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Plan Well, Retire Well

How does your money personality drive holiday shopping? Are you a Giver or Avoider?

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Money and the holidays. For some of us, we happily swing into the spending mode. I look forward to the excuse to buy people gifts and spend money on treats. Each store I walk into is full of tempting, fun, creative, and exciting things all waiting for me! One of my strong money personalities is "giving" and this is my season.

While we were raised in the same household, my sister does not share my joy in holiday spending. She dislikes holiday shopping. She doesn't like to talk about money, and avoids using money unless she must. She is likely a "money avoider."

If you put two people in the same situation where they need to handle money, they're likely to react to the situation differently. Our past experiences, values, and a multitude of other variables all influence our reactions. Understanding our money personalities can help us better manage our finances, and help us understand family and friends whose financial behaviors may baffle us. Different researchers may use different names to identify our personalities; however, they tend to agree that being more mindful of our money personalities can be helpful.

Money personalities are not necessarily bad or good. However, when they affect our decisions without us being aware of them, then they may be holding us back from reaching our goals. This time of year is a good time to think about what influences how we use money.

Syble Solomon, author of several books on this topic including "Money Habitudes™ A Guide for Professionals Working with Money Related Issues," explains that money personalities are a combination of our attitudes (our subconscious thoughts and feelings) and our habits (what we do without thinking). While she calls these "money habitudes," the concept is very similar to how other professionals refer to money personalities. Solomon gives excellent examples of how money personalities affect us during the holidays. A person with a strong "status" money personality (money is used to present a positive image) may enjoy giving expensive gifts to others as well as spending money on themselves. Challenges with this personality could include spending too much to be impressive and/or hiding financial troubles from friends or family.

All money personalities have advantages and challenges; the trick is to know what your challenges are. If the challenges of the "status" personality sound familiar, deciding how much you are going to spend on a gift before you go shopping may help you.

Many people share the "security" money personality; money is used to feel safe and in control. While someone with this personality may plan well for the future, they may also find it challenging to enjoy spending money. They tend to buy cheap products to save money even if the products won't last. One idea for someone with this personality is to plan for fun and set aside a reasonable amount of money to spend during the holidays.

Because I have a "giving" personality, I need to balance my joy in giving with my other financial goals, including saving for retirement. In addition, none of us are just one personality, although one personality can dominate. When I'm stressed, my "security" money personality tends to dominate. Then I need to thoughtfully consider my financial situation. I have found that evaluating my spending plan reassures me that I do have money; then I can spend comfortably for items that are in my plan, including gifts.

Speaking of stress, my husband and I have different money personalities. Understanding our money personalities helps us talk about finances more easily with each other. Olivia Mellan's book, "Money Harmony," includes activities that can help couples explore their money personalities together. We’ve found that communicating helps us balance our money personalities.


Note: I like to share a variety of authors that write about money in interesting ways. However, reference to specific external websites, products, companies or trade names does not imply endorsement by University of Illinois Extension, nor is discrimination intended against any that are not listed.

Originally posted on November 13, 2018

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Meet the Author

Kathy Sweedler provides personal finance online education with Illinois Extension. Kathy’s emphasis is to encourage people to be confident in their financial decisions, and to help them explore new ways of thinking about and managing money. When Kathy is not engaged in Extension work, she is often traveling and piecing together family genealogy. Genealogy is a puzzle, not that different from managing money!

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