Money Talks, So Should You

Having the money talk: Know your money personality

Temma Ehrenfeld
by Temma Ehrenfeld, Dimespring Contributor

In that conversation when you checked whether your beloved is an “Aquarius” or “Pisces” you’d have done well to learn how your money “signs” matched, too.

Money differences have real consequences.

We talked to South Dakota financial planner Rick Kahler, an expert on the psychology of money, to get a feel for how money can affect relationships.

READ: Having the money talk: Why you need to go bare about money

Key Takeaway: “You can’t assume your partner will change after marriage. What you see is what you get,” Kahler said. Trouble ensues when people with very different attitudes toward money try to live together and share their future.

One scenario: Kahler tells the story of a penny-pinching wife married to a big spender who was also self-employed. Whenever he was paid, she put aside money into an account earmarked for taxes, with his permission. But her husband liked to dip into the account to splurge on gifts for their kids. Every year, they ended up borrowing from a bank to pay his taxes and the loan, with interest, became part of their budget. The wife, meanwhile, obsessed over every extra dime spent on food, gas and other ordinary expenses.

One solution: They came to Kahler for help. Convincing the man not to touch the tax kitty took five years and much talking, Kahler says. “I recommend that couples with these issues find a financial planner or therapist who is clued into the emotional side of money,” he says. “Overspending and scrimping come from ideas about money we pick up by about the age of 10.”

READ: Having the money talk: Should you merge your finances? 

How our money personalities form: When Kahler was eight, for example, his mother used to talk about the family going broke. He became an “extreme saver” who “went comatose” whenever the stock market dropped or he had a bad month for earnings, fearing that the end was near. He couldn’t bear to spend money on a vacation though he could well afford one. Now, after years of his own therapy, he’s visited Spain, Italy and Asia within a year.

Kahler says he needed to take himself through the steps in “A Christmas Carol.” Scrooge has to face his past, see how it affects his present, and then imagine his future if he doesn’t change. Start by recognizing your money personality, and if you’re extreme enough to need change. The easiest way to identify a problem is to “ask your spouse,” Kahler says.        

READ: Having the money talk: Uh oh, you've got debt

Here are some common money personalities:

Spenders are fun to be around, unless you’re married to one who goes overboard. Generous and impulsive, they live for today, don’t worry about the future and end up with too much stuff — as well as debt or no savings.

Second-guessers like to spend and regret it afterwards. They may still overspend next time.  

Planners are people who build habits that let them live comfortably within their means, and save for emergencies and the future.

Cheapskates scrimp on tips, presents and essential purchases and repairs. They’ll live with an old car that constantly needs repair even though they can afford a new one or tolerate a leaky ceiling. They also tend to be extreme savers.  

Here are some tips for overspenders:

  • Pay only in cash.
  • Set up automatic paycheck deductions for retirement savings that increase with your income.
  • Arrange automatic payments for credit card payments.


Temma Ehrenfeld is a New York-based writer. After many years at Fortune and Newsweek, she now writes on a variety of subjects for The New York Times, CBS Moneywatch, Scientific American MIND and MS., as well as Dimespring.