Personal Improvement

Money Personalities: What is Your Money Modus Operandi?

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Table of Contents  
  1. Money Personalities
  2. The Spender
  3. The Saver
  4. The Avoider
  5. Final Thoughts

What if I told you the way you think about money determines the amount you have in your bank account? That self-talk, childhood experiences and money habits have an impact on your financial situation.

Better still, what if I told you that understanding your attitude about money will improve your financial situation.

Think I’m as mad as a hatter to say psychology and money are linked?

Your attitude rules everything from how you choose a partner to the groceries you buy to setting financial goals.

I’m going to show you what the well-known money personalities are and the actions you can take to change some of those bad habits that come with them.

What’s more important: The size of your paycheck or what you do with it?

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Money Personalities

Ever hear of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? Take it Wikipedia:

“It’s an introspective self-report questionnaire with the purpose of indicating differing psychological preferences in how people perceive the world around them and make decisions.”

It gets better:

“We all have specific preferences in the way we construe our experiences, and these preferences underlie our interests, needs, values, and motivation.”

Your psychological makeup affects every area of your life – including how you make financial decisions.

Do you hate talking about it?

Do you think it will solve all your problems?

Is it the root of all evil?

Depending on your point of view, it has severe consequences on the size of your net worth. Why?

Because a money personality is your take on the dough that comes into your life based on all the experiences you’ve ever had. How you act, treat, and feel about it is connected.

Think that money is the root of all evil, rich people are bad, and you give it away every chance you get? You probably don’t have a lot in your bank account.

I distilled what I found into three essential money personality types: The Spender, The Saver, and The Avoider. Be advised: these three money personalities have many shades of grey. Take it with a grain of salt.

If you go online, you’ll find many different personality types, but they all start bleeding together. For example, I’m a saver – but I do enjoy spending lavishly on things occasionally and invest aggressively in total stock index funds. I’m a hybrid.

Which one do you identify with most?


The Spender

Sub-categories: The Gambler. Spendthrift. Status-seeker. Money worshipper. Adventurer. Hedonist.

If you’re selling, the spender’s buying. It’s about going for it. Risk be damned. Status, the latest gadget, and self-worth are primary motivators. The more a spender earns, the more they can spend.

The word “budget” is a four-letter word. Don’t even bring it up. Spenders are guided by their gut more than rational thought. A spender is never one to back down from an impulse purchase.

It’s about a good time. Money’s meant to be experienced. If a spender can’t pay cash, it goes on the credit card. Debt is normal. As long as the minimum payment is settled, it’s all good.

Action Steps: Like a wild stallion, spenders must be broken. It’s about implementing some discipline. If you’re tired of being ruled by your credit card debt or never seem to have enough money, set up some rules:

  • Will only spend X amount of money this week.
  • Only allowed to purchase after a cool down period (when feeling the impulse to buy something, add it to your list of impulse buys. If you still feel the need to buy it after your cool down period – between 24 hours and one week – reconsider the purchase. Typically, the desire to buy has passed).
  • Will only dine out once this week.

Start asking yourself questions like:

  • Where does my spending money go?
  • Am I funding enough into my savings account (or maybe I should open a savings account)?
  • Do I need to speak with a credit counselor or financial planner?
  • Why does spending a lot of money feel so damn good? (Try The 5 Whys. To get to the bottom of a problem you’re trying to solve, ask yourself a question, answer it, then ask “well, why is that?” It’s like peeling back the layers. Rinse and repeat five times).

I’ve also heard (though never tried) freezing your credit card in a block of ice helps combat those pesky impulse buys. Chances are, you won’t want it after your credit card has thawed.

Set a savings goal or a save money challenge. It will feel uncomfortable at first. Let’s face it, if you’re a big spender, this will feel like a right-handed person trying to use a fork with their left hand. A couple of examples:

Automate a fixed amount to your savings every week to pay off debt or hit a financial goal – even if it’s only $25. At the end of the month, you’ll have an extra $100. Put it towards your “in case the shit hits the fan” fund.

Take a look at one of your monthly bills and its competitors. See what kind of discount you can negotiate with them.


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The Saver

Sub-categories: Hoarder. Bargain hunter. Frugal. Security Seeker. Penny pincher. Money vigilant. Investor. The Guardian.

Opposite of the spender is the saver. Savers love saving money and enjoy finding a great deal. Bargains rock their world the same way sipping on a carefully-crafted Old Fashioned cocktail after I finish writing this article will rock mine.

Socking away enough nuts to last through winter is a saver’s thing. It provides comfort. Why? Because of the saver’s concern about the future. They’re always taking steps to prepare for those unexpected costs. Their financial decisions align with their future goals.

Savings accounts, healthy retirement funds, bank statements, and spreadsheets are all forms of erotica. Watching their account balance grow through the years is sexy. Automating their finances is cooler than man’s discovery of homebrewing.

I think most Americans could use a little bit of “saver” in their lives. Like the other two money personalities, savers come in many shades of grey. I’m a saver. But I’m no hoarder. Yes, you can save too much money. There’s a difference.

Action Steps: Unless you find the subject of money awkward, you’re uncomfortable talking about it or your ass is wound up so tight because your trying to impress someone with your “high-as-shit” savings rate that’s detracting from your quality of life – keep doing what you’re doing.

However, if you’re uncomfortable talking about money and have problems loosening your purse strings:

  • Schedule a call with a financial psychologist.
  • Consider a fee-only, fiduciary financial planner.
  • Speak with a trusted friend or loved one.

You’ll feel better. It will free up your mental bandwidth and reduce stress. Why? Because the less time you spend thinking about it allows for more creative time spent being awesome.

Talking about money is a healthy thing. It’s like talking about sex. Sure, it’s awkward at first, but so enlightening after having had the talk. I still remember having the talk with my parents. “Vagina, it rhymes with Carolina.” I was nine. Some things you never forget. Never.

“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” – Tim Ferriss

If your retirement and savings accounts are funded, you’ve got zero debt, and you’re on track to hit your financial goals, live a little. Buy a round of drinks. Both friends and strangers appreciate this. Free up your inner daredevil and go skydiving. Sign up for a jiu-jitsu class.


The Avoider

Sub-categories: Money Monk, Idler. Deadbeat. Free spirit. The Contrarian.

The avoider is thinking, “What’s an emergency fund?” I know. I used to be one. I didn’t want to hear “It’s never too late to start saving for retirement” or “You should think about investing.” It all seemed so far away. I had better things to do.

How far I’ve come in two years.

Some avoiders can’t be bothered to learn about personal finance. They seek immediate gratification over the long-term payoff. Others are overwhelmed by all the information. Some experience analysis paralysis and never start.

Avoiders hate dealing with bills but won’t take the time to set up autopay. Can’t be bothered to learn about money. It’s for wealthy CEOs, bankers, celebrities and famous athletes.

Action Steps: Change your mindset. Start looking at money as a tool versus a curse. When wielded responsibly it has the power to bring about positive, impactful change. How can you use your money to help others? There’s plenty of charitable organizations doing great things which are funded by the almighty dollar.

Start learning about it. Try this:

  • Pledge to read one personal finance article a week. It will feel less overwhelming. And there’s less of a commitment when reading one article versus reading a whole book – though, read an entire book at some point!
  • Automate a portion of your earnings to a worthy cause.
  • Check your credit score.

Why do I think automation is the bee’s knees? Because the heavy lifting is done. It’s like your present self is taking care of your future self.

Embrace your inner-Warren Buffett. He lives in all of us.

Final Thoughts

Learning to ask better questions by ‘taking a look under the hood’ leads to improved financial health. Your money personality is related to how you think, feel and treat your hard-earned cash.

Be proactive and take the time to understand your type. Realizing your money beliefs allows room for change. Put systems, games, and challenges in place to mitigate risk and make it fun. Use them as guides toward making better financial decisions.

Here’s the kicker. Things like saving money, spending money and healthy savings accounts affect you both now and later. It isn’t just about retirement. It’s about understanding your psychology to improve the quality of your life right fucking now.

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Sean Brison - Senior Editor Sean Brison is a personal finance writer based in Los Angeles, California. After spending the better part of his early forties educating himself on the subject and turning around his financial situation, he’s logged thousands of hours researching and writing on matters revolving around budgeting, investing, and retirement. He’s passionate about teaching others what he’s learned and has been a contributor to Listen Money Matters for over a year.
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