'Money is extremely emotional': Here's how your personality plays a role in personal finances

Dhara Singh
·Reporter
·6 mins read

Whether you believe money is a key part of your identity or shy away from it, chances are you fall into one of four money personalities outlined by financial psychologist Brad Klontz.

From money avoidance and money vigilance to money worship and money status, experts describe why it’s necessary to know your script.

“Money is extremely emotional and we make financial decisions based on these states,” Nathan Astle, board member at the Financial Therapy Association, told Yahoo Money. “The more you develop insight into yourself, the more you are in control of your personal and life decisions.”

The four categories

If you belong to the money avoidant category, chances are you’ll take the detour out of any conversation regarding wealth.

“Money avoidance usually happens if you saw your parents fight about money and now have the belief money is bad,” Astle said. “You also may believe that wealthy people are greedy and there is virtue living with less money.”

Those that are money avoidant may also sacrifice their own pleasures for their children, according to one therapist.

“A lot of moms fall into this category,” Erika Wasserman, founder at Your Financial Therapist, a financial therapy clinic, told Yahoo Money. “I had a client last week that had an extra $20 and said she’d rather buy something special for her kid.”

A man wearing a facemask carries a children's bicycle just purchased at Walmart as he walks back to his car, July 22, 2020 in Burbank, California. (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
A man wearing a facemask carries a children's bicycle just purchased at Walmart as he walks back to his car, July 22, 2020 in Burbank, California. (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

“I told her you should take the $20 and instead go to yoga class or get your nails done,” Wasserman added. “This would make you feel better and therefore benefit your household.”

But if that sounds like a scenario on the opposite side of the spectrum for you, you may fit into the money worship category instead. Money worshippers equate wealth as the key to their happiness.

“If you’re someone who is a workaholic or says you can never have enough money, you’re most likely to fall into the money worship category,” Astle said.

However, the spectrum isn’t always black and white.

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Senior women walk in a shopping center in West Palm Beach, Florida, on March 12, 2020. (Photo by EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI/AFP via Getty Images)
Senior women walk in a shopping center in West Palm Beach, Florida, on March 12, 2020. (Photo by EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI/AFP via Getty Images)

If you are constantly thinking about the funds in your bank account or are enticed by the thought of gambling, you may belong to the money status cohort. These spenders equate self worth with their net-worth.

“These people tend to be showy often by showing off their wealth and keeping up with the Joneses,” Astle said. “They’re the Joneses who are more likely to spend more than they can afford.”

The other type of money personality belongs to those who fall on the extreme side of budgeting. These are people who not only follow the 3-to-6 months of emergency savings rule but also feel a deep sense of anxiety where they’re constantly checking their bank account.

“None of this is necessarily bad, but it’s almost like you can be too money vigilant where you’re always looking at money and aren’t doing things that are fun for you,” Nestle said.

A woman wearing a protective mask carries groceries while a sign thanks caregivers amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 28, 2020 in New York City, United States. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)
A woman wearing a protective mask carries groceries while a sign thanks caregivers amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 28, 2020 in New York City, United States. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Changing your money personality requires ‘an emotional shift’

If you figure out which money personality you resonate with and it disappoints you, experts say don’t sweat it. You can always implement habits to improve your relationship with money.

“The way I approach money scripts is the way I approach horoscopes,” said Wasserman, who is a single mom and raises three young girls. “This helps you understand who you are a little better with money and allows you to see things in a different lens that you didn’t before.”

She’s had several clients who’ve realized they belonged to the category of money status and needed to cut back on their spending.

“I have a client I’m working with who spends $47,000 per month and I’m trying to get them to $25,000, especially with the pandemic and money not coming in as much,” Wasserman said. “But because they feel their value is that they should live their current lifestyle, it’s very emotionally hard for them to move into a [frugal] zone — it’s an emotional shift.”

A man wearing facemasks crosses a street carrying a Macy's shopping bag near Herald Square on June 25, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
A man wearing facemasks crosses a street carrying a Macy's shopping bag near Herald Square on June 25, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

She also stressed the likelihood that one’s money personality could be closely tied to their childhood.

“I have found clients with money scripts based on childhood experiences,” Wasserman said, who grew up money vigilant but recently bought her dream Jeep. “In general, I do an exercise where I ask them if you were to get $250: Would you buy a purse with it or did you invest in an experience?”

For those who are money avoidant, she will make them approach the idea of paying their bills with the same pleasure one might get from reading their horoscope.

“A lot of people don't want to open the bill and set a plan,” Wasserman said. “I say get up and dance, then open that bill, and then celebrate with your accountability partner or therapist.”

Money personalities in relationships

If there’s an area where money personalities take the front stage, financial therapists agree it’s in relationships.

“The biggest money personality problems come with a saver and spender who get married,” Megan McCoy, financial therapist and professor of practice in personal financial therapy at Kansas State University, told Yahoo Money. “People always talk about how opposites attract, but we actually tend to marry people like us.”

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McCoy advised couples to focus on a healthy middle ground and realize their mutual financial goals.

“You guys have more commonality than you realize,” McCoy said. “Let’s focus on the ways you are similar and that can be powerful too.”

For couples and others who have taken their money personality assessment and want to improve their habits, she recommended including a pleasure principle in their schedule.

“If you tell yourself ‘I’m going to tell myself to do my bills and when it’s done I’ll read this great book,’ it’s a great trick to creating defaults,” McCoy said.

She also recommended to avoid using the term ‘budget’ as it can cause clients a lot of stress.

“I never call it a budget with my clients because you deserve to spend money with the things that make you happy,” McCoy said. “We do not do well with a scarcity mindset.”

Dhara is a reporter for Yahoo Money and Cashay. Follow her on Twitter at @Dsinghx.

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