07 September 2015

Which financial animal are you?

The famous economist John Maynard Keynes believes managing money doesn’t come down to data and hard facts alone and famously wrote about how investors are governed by their ‘animal spirits’: the instincts and emotions that push them into financial choices. Getting in touch with your inner animal could help you to understand why you have the financial instincts that you do.

So what types of financial animals are there? And where might your animal spirit lead you? The Smalley Institute Personality test identifies four basic personality profiles, and represents each by an animal.


Lions are natural leaders, and seriously competitive. They pride themselves on being comfortable with risks, taking decisions and chasing down opportunities – and they can be very independent-minded about which opportunities they want to chase.

Financially, lions are likely to get frustrated by cash sitting in savings accounts and failing to grow at a rate they would like, and they might feel that low-risk investment strategies mean missing out on opportunities too. They are naturally suited to financial planning meetings, sitting down with an adviser to talk through their very individual ambitions – and putting together a strategy that suits them. Plus, their need to feel in control means it’s important for them to be able to monitor any investments, and make changes when they want to. Their natural risk-taking means insurance and a rainy day fund should be an essential for this financial animal.


Enthusiastic, energetic and visionary, otters are social creatures with lots of friends. They enjoy their popularity and love to influence and motivate others, making them classic early adopters and typically active on social media. But their energy and spontaneity can make life chaotic.

Like lions, otters are open to risks in work and life, but a lack of focus can leave them flitting between projects – and it often leaves them with little or no time for managing money. Their disorganised nature means that taking the time for financial advice can make a huge difference to their lives – and free them from the stress of never getting round to money matters. Failing that, something as simple as working out a monthly budget could go a long way to keeping them on top of things. Their openness to risk might lead them to investments as well – but only if they don’t have to spend time monitoring and managing them.

Golden Retriever

Sensitive, caring and tolerant, golden retrievers crave routine and stability in all aspects of life: whether that’s a favourite TV show, favourite chair to watch it from, or favourite mug to have by their side. On the financial side, it probably means they have a favourite bank or building society they’ve been loyal to for years as well. They are loved by others for their loyalty, sympathy and affectionate disposition – the type of person others turn to when they need to talk.

Golden retrievers have a natural instinct for building up savings – and given the likely emotional impact of any disruption in their lives, it’s a sound instinct to have. In fact, this type of financial animal may need a larger rainy day fund than others to enable them to feel secure. Owning their own home is also important to them, since it provides a sense of stability and a place to call their own. Paying off a mortgage quickly or saving up for a deposit is likely to be an important financial priority. If there is a role for investments in their lives – then it needs to be focused on helping to make such things happen, and doing it in as low-risk a way as possible.


Beavers are very, very organised. Perfectionists at heart, they know there is a right way to do things and they want things done exactly that way. They are factual, analytical and always read instruction manuals in full before beginning any task. Beavers can be creative, and they can be daring too, but they feel the need always to know what’s happening and why.

When it comes to money, beavers know the importance of a solid, secure financial plan. They are natural savers, and get a lot of pleasure out of watching their money grow. They are likely to have insurance – and know the details of what’s covered and what isn’t. The risk for beavers is that they’re commitment to doing things a certain way leads to them missing out on opportunities. Financial advice can make a big difference in giving them a complete picture of what’s possible with their money – but only if the ideas make sense to them.

Nationwide recognises that different people will prefer different approaches to savings and investments. That’s why we offer a range of different options to suit different people, whatever financial animal they are.

The value of investments can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the amount originally invested.

Why not explore investments further?

If you're thinking longer-term, investing could help your money grow - but you have to be prepared to put your money away for a period of time and expose it to some risk. We guide you through what's involved to help you decide if investing is right for you. Don't end up where things take you - by starting to plan today, you might be able to get better returns.

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