Don't like your credit score? Or even worse, too afraid to check it? Try this out: Blame it on being too nice.

A paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology explores why agreeable people tend to have lower credit scores, save less, and are more likely to default on loans.

"Recent research suggests that agreeable individuals experience greater financial hardship than their less agreeable peers," authors Sandra Matz and Joe Gladstone write in their study. It has a great title, too: Nice Guys Finish Last: When and Why Agreeableness Is Associated With Economic Hardship.

When it pays to be a scrooge

It's easy to conclude that nice people are just big pushovers, leading to bad financial decision making. You might assume they may be more willing to lend people money or more easily taken advantage of in risky financial situations. Maybe their poor negotiation skills are partly to blame because they end up getting paid less.

The researchers found there's no proof any of these rationalizations rings true. They concluded the reason is far more simple.

People who are more agreeable simply just don't care as much about money. Scrooge-y people obviously care a lot -- probably too much. Depending on which side of the spectrum you fall, this mindset may contribute to how you manage your money (or don't).

Splitting up the check

Here's an illustrative example. Say you're out to dinner with a group of friends. The bill hits the table. How should you divvy it up?

Some are fine splitting everything evenly. Even if it's not totally fair and they might end up paying a little more, they figure it all balances out. What's a few bucks? Plus, it's no fun to bust out the calculator. They kind of just don't care how it all goes down.

Others might want to itemize everything. Everyone should pay for their meal and exact number of drinks they consumed. These people do care about a few bucks, and they don't want to get stuck paying for other people. If it doesn't go their way, you'll certainly hear about it.

While this isn't a perfect example, it does help to understand why some people might be inherently better with money than others. Caring more about money might mean that you'll work towards making sure you'll have more of it, even if it means being the curmudgeon of the group. But if you're a more positive, upbeat person who cares more about having a good time, your financial health might not be one of your top priorities.

To be clear, the study's authors found only that agreeableness and economic hardness are associated -- not that one necessarily causes the other. Being agreeable isn't the sole reason someone maxed out their credit cards. But there may be a relationship between the two. ​

Published on: Oct 17, 2018