Exploring our Financial Selves
You know somebody who cannot pass a shiny object without wanting to buy it. He must have the latest car, TV or gadget. This guy doesn’t need a wallet. He doesn’t hang on to money long enough to warrant opening a wallet. It just seems to flow through his hands.
On the other hand, I bet you also know a person who probably will be clenching her last penny in her hand when they bury her. She hangs onto her money so tight the mortician may have a tough time prying her fingers loose from that penny. Go ahead. Name those people in your head. You know them.
Or maybe you don’t. Most of us don’t have money personalities that are that extreme. We may not even know people at these extremes. We’ve all seen people who hoard on the TV shows. They’re on TV simply because they are so extreme. A person who hoards has a form of obsessive compulsive disorder and something about buying and clinging tightly to material objects relieves his anxiety.
The difference between him and the person who has a closet full of clothes with the price tags still attached is a matter of degrees. One, we say, has some serious psychological hurdles to leap, the other simply has a bad habit. But the underlying cause of both problems could be similar in nature.
Where do our Money Personalities Come From
Money personality, like your regular personality, develops partly because of temperament, but mostly through our experiences. Consider those raised during the depression. Money was scarce. It was hard to get my father to buy something that was not absolutely necessary. There were no frills at our house. But the boomer who grew up during economically good times may have no problem putting down money for latest gadget or the name brand when generic will do.
Understanding why you spend as you do can help you change your behavior. You may discover that you are using money in a way that is no longer relevant because the times have changed and so have your circumstances.
The Ying and Yang of our Money Personalities
All personalities, except those that are extreme, have some qualities they can brag about and some challenges with which they need to be cautious For example, if you are someone who instinctively saves money, you might be responsible with your cash. This is a great thing. But even this can have its problems, if you save so much that you don’t go out for a dinner with friends every so often or indulge in an occasional movie; you may be going too far. Gifts are often important symbols, and a thoughtful gift sometimes can involve spending money. If you save every dollar and refuse to spend at all, you’ll miss much of life.
The ancient philosophers advised us to be moderate in all we do. Knowing our money personalities can help us find that place in the middle road. It can help us build on our strengths and avoid our pitfalls. It can help us find that healthy balance where we control our money and it doesn’t control us.
Some money personality yings and yangs:
The spender: He has no problem freely putting a dollar down for merchandise or services.
- Benefits: He can be generous and his enjoyment of life as long as he stays within his means.
- Challenges: Can confuse money with satisfaction. May begin to think of money as love. If he spends beyond his means, the good times end and the pain begins.
The saver: Feels good when he can put money away.
- Benefits: Prepares for the future and feels in charge of his finances. Always financially prepared.
- Challenges: If saving is carried too far, he can miss out on some of life’s pleasures and can become a bit of a tightwad who people resent.
You might also be impulse buyer, hoarder, cheap or generous. There are many degrees and combinations of money personalities. But you get the idea. Knowing yourself can help you develop a healthy attitude toward money and spending. You can begin to make conscious decisions and stop running on spending “autopilot”.
Getting Back to Basics
Many of us weren’t taught how to handle money or even encouraged to think about it much growing up. This may be one of the reasons that we develop bad habits that form into dysfunctional money personalities. Sometimes it takes going back to the basics to reboot a spending personality that is causing problems. 101 Money Tips for Kids and Parents can teach you those basics and help parents and grandparents teach their children so that the next generation develops balanced financial personalities.
So take a moment and look in the mirror. What is your money personality like? What are the good points of that personality? What needs to change? What messages about spending do you want to pass down to your children and your grandchildren?