What is The Default Bias?

Updated: October 26, 2023

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Today, we’re diving into a fascinating and somewhat sneaky concept that plays a major role in our financial lives: the default bias.

We’ll break down the default bias, how it affects your money, and how to use it to your advantage.

What is the Default Bias?

First things first, what is the default bias? Well, it’s a psychological phenomenon where we tend to stick with the choices pre-set for us or the ones that require no action on our part. Think of it as your brain’s way of taking the path of least resistance.

Here’s an interesting fact: Did you know that default bias plays a significant role in retirement savings? In one study, more than 90% of employees who were automatically enrolled in a retirement plan stuck with it, while only about 40% of those who had to opt in on their own did so. Talk about the power of defaults!

How Does It Affect Your Money?

The default bias can have both positive and negative impacts on your finances. Here are a few examples.

Example 1: Automatic Savings

If you set up automatic deductions from your salary into your savings or retirement account, you’re benefiting from the default bias.

You’re saving without even thinking about it; over time, it can lead to significant wealth accumulation. This is an example of the default bias’s positive impact on your finances.

Example 2: Stagnant Savings Accounts

You’re keeping your salary and savings in the same bank account just because it’s simpler that way.

Most salary accounts don’t earn interest, so doing this can cost you thousands of pesos in potential interest over the years. If you, instead, put your savings in a higher-interest savings account like a digital bank, that would have been better.

Example 3: Investment Inertia

Fearing the complexities of investing, many Filipinos just rely on SSS or GSIS for their pension and retirement. Thus, they miss out on opportunities in other investments with better returns.

Here’s another interesting fact: In one experiment, participants were asked to make active choices for their retirement fund. It was found that a staggering 80% of people chose the default option!

How to Use Default Bias to Your Advantage

Now that we understand the default bias, here are some practical ways to use it to improve your financial well-being:

1. Automate Your Savings

Set up automatic transfers to a high-yield savings account or investment account. It’s the easiest way to build your wealth without thinking about it.

2. Review Your Default Choices

Go through your financial accounts, including your retirement plan and fund choices in your insurance policies. Make sure they align with your goals. And if not, feel free to switch things up.

3. Education is Key

Educate yourself about investment options. The more you understand, the less intimidating it becomes. This can help you overcome your bias towards the default investment options in different financial products.

4. Don’t Default on Debt

Don’t let the default option take over when it comes to debt payments. Make an effort to pay down high-interest debts rather than sticking to minimum payments.

In Conclusion

Understanding the default bias can help you take control of your finances and make smarter decisions.

Use it to your advantage by automating your savings, reviewing your financial defaults, educating yourself about investments, and taking charge of your debt.

It’s time to outsmart your brain and secure a more prosperous financial future.

The 80 Percent Express are special short episodes where I share a financial concept or answer a question sent by a listener.

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