What is Your Money Personality?

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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?

From Kid to Baby Boomer

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What Happened to My Money in Between?

If you’re a baby boomer, you’ll identify with my story. If you’re not, you’ve probably seen the 60s through classic television. It was a different time.
When I was a kid in the 60s, I remember having a piggy bank. It was a blue plastic pig given to me by grandfather and I named him “Charlie” after my granddad. I stored my coins in Charlie, and remembered what a big deal it was to collect five dollars’ worth of quarters. It was the world’s biggest accomplishment in my young eyes. Early on, at my first “job”, I picked raspberries and they paid me two dollars a day. Two dollars a day! I was living large … for the two weeks it lasted.

But despite all the high financial adventures of my youth, I had no real idea how much a pair of shoes cost or what you paid for school supplies. Groceries might as well have been free considering what I knew about the cost. Our family never talked about money, and they weren’t teaching personal finance in school. My dad went to work and made the money, my mom was a homemaker who bought the groceries, and we kids went to school and remained oblivious to the family finances.

Ten cents could get a kid a lot in those days. Penny candy was in every corner store. A bag of chips would only cost you that one thin dime. And Orange Crush and Coca-Cola were about a quarter and all came in glass bottles with metal caps. Ice cream cones cost about the same, and they didn’t fill those cones with that soft serve stuff. These cones held real ice cream – the kind you buy for $8.95 a pint for today.

This was time when the economy was good and families seemed more stable. Shows like “I Love Lucy”, “Leave it to Beaver”, “The Mickey Mouse Show” and “The Ed Sullivan Show” were a reflection of strong family values and the cultural focus was on wholesome family life. Getting a loan from the bank was a major event and people used cash for everything. There were no ATMs so you had to go into a bank and talk to someone when you needed money. Credit cards were just beginning to appear menacingly in the background, but people tended not to use them outside of business. Cash was king. Family and financial matters were all direct and simple when you compare them to today.

The Times, They were A-changing

On February 9, 1964, the Beatles appeared on the “Ed Sullivan Show”. For many, this event represents the beginning of changes that would shake our worlds with a tsunami of cultural change. Suddenly, there were the flower children, the hippies and the yippies having “love-ins” in the park everywhere and protesting everything. Women began to leave the home for the workplace in greater numbers. June Cleaver was becoming extinct. The advent of the pill offered a gateway for the Sexual Revolution. The assassination of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy made the world seem a bit more cynical. Everything in our culture changed during those turbulent years. It also changed how we viewed money and spending. Things were no longer as simple and predictable as they were during the early 60s.

There’s much we can learn by Boomers looking back on their childhood:

  • Saving money is good
  • Spending prudently leads to a healthy bank account
  • Cash is king
  • Credit is expensive and often leads to bad judgment resulting in overwhelming debt
  • Working hard to earn money for what we need is satisfying

Fast forward to now

If you talk about personal finances today, it’s like opening Pandora’s Box. Few people have avoided the stress of going through some crisis around their money. Stories of people rebuilding after a bankruptcy are common and sound much like the tale of an addict recovering.

A family’s stability offered a structure around which you could build some financial stability in earlier times.Recent studies have shown the more often a 21st Century couple disagrees about money, the more unavoidable the divorce. No matter whose statistics you look at, the divorce rates are somewhere between 40% and 50% in the first marriage, and they rise sharply for second and third marriages.

Wouldn’t it be better to take the stress and disagreement out of the marriage by having a clear and simple idea on how money is handled as a family? Makes you wonder how many marriage could be saved by having a simple plan that everyone could agree on. To make matters worse, a failed marriage is expensive. As it stands, the people who are making out the best financially in these marriage and divorce cycles are the wedding planners and the divorce lawyers. They get you coming and going.

I’ve never met anyone who grew up in the 60s who remembers being educated about money either at school or in the home. And now we look around and wonder how we got in such a place where our countries are trillions of dollars in debt. We wonder how so many smart people can handle their money so badly. In part it’s because our teachers and parents cast us into the “real” world as financial illiterates. It’s no surprise that so many of us have had difficulty handling the money.

As boomers enter retirement age, many find that their personal finances are weak. They realize that they don’t have the money they need for their post-work years. Many are working part-time jobs in retirement just to survive. The danger is that we boomers are passing on our lack of money education to our children and grandchildren and not teaching them good money habits any more than our parents taught us.

So what now?

There are plenty of blogs and websites out there that can give you an advice on how to handle your money. But if you don’t have the right appreciation for money and healthy attitude about it, those sites won’t help you in the long run. It’s like trying to take an advanced course before you get the basics down.

I’m not a financial planner, a banker, or an expert by any measure. I’m just a work in progress who has rediscovered some of those things I understood when I put quarters in my piggy bank in the 60s as a late bloomer. It’s all about getting back to financial and work basics and passing these values on as a legacy to our children and grandchildren. I wrote 101 Money Tips for Kids and Parents from my experience in order to help you and your families find your way back to the solid money basics. I hope you’ll join me in this adventure.