Selfish Americans? Not So, Survey Says

NEW YORK (TheStreet) — A study from Stanford University last year drew significant media coverage saying Americans had a generosity problem — that we're selfish.

Asked to perform a variety of tasks, many study participants were less likely to work as a team and unmotivated to help with problems posed by researchers.

"American culture stresses independence, and the desire for independence fuels behavior," says MarYam Hamedani, lead author on the study. "People often like the idea of working together and certainly care about social issues. But our findings show that thinking about and caring about others doesn't always translate into effective action."

But is that really true? Probably not - at least when it comes to helping our loved ones. 

That's the outlook from a study by Indianapolis-based Wellpoint on a range of charitable fronts. Americans in this study were more inclined to share the last piece of dessert, skip their favorite television show so a loved one could watch his or hers or go well out of their way to care for a loved one who was ill or injured.

That sense of altruism apparently extends to personal finance.

Wellpoint reports that Americans want to take good care of their families and are reliant on retirement planning, life insurance and estate planning (especially with writing a good living will) to do so.

The firm's research says spending money on others is a sure way of boosting happiness and health. That could translate into Americans investing more financial resources in those three key financial planning areas.

Wellpoint benefits when consumer buys its insurance policies, so has skin in the game here. But the notion that taking care of family by sharing income through retirement planning or handing over assets via life insurance and a living will is an interesting one.

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