The Kenwood Press
: 07/01/2013

Breaking through opposite money styles

Donna Colfer

A friend asked, “What do you do when two peoples’ money styles are different?” This is a common scenario around money for most couples. Even though opposites attract, being unaware of each other’s money habits early in a relationship – along with a lack of agreement around money from the beginning – can cause fear, withholding, and misunderstandings. The majority of us were not raised or educated to have these conversations, so they’re left to be discovered the hard way.

I often work with couples’ opposite money styles. Recently, one was a “spender,” coming from a family that did well financially and had no money worries. Yet emotionally she felt abandoned and lonely. The other was a “saver,” coming from a scarcity background where there was a chronic-not-enoughness from the parents. The “spender” displayed characteristics of the Innocent/Fool money types and the saver displayed more Warrior/Tyrant money types.

The Innocent money type often feels overwhelmed by tasks, doesn’t know how to proceed, and needs to be shown the way to feel secure. The Fool money type spends to feel better, flies by the seat of his/her pants, needs to slow down the decision–making process, and be willing to look at the details. When comparing the Innocent/Fool to a goal-oriented, disciplined Warrior with a fearful, controlling Tyrant, it’s apparent that the two different approaches can be a challenge for living well together.

First, I worked with this couple to understand how they developed money patterns and behaviors, and to identify their role models. When both realized how they contributed to the problem, they had more understanding of and compassion for each other. They were willing to make changes. I addressed the “spender’s” Innocent/Fool money types by teaching her how to create simple systems to track her spending. Interestingly, she was great at keeping a log and could see and connect to what she spent daily. She admitted that the reason she overspent was to feel good about herself, which was a reaction to her husband’s controlling attitude.

The “saver’s” Tyrant money type needed more financial support from his wife, and to communicate his fears around her spending. He was afraid of becoming like his parents, who, in his eyes, never had enough. He also realized part of her spending was triggered by his lack of patience about mistakes. Together we created a foundation of new agreements moving forward. They later told me they went on a second honeymoon!

Here are some ways to close the gap on opposite money styles. First, become more familiar with each other’s money type; the earlier the better. Start by taking the Money Type Quiz on my web site listed below. Once you have your results, read the descriptions of the eight money types. This launches the process of understanding your partner around money. Knowing someone’s money patterns and behaviors without judgment may not be easy at first but it will give you an initial insight.

Next, agree on a consistent day and time (once a week, or once a month) to talk openly about your issues, fears, and anxiety about money. It’s important to agree on the time and place. This is a great opportunity to talk about what you’ve learned about your own money types as well as your understanding of opposite money types. Having these conversations when either person is hungry, tired, or emotionally unavailable is not a good idea.

If all goes well – and you may need a few meetings depending on the issues – then it’s time for the next step. Create a list of new agreements that works for both of you about handling money as a couple. This process includes making your own list of needs and working from it to form the agreements. This is where you may need outside help to learn to negotiate without blame or judgment.

Even though these types of conversations may make you feel vulnerable, a great deal of courage is displayed, and a heart-opening space is created for the other to participate. Your honesty and willingness to tread uncharted waters will deepen your love and respect for each other’s differences.

What money topics interest you? Email me and I’ll do my best to address your topic here (no names!) and give you resources to help you.