Financial planning is certainly about money, but more importantly, it is about people and their relationship with money. Though this may sound corny or trite, my experience in this profession has taught me that all the good advice in the world is irrelevant if the advice doesn’t mesh with a client’s emotional tie to his or her money, or “money personality,” which is often influenced by dozens of factors: upbringing, parents’ attitude about money, source of funds, previous hardships, etc. And when money is shared, as in love and marriage, it can be difficult to find a common ground when two people have two very different money personalities. So to help me navigate my conversations with spouses and families, I sought out the advice of a friend, a psychologist who specializes in what she calls “money habitudes.” Through years of research, she identified six distinct money personalities, or “habitudes”: spontaneous, status, targeted goals, security, free spirit, and selfless. Each habitude, defined below, affects an individual’s behaviors and decisions related to spending, saving, earning, giving, debt and investing. and when two individuals or spouses habitudes differ, money can and often does become a major source of controversy.
So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I would like to offer a brief description of each of these habitudes, along with two examples of how each may be viewed by a spouse or partner, in hopes that identifying one another’s money habitudes may bring more understanding and less controversy to the relationship. The six money habitudes include:
Spontaneous: Money encourages you to enjoy the moment; may be viewed as fun-loving, or possibly irresponsible.
Status: Money helps you present a positive image; often perceived as impressive, but may lean towards superficial.
Targeted Goals: Money helps you feel confident; generally considered a responsible habit, but may perhaps seem too conservative at times.
Security: Money helps you feel safe and secure; viewed as thrifty or just plain cheap.
Free Spirit: Money isn’t a priority; you just let life happen; perceived as easygoing, leaning towards immature in some cases.
Selfless: Money helps you feel good by giving to others; considered charitable by some and judgmental by others.
Often, one individual may exhibit a combination of money habitudes, which can sometime make it more difficult to communicate clear financial objectives. So what happens when a “spontaneous” husband wants to take a last minute trip or buy an expensive bottle of wine to celebrate a beautiful day, and his significant other (who is “selfless”) has tagged those funds for retirement or the basket at church? If it occurs too frequently, possibly WWIII…
How about the spouse who pushes to buy the biggest house on the block (“status”), when the other quietly wants to buy a modest home and bank the difference for a rainy day (“security”)? I’d be willing to bet that that large house is the scapegoat of most future money arguments, whether the source of the argument was the house or not. Of course, these differences can be identified and used for mutual benefit and happiness as well, ideally when one spouse’s habits balance the others. So how can a couple navigate these differences for mutual good this Valentine’s Day? Consider spending some time identifying and discussing one another’s “money habitudes” and where those unique habitudes come from. The understanding may bring you closer, and make this Valentine’s Day that much sweeter…