How Birth Order Affects Financial Decisions

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Does birth order really influence financial behavior? A new survey from reveals that some of that theory rings true when it comes to how first borns, middle borns, last borns and only children stack up financially. The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of CouponCabin from March 13 – March 15, 2012, among 2,211 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

According to birth order theorist Alfred Adler, first borns are likely to be power-hungry conservatives, highly responsible and organized, as they’ve been expected to lead by example during their formative years.

This theory is supported when it comes to overall financial responsibility, as the survey found 87 percent of first borns said they consider themselves extremely/very/fairly financially responsible. This figure was only slightly smaller than middle borns, with 88 percent reporting that they consider themselves extremely/very/fairly financially responsible. Last borns came in at 85 percent.

Later borns, including middle and last borns, according to Adler, are usually considered to be the most open to new experiences.

On the contrary, only children, who in theory often share many characteristics with first borns, reported the highest instance of taking financial risks at least sometimes (39 percent) such as borrowing for short-term investments or investing in risky ventures. They were closely followed by first borns at 38 percent, and then middle (36 percent) and last borns (35 percent).

Adler also theorized that middle borns are typically competitive, as they sometimes have to compete for the same attention that their older and younger siblings receive. Middle borns are competitive when it comes to saving, as they reported the highest instance (65 percent) of putting money into their savings accounts each month. This bucks the theory that first borns are the conservative ones, as first borns with a savings account were the least likely (57 percent) to report they put money into it each month. Sixty percent of last borns who have a savings account said they put money into it each month.

Middle borns, who report they are the most financially responsible, are also the most likely to be asked to lend money to their siblings. Nearly half (49 percent) of middle borns said they have been asked by their older or younger siblings for dough. First borns (36 percent) and last borns (29 percent) report the lowest instances of being asked to lend money.

When asked about birth order and their beliefs on how it affects personality, 75 percent of only children agree that birth order affects people’s personality traits, with 73 percent of first borns, 69 percent of last borns and 64 percent of middle borns agreeing.


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