Stephen's Note: Big thanks to Matt Driggers of Nautilus Counseling and Michael Pemberton of 16:10 Financial for sharing this blog on their sites!
You’ve never fought with your spouse about money have you? Good joke, right? Look, if you’re married, you’ve probably had a money fight at some point in your marriage. And if we’re all being honest, we’ve probably had one within the last month or two.
So is this just a part of marriage that we have to live with? I mean, we are different people after all, so we aren’t going to see eye to eye on every aspect of our lives.
A couple of years ago I ran across the idea of money personalities or “money lenses.” I first heard about them from Ray Linder (https://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/01/14/how-your-personality-type-affects-your-finances/#29dbbb9332c6). This was a new concept to me, but as someone who loves anything with the word “personality type” in the title, I checked it out.
Since then, I’ve had the chance to incorporate this concept into financial education programs at large churches here in Atlanta, as well as in my financial coaching business, Find Your Money Path. What I’ve seen consistently is that when married couples (and singles) better understand the lens in which they view money, it helps take the edge off of future money conversations. That shouldn’t be read as “this will fix every money fight for the rest of your life,” but it will help give you a framework for understanding why your spouse thinks the way they do about money. Marriage would be boring if you were both the same anyway, right?
I’ve taken the concept of “money personalities” and developed a 14-question survey to help you and your spouse determine which lens you view money through. There are four outcomes: Internal Saver, Internal Spender, External Saver, and External Spender. We’re used to hearing the terms “spender” and “saver”, but that only captures how someone spendsmoney, not the motivation behind it.
The “internal” and “external” terms refer to how someone is motivated to spend or save money. For example, the Internal Saver is motivated to save out of internal forces like power or wanting to compare their wealth to others to make themselves feel bigger and better. The External Saver might be motivated to save by external forces like providing for their family, or out of fear of what could knock them off track like a potential emergency. The Internal Spender is motivated by wanting to use money for fun or for their comfort, and the External Spender is motivated by how they can use money to help others, maybe through generosity or gifts.
It’s important to point out that none of these are the “right” money lens. As a saver, I need a healthy spender (my wife) to help me see the value of using money in the present for fun and for things other than building up our emergency fund. As a spender, my wife needs a saver to help encourage healthy guardrails around balancing enjoying money with saving for the long-term. I think there’s a reason God oftentimes puts both a spender and a saver together—it’s because we can compliment each other, which leads to a fuller life!
Understanding and continuing to learn about how your spouse views money will help take the edge off of future arguments if you “put yourself in their shoes” when these conversations come up. Learn to be curious about why your spouse views money that way. Was it the household they grew up in? Is it just how they are naturally wired? Maybe it’s a mix of both.
If you’re interested in hearing some additional dialogue on this topic, check out episode #46 of the Find Your Money Path Show (iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play).