in the day is habitual, and the numbers vary anywhere between like 40-- to the high 40% of our actions are habitual. Wendy Wood ran a study a few years back and found that 43% of all behavior can be classified as habitual. And I mean, it doesn't mean that if you're doing habitual action, you're not also capable of active thought. Of course you are.

If you're driving down a street that you're very familiar with, that can be a habitual action. But you're thinking about how you want to have that hard conversation with your boss, or you're thinking about your kid at school. You're thinking about other things. But those background habits, they actually are very, very important, and that's why it's important to know what our habits are.

And really, really important on this last point about becoming aware of our habits and how they impact our goals, scientists have found that we tend to discount. We don't give enough credit to our good habits. We don't notice them, and we don't give ourselves-- because we don't notice them, we don't celebrate them and promote them the ways that we should.

So for example, this is how much we're wired to think like, oh, I'm actively thinking about something, and then I'll just go achieve it. So you say, all right, let's say you're in a stressful period. OK, well, exercise is supposed to be a stress reducer. This is common knowledge, blah, blah, blah.

But if you're a habitual exerciser, if exercise is a regular part of your life, you might not consider that your stress management is tied to your exercise. You have a healthy habit that you're not taking note of.

But you do take note of the time when you're like, oh, man, I'm really stressed. I definitely need to work out. Well, if you're working out two, three, four, five, six days a week anyway, that's a great habit that is, in fact, a bigger part of your life than those specific stressed out times where you need to exercise a little bit.

One last thing I'll say about stress though and habits, when we are stressed, we fall back on our habits. So if you're habitually a good eater, a healthy eater, when you're stressed, you're more likely to continue to eat healthy. It's this understanding how prevalent habits are to our lives and how they affect the goals that we want to achieve. It's just a real crucial way to understand how to unlock the things we want to [INAUDIBLE]

JILL ROSS: So today we're also going to talk about how we can evaluate where you're at and talk about common feelings that people have around money. Money is such a rational functional thing that we rarely acknowledge the feelings that come with it. However, this is really important for us. We need to understand how we feel so that we can make good choices at the end of the day.

Then we're also going to discuss how to start shifting that mindset toward positive habits, like Soumi was talking about. And we're going to share some tips on smart habits and behaviors that you can start now to achieve that financial wellness. And we're going to talk through some action items that you guys can take away with you today.

So when I talk to clients and I ask them to describe feelings about money, the most common words are the ones you see here on the slides. We have stress, guilt, excitement, comfort, and so on and so forth. With oddly enough "stress" and "guilt" being the most common across all age ranges.

So I ask myself, why is that? Well, one common stressor that I find at any age is having money and not knowing what to do with it. We would normally think this would be more common in younger people because they're just younger and maybe they don't have the experience yet. But even those in my age group-- and yes, I'm going to admit to being a Gen Xer-- we have the stress because we've worked hard for our money for so long, and there are so many people that still don't know what to do with it, so they're just spending it.

And then they're spending this higher rate, and they're stressed out because they're thinking, well, I should be saving more money. But now I have money to spend, so I am, which stresses me out more. It's just this vicious cycle.

Another stressor is what I call the transitional period with my clients. This is that time when someone is typically young in their career, they're just starting out, and they get that first higher income job, and they get those first couple of really large paychecks. At this point, I see so many of my clients go one of two ways with their money. They're either saving and hoarding until they feel comfortable, or they're immediately spending.

You would think that saving and hoarding money wouldn't cause stress because someone would see their bank accounts growing. That's what we're looking for. But what happens is they act this way for a couple of months, and then they get used to it, and they start to relax, and then they start to spend. And then they start spending at their new income level rather than creating those good guidelines we talked about earlier. So that saving and hoarding becomes a relaxing just blow it all.

The other side of that is savings and hoarding though is the immediate spending. These clients transition to these higher paychecks, so they just simply start spending and spending and spending. This is where the spenders also start turning to things like credit cards and living beyond their means, which eventually causes a great deal of money stress, especially because they probably didn't learn good money habits when they were young.

Guilt though is kind of weird. Why do people feel guilt around money? That one was new to me. Oftentimes it's the family that makes them feel guilty.

And one of the most common things that the family-- because the most common things is the family say, the things I hear the most are, why aren't you helping us? You know nephew needs whatever it is that nephew needs. Why aren't you helping to purchase that?

When a client achieves more than others in their family, the family often feels entitled to that money. This is when we have to talk about how they can remove that guilt. And so I ask questions like, why did you want this job in the first place? Why was making money important to you in the first place?

And then we get to how can we use that money to achieve your future. Going through this process really helps people reconnect with their why and it helps them set their next steps. Usually they're going to wealth managers and things like that to help them make the most out of that money, but it's getting them to bring it back to themselves and remember why they did this for themselves in the first place.

Sometimes people feel comfort. They find a lot of comfort in money, even living within a smaller budget. There's no hoarding or spending. They no longer have to get by, but no one's ever helped them figure out how to use their money. So there's just this level of comfort that they have just sits there.

And though money can be a source of stress, it can also be a really great source of excitement for some people. Like right now, for example, I have this client who's making more money than he's ever made, and it's wonderful because it's allowing him to break this many, many, many generations cycle of lack of control over money. He's even in a place where he's talking finally about buying a home, which will make him a first generation homebuyer. He's talking about how he can rewrite his story.

SOUMI CHATTERJEE: And I mean, I know you've told me that story before. But every time, it hits me. Just the pressure the story that your client is telling himself, herself, it's just got to weigh on him so, so badly. But this is, I think, where behavioral science can offer a little bit of insight.

There's this long-standing paradigm that if we humans are just given sufficiently good information, we're going to be rational. We'll weigh costs and benefits, and we will come to a rational conclusion that we are, in fact, economic measures in our base nature. Give me good enough information, and I'll come to a rational choice. But this is not what we see over and over again. We see that the rational actor model is, in fact, limited.

I'll give you an example from money, just like you were talking about, Jill. Money is fungible. That means you can use it for one thing or another thing. $1000 cash is the same as $1,000 in your checking account is the same as $1,000 in your kid's college fund is the same as $1,000 in your 401(k).

But that's not how we think about money. We think about $1,000 cash as this is spending money. We think about $1,000 in a checking account as like, oh, this might be money that I can make a larger credit card purchase on.

We think about $1,000 in a child's college fund is something we can't touch. Oh, no, no, no. That's a different kind of $1,000. I'm not, to be clear, encouraging anyone to go delving into their kid's college fund for cash. That is not the message here.

But the message is that when we think about money we tell ourselves stories. And the stories we attach to money, it shapes our understanding of what money is. The same way that a house isn't just a house. It's not this rational, oh, here's the valuation of the property, and here's a projection. And it's not those things. It's the story that we tell ourselves.

This idea that I just broadly described is called mental accounting. It comes from a psychologist and behavioral economist at the University of Chicago called Richard Thaler, and he won a Nobel Prize about 15 years ago for this work, proving this idea of mental accounting.

So when we think about our mindset, the stories we tell ourselves, and the financial habits we live in, we talked earlier about knowing your good habits, knowing your bad habits. If you can start to unpack those stories a little bit, you can start to unlearn your bad habits, start by gaining an understanding of where you're at. Do an honest inventory of the behavior you like to change, identify habits, sort them into good habits and bad habits.

Call these middle two parts "unlearning" and "learning." Unlearn the bad habits. Once you've identified them, start to train yourself out of them. Be even more mindful and conscious of when your bad habits are active and start implementing friction to make those habits harder to act on.

Take your healthy habits, reward them, but also learn new habits. As you're unlearning, start to learn the new habits. Put those healthy habits into practice. Reward yourself for starting good habits. Do something fun and positive when you have started a new good practice.

When you do something that's positive, there is a chemical in the brain, dopamine, and it's produced as-- it's got the starring role in motivational behavior. It gets released when you eat something delicious or when you're colorful smartphone lights up. Harness the dopamine to help build better habits. Keep rewarding yourself for doing good things.

And going from understanding to unlearning the bad habits, learning the new habits, and putting them into practice, this comes back to mental accounting and writing the stories, especially about money and your finances that are the stories you want to tell and you want to live. Not just the stories you are given or born into, like Jill's client who, what did you say, seventh generation?

JILL ROSS: Seven or nine. I can't remember.

SOUMI CHATTERJEE: Sweet. I mean, that's a lot. I mean, that's a lot of legacy and identity tied up. That is psychologically meaty to put it lightly. But that's it. It's not necessarily the easiest thing, but this is the path to shifting your mindset and building better habits.

There's one other thing I want to say about this, which is with rewarding yourself and making things fun, there's studies that have been done that have shown that New Year's resolutions habits are the fun habits checked on three months later, say March-ish, right. The fun habits are stickier. They're more resilient than the important habits.

That's why it's important to make things fun. Reward yourself. Feel good. Do positive things around those good habits.

JILL ROSS: I always feel great when I reward myself with new shoes, and I now feel justified by this conversation. Buying new shoes is now my sticky habit. That's what I need to explain to my husband. It's a sticky habit.

SOUMI CHATTERJEE: Right, but there's nothing wrong with new shoes if it works within your budget. You've got to be honest and do the audit. If you're buying shoes and you feel icky and gross afterwards, maybe don't buy the shoes. Keep the receipt.

JILL ROSS: Soumi, I don't need all your logic, no.

SOUMI CHATTERJEE: I will keep my logic going. So another way you can make the smart habits and behaviors sticky and good is through these things we call commitment devices. Let your current self make decisions that will help your future self.

That sounds like very self-helpy, but let me give you some examples. When you get your paycheck, set aside the money that you need to automatically to go into bills. Pay yourself first. Set up calendar invites for yourself if you need. Schedule out the payments that are automatically going to have to get paid so you can see what you have to work with when all your responsibilities are met.

You can also set up appointments with advisors and coaches, like Coach Jill, who is excellent. You can also find accountability partners, again, like Coach Jill, your family, your friends, a financial advisor. Someone that will help keep you on track in implementing those habits and behaviors to get you going in the ways that you want to.

JILL ROSS: I'm going to talk a little bit here about habit stacking, and this is really one of my favorite topics because I get such a kick out of it when people-- at the habits that they decide to stack and the rewards they allow themselves for doing a good job and myself included. I mean, I have a shoe habit. I can quit any time, but I don't want to, that kind of thing.

When we talk about habit stacking, we're talking about literally stacking habits one on top of the other so we don't forget our to-dos. For example, one of the habits I took away from the military was adding bill pay and budget checking to my paychecks on the 1st in the 15th of every month, because the 1st and the 15th were paydays. So as my life has evolved and changed, my paydays are different, but I still have specific bills assigned to those days, and I check my budget on those days.

Except now I've also added vehicle maintenance to the first of the month and investments on the 15th of the month, so I'm still stacking my habits. I'm checking all of my things and making sure it all gets done for me in a timely fashion.

When my budget clients want to start their habit stacking, one of the pairings that I recommend for them is checking credit on toothbrush replacement day. And I know this seems like a really odd combination, but I honestly think that's why it works so well. It's something that catches your attention, and you just don't forget what you're meant to do. And people think it's funny and enjoy it. Soumi, I know you're going to talk about friction, so I'm going to stop there.

SOUMI CHATTERJEE: OK, so again with the habit stacking, the other thing that we brought up earlier is the importance of friction. Remember friction is any force that restrains in action. So harness friction. Once you've done that habits inventory, you started habit stacking, make the good habits easier to do and the negative habits harder to do. Those automatic transfers, that's removing friction. You're removing friction and you're keeping a good habit going.

Adding friction can also-- it's a bad habits is also a good thing. So if you have an Amazon addiction-- overshare, I have a seven and 1/2 month old, and our lives are fully controlled by the Amazon diaper cartel. When it's time to go, I need to get diapers, I go to Amazon, and my credit card is already one-click paid in there.

Well, Amazon has gone ahead and they've reduced friction to me going ahead and making purchases I need to make. But when I'm in that diaper page, my goodness are they skilled at offering me other things that I might need at some point. That's it. I can take things-- making the process slower, making it more deliberate. Removing that one-click payment is something that I can do to put friction into my habitual actions.

You can also do things making it more difficult to access your savings account. If you have an account that you've set aside for emergencies, rainy days, you can do things like, hey, I can put it in a bank that I don't necessarily check that often, I don't have the app on my phone. You can do what you can to make it less prevalent. It doesn't have to be front and center with your necessary finances.

So I want to talk again about smoking and habits and how important friction was to smoking reduction in the US. Again, moving away from finances, but to give an example that's accessible. In the middle of the '60s, almost 50% of American adults were smokers, and today it's like middle teens, like 15%.

And why was there this drop? Like we said earlier, it wasn't the public health campaigns. It wasn't public information. The information was out there earlier in the 20th century, but what happened is that there was friction that made it harder to smoke.

So what does that mean? What kind of friction was there on smoking? Well, part of it was done by retailers. You went from, hey, I walk into the grocery store or any number of retailers, and there's a lovely cigarette vending machine right up front. You just put in some cash, pull the lever-- I'm revealing my age now-- and then the cigarette box falls down, and you can walk right out. Walk in, make the transaction happen, walk out. Relatively frictionless.

Well, it went from that prominent product placement, eye level is buy level, as they say. Went from prominent product placement to now the cigarettes are behind the counter, and you've got to actually interact with the person, and you have to go to a person that knows you are buying cigarettes, a habit that we know is unhealthy. OK, well, that's some friction.

Another level of friction is that a lot of retailers have stopped selling tobacco products altogether. So big retailers no longer do, so that's even more friction. Now you have to go out of your way to then interact with a human who will sell you cigarettes.

There's also public policy friction. One from you can smoke in airplanes to now no smoking in public places at all. Also tobacco taxes make it more expensive, This is another piece of friction,

Again, it wasn't the information. It wasn't that knowledge was what mattered here. It was the friction that really changed behavior. And so it's often, like Coach Jill was talking about, with guilt and shame and these really weighty feelings that are associated with finances, it's important to remember that friction can be more important than willpower. To not beat ourselves up if we say, hey I've set a goal, and I can will my way there. Well, make the goal easier by harnessing that friction.

I can keep going on this. If you want friction, and say you're a spender, carry cash when you're going to make a commercial transaction. That physical action of reaching in to your pocketbook, to your wallet, removing cash, handing it to another human, waiting, getting change, that slows the process down, and you are more aware. You are more involved in that commercial transaction.

I mean, part of the friction reduction, think about folks now with Apple Watches and digital checkout. You can put all your groceries on the belt, and then just swipe out you. You don't even have to reach into a pocket. The friction has been reduced that much. And that's it. There are old tried and true financial techniques that involve cash, use cash, slow down your spending.

JILL ROSS: I have to tell you, Soumi, I laughed so hard at one point when during the height of the pandemic, we got so many Amazon boxes here at the house. My husband said, you ordered something again. I'm like, you know what, accept it.

He's like, what is it? I said, I don't know. It could be a llama. Just accept it. I don't know. Just open the box. I'm with you. I let Amazon just kind of control everything.

SOUMI CHATTERJEE: Yeah, I mean but especially like during the pandemic, it was like, oh, well, I can't go anywhere, so here we go.

JILL ROSS: Right. Let's just like it's so much easier. OK. So talking about habits, smart habits and behaviors, Soumi and I were asked to share a couple of favorites. And so for me, I want to share something that I've learned in the last-- actually in the last two years.

So prior to about the two-year mark, I never really thought about much about mindfulness or self-care. The military doesn't exactly promote that, so you don't really think about it. But for me, I'm a little bit like a puppy, in case nobody's noticed. I'm very food motivated.

So my favorite habit is my Saturday morning visit to this little French cafe here in Vegas. It's amazing. So every Saturday at seven o'clock, I take a book, and I make sure, honestly, that it's not a book that has anything to do with work. I don't do anything that challenges my mind. I mean, most of the time, it's these ridiculous young adult books, just so that I can get a break.

Oh, yeah, it's awesome. My niece introduced me to these Shadowhunter books, and I can't put them down. It's ridiculous.

SOUMI CHATTERJEE: Are there vampires in that? All right, we'll talk later offline about this.

SOUMI CHATTERJEE: Yeah. So anyway, I go to this cafe, I get a crepe and my coffee, and I spend an hour just decompressing. And this is my favorite habit because it really is all about self-care. I'm enjoying my comfort around my finances because I'm able to balance my enjoyment in my life with being mindful of my future. And then at the same time, I get I get pleasure out of supporting a local business. Soumi, what about you?

SOUMI CHATTERJEE: Yeah, that last slide that I was on where I was talking about using cash, that was both tried and true from financial folks, as well as psychologists, behavioral scientists, and it was also biographical. I do that myself. I live very close to-- I'm in Los Angeles, the land of taco trucks. I live very, very close to my very favorite taco truck.

I did not choose to live here because of the proximity to that taco truck. It just worked out that way. I will not be taking follow-up questions on the taco truck. But I know that if I've got to go 70 yards from my front door to a taco truck, I'm going to go ahead and say, well, it's probably not good for myself or my young family if I'm eating tacos, if I'm getting quesadillas every single night. I am too old for that stuff.

So I go with cash every time. I go to the truck, I go with cash. And I go and I pay with cash, and then I come back with a change in my pocket, and I put that change in a jar. It's a coffee mug, really, by the front door of my house.

And when that thing gets filled up, when the coffin mug gets filled up with change, then I have to go back to the Kroger, the Ralph's around here. They've got that big green Coinstar machine right when you walk in. Right where that cigarette machine used to be, they got a Coinstar, and I can just take my Ziploc bag full of change and drop it in there, and it's just like great dopamine kick.

I see this like a slot machine in reverse. It's just counting up, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, all the coins and money that I just hadn't counted, and that's bonus money. That's taco bonus money right there.

JILL ROSS: I don't know how you don't just take the change back to the taco truck.

SOUMI CHATTERJEE: Well, all right, overshare. So frequently it's just me and my baby at night, and I used to actually work on a food truck. And when regulars came by, sooner or later, they get nicknames. So I can't be like Taco Daddy or Quesadilla Daddy or Quesa Daddy coming around with a baby strapped to my chest every day. And reaching in was like, oh, Quesa Daddy pays with change.

That's just not-- I live in this neighborhood. I'm known in this neighborhood. I can't have that reputation. That's just--

JILL ROSS: I don't know. I might take it for a quesadilla, but all right. Back to you.

SOUMI CHATTERJEE: That's it though. It was like we tend to think of habit change and behavioral change as just this icky, awful, weighty, gross, disgusting, difficult thing, but it really doesn't have to be. It really truly doesn't. If you can be reasonable with yourself and say, hey, this is a little thing I like, I can attach a positive reinforcement to a new habit. I can make this fun.

If you happen to be hyper-competitive like I am, make it a game. Find someone who is-- competitive people tend to seek out other competitive people-- find someone that can be competitive with you, and you can gamify. Turn this into a game so that you are enjoying.

Do what you can. Know yourself a little bit and do what you can to make these habits change. And remember, once habits are automated, good habits are automated, we don't tend to think about them so much. So then what you've done is hacked your own life, built these good habits, and then put them into the background of your life so that they're just going on automatic.

JILL ROSS: So let's talk about actionable tips that you guys can start with today. So when someone asks me where should I start, what actionable tips do I have to offer, I usually say this. Go home and write everything down. Write down the money you spend, the expenses, the variable and fixed expenses, the unnecessary expenses.

The first step is really seeing everything on paper so you can get past that sticker shock. We'll talk about budgeting and guidelines later, but start there to get past just that sticker shock of what you're seeing. And that can be good or bad. Some people are really surprised in a positive way, some in a negative way, but it's got to be out there.

The next step is to really understand what's happening. So what are you spending the most on? Is this below or above what you were expecting to see? What are your biggest takeaways from writing everything down?

For some people, it's very shocking to see everything written down. And I think I had no idea I was spending this much, or it's OK This is why we process these feelings that come along with writing all these things down. We get surprise, shock, shame, guilt, all of these different things. You've got to get through that process, so don't let it discourage you.

After that, the next step is really talking to someone. So there are so many hacks and tips and tricks, but the most important thing is talking to someone and really developing that deep understanding of your situation. So maybe for you, it's a significant other. Maybe it's a family member who's a good sounding board. If that's not the case, maybe it's a good coach or an advisor.

As a goal coach, I'm not going to give you financial advice, but I can help you with the behaviors around it, and we can get you to an advisor that can give you that financial advice. What can you do on your end too?

I like to ask, how can we change your habits? So we go back to all the things Soumi talked about. How do we have it stacked? How do we choose habits? How do we reinforce those habits positively? To best really understand how to move forward, you have to understand your current situation. And from there, I'm going to send it back to Michelle to talk to us about the rest.

MICHELLE GRAFF: Thank you so much, Jill and Soumi. Wow, those are some great tips and hilarious stories. So U.S. Bank, whatever situation you're in, we're in it with you. We have a couple of additional resources available to help you with nearly every life event, and I can pass it back to Jill, and she'll explain a little bit about goals coaching.

JILL ROSS: Awesome, yeah. So U.S. Bank offers one-to-one goal coaching at no cost. This is a really great way to get started on your journey towards credit worthiness. We're going to start the process together, discovering and prioritizing the goals that you have.

What do you want out of your life? Where are you now? Where do you want to go? And then we can assist you, as I said before, with identifying those habits and helping you create those actions to help you reach that goal.

So again, we don't give financial advice, we don't recommend products, but we can connect you to a banker if you need to go that direction once we get to work on your habits. So if you guys want, take out your phone, scan the code that's on there. That'll take you to our landing page for coaches. Or go to usbank.com/exploremygoals.

MICHELLE GRAFF: Awesome, thanks, Jill. And then we also have a wonderful website called Financial IQ, and you can visit that to learn more about smart habits and behaviors to achieve financial wellness and other financial education or literacy topics.

And as I mentioned earlier, today's presentation is compliments of U.S. Bank. You have an opportunity to enter to win $1,000 cash prize at compliementsofusbank.com. It's as easy as entering your name, email address, and the event code "habits." While you're there, send an e-compliment card to your family and friends so they have a chance to win the cash prize too. You can also share social media using the hashtag #ComplimentsofUSBank.

And you've asked, and we have the answers. We've received some fantastic questions during the registration process that we'll address today. If you still have questions following today's session, please book your appointment with the goals coach at usbank.com/coaching or wealth management banker at usbank.com/book.

Our first question is from Andre. They asked, how do I break spending habits for the purpose of saving money for something? Soumi, would you take this one for us?

SOUMI CHATTERJEE: Yeah, absolutely. So the spending habits, again, do that honest inventory of your financial behavior. Do the honest inventory and don't forget to inventory your good habits. Identify those good habits, and don't get down on yourself for bad habits.

If you think they're a bad habit, there's no reason to make them feel even weightier by kicking yourself. Treat those bad habits as an opportunity to gain greater agency over your finances and your future. And then do like we said, start linking new behavior with positive rewards, and that'll add fuel to this process and add friction to your bad habits.

Start with that inventory. Find the good, reward the good. Add friction to the bad. Harness friction to make those good habits even easier. Automate.

MICHELLE GRAFF: Awesome, thanks, Soumi. Our next question is from Tamera, and it is, what is important to-- why is it important to improve spending habits further? To do so would seem denying yourself. But I am 60, I want to spend more. Jill, can you help us out with this one?

JILL ROSS: Yeah, absolutely. Tamera, let me start with, I am right there with you, as I get older-- and I mentioned, I'm a Gen Xer-- the last thing I want to do is deny myself. And therefore, I would love to be able to spend more.

Unfortunately, the simple reality is if we have that mindset and we just keep spending, eventually the money runs out, and it will run out much faster than we planned. So think of it a little bit like this-- you know how we all say, I'm going to run a quick errand. It shouldn't take me more than eight, 10 minutes. And for any number of reasons, that errand ends up taking an hour.

Think of spending the same way. So we say, I'm just going to buy this one thing. For me, I'm just going to buy this one pair of shoes. I'm a shoe person, I'm going to buy one pair of shoes.

And before you know it, my pair of shoes is going to-- Soumi, don't laugh at me-- my shoes have now turned into shoes and a top and a necklace and some earrings and a scarf, which by the way I don't really wear scarves that often, but I have to have the scarf. So like the minutes in our errands that we don't notice, they're just ticking away, our money is eventually going to take away the same way, which is why we need to continue to improve our spending habits rather than just getting it and spending it all.

MICHELLE GRAFF: Awesome, thanks, Jill. All right, well, with that, I want to say thank you to our wonderful presenters, Jill and Soumi, and thank you to all of our consumers for joining today's presentation. Please use your phone camera to register for the next webinar, "Why planning for retirement should start now," on September 29.

As a reminder, we're going to post the recording from today's presentation at usbank.com/wellnesswebinars in the next week. And don't forget to provide us with your feedback in the post-event survey following the session. This concludes our webinar, and we want to say, have a wonderful afternoon. Thank you. 

Get started with 1:1 goals coaching

A goals coach will help you explore your goals, prioritize them on a digital timeline, and help you create an action plan to achieve those goals. Coaches are not able to give you financial advice or recommend products, but they can connect you with experts at U.S. Bank who can address your financial needs.  Schedule time with a coach to get started.


Check out more webinars to help you improve your financial wellness.