Avoider, Worshiper, Status Seeker—Which Money Personality Are You?

If life is all about relationships, money is no exception.

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Money is a hard topic for most people to talk about. It’s an especially hard topic for women to talk about. But after becoming a mother, which takes a huge and sometimes hidden financial toll on most women, it can be a particularly pertinent topic.

Finances and investing have long been perceived as the domain of men. And this lack of education and resources for women over time represents a staggering loss of equity and financial freedom. So how do we shift the trend?

First, it’s important to talk about our orientation around money. Our view of money is shaped more than anything by our upbringing. And by taking a look at the emotional factors that have shaped our financial views, we can start to understand our interaction with money, set ourselves up more smartly for the future, and perhaps even shape our offsprings’ relationship with their own finances as they grow.

There are four distinct types of money personality types.

Financial Psychologist Brad Klontz has identified four types of so-called “money scripts” that people follow throughout their lives. A money script is basically an individual’s money personality—it’s the way we think about money and handle money and the story we tell ourselves about money.

These scripts are shaped early in our lives by our parents and role models. As children we observe how our caregivers handle money on day-to-day errands, how they react when something costs more than they expect, and how they discuss money when they have different points of view.

As a child, we slowly begin to understand the value of money in traditions such as gift-giving and rewards. A child growing up in a home where money is a stressful topic and the grownups argue may believe money causes problems, so it’s best to avoid it. Another child may observe the happiness expressed by the grownups when presented with a new car, a new appliance, or an extravagant vacation; that child discerns that money solves problems and elevates status.

We continue to develop our script as we grow older and live independently, earn our own money, and decide how to manage it. Here’s how the scripts break down.

Money Avoidance

Money avoiders believe that money is bad, that rich people are greedy, and that they themselves don’t deserve money. Typically, these people grew up in a family that believed frugality was a virtue and held disdain for conspicuous consumers. Oddly, research  has found that avoiders are prone to overspending.

Money Worship  

Money worshippers are convinced that more money will solve all their problems, that there will never be enough money, and that money brings power and happiness. A money worshipper showers loved ones with lavish gifts or picks up the check at the restaurant. She believes being poor leads to unhappiness and a more difficult life.  Worshippers are prone to becoming workaholics in an effort to earn as much as possible.

Money Status

Money status scripts equate self-worth to net worth and put a premium on buying the newest and best things. You might know someone like this—she measures her success by her salary and demonstrates her value through the possessions she acquires, such as shoes, jewelry, handbags, and vehicles. This personality is prone to overspending and financial dependence, such as debt.

Money Vigilance

Money vigilance includes themes of frugality, the importance of saving, being discreet about how much money one has or makes, and nervousness about making sure money is saved in case of an emergency. This persona has heightened vigilance but also possesses a good deal of anxiety about spending and may tend to be secretive about money.

In general, the first three money script profiles are associated with poorer financial health, including lower net worth and lower income. In contrast, money vigilance paints a healthier relationship.

Ok, you figured out your time. Now what?

For most of my life, I’ve been on the money vigilance script, but there are times when being vigilant gets exhausting, and my anxiety gets the better of me. In this case, I rebel and spend too much on clothes (shoes are my kryptonite) or treat myself to one too many nice dinners out. Following a bout of excess, I feel guilty and become hypervigilant about my budget in an effort to make amends for my foolishness.

It’s like going on a cleanse and then having nachos and an ice cream sundae all in one sitting, then fasting on bone broth again the next day. It’s not a great way to live.

Spending is often a really emotional experience, and the most important way you can build better habits around money is to understand the emotions that come with it.

Awareness of our money scripts is the first step in recognizing the emotional pull money has on us. Once we identify our what that script, is we can begin to correct our behavior and set the course ahead with confidence, employing vigilance and self-discipline.

As women, we have reason to be even more vigilant than men when it comes to finances. In what has been rRecently referred to as the “cost of motherhood,”, women put their careers on hold or work part-time to care for children and aging relatives. This reduces the total time we spend in the workforce, which limits our ability to take advantage of corporate sponsored retirement plans.

Despite years of progress, the wage gap has a very real impact on our earnings and savings throughout our career. Women of color are impacted even more acutely.  Earning noticeably less means that our savings are noticeably less.

In the US, women outlive men by an average of five5 years. Life expectancy for men is 76, and for women, it’s 81. It’s wonderful to know we’ll live long, abundant lives, but we should keepkeeping in mind, these last few years can be costly if there are’s insufficient savings to provide for medical expenses and long-term care.

Finances and investing have long been perceived as the domain of men. This lack of education and resources for women over time represents a staggering loss of equity and financial freedom.  

In order to shift the balance, we must be determined to grab the reins. First by identifying our financial goals, and then by taking control of our budget. Here’s a primer on how to get started.

Sarah Behr is a financial planner and owner of Simplify Financial, a practice she founded after working many years in private wealth management at large investment firms. Her mission is to make financial planning and investing more accessible to her peers.

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