The Four Main Money Mentalities and How to Find Yours

L Bee Note: This post originally appeared as a piece I wrote on MyBankTracker.com. It has been syndicated with permission. I truly loved all the posts I created in this series for them and I hope you enjoy as well!

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We all know that money is a highly emotional subject. You're probably not even thinking about your money mentality.

Arguments over money are the #1 cause of divorce.

Money anxiety can affect your health.

Money faux pas can negatively impact relationships with friends and family.

Beyond tracking your finances and creating a plan to build wealth, you can also benefit greatly from understanding your emotional relationship with money. Core money beliefs lurk in all of our subconscious and they comprise the values that influence our daily decisions.

As clear cut and simple as the math behind money may seem, we can't escape the fact that we all have a personal, emotional relationship with money. And that relationship influences aspects of our personal lives we may not realize at first: from the health of our love to the stability of our home, to which career and school choices we make, to how we raise our children.

Our personal relationship with money influences our decisions small and large.

Do we buy the bigger home even though we don't “need” it? Cut the latte to pay off student loan debt? Forgo hanging out with the friend who constantly talks about the last big sale they made at work?

When it comes to our relationships with money, we have a choice. We can either turn a blind eye to its importance (or believe that it's not important) or we can take a deeper look to learn how to use our relationship with money to our advantage. But first, we need to talk about the four most common money mentalities so you can see where you stand.

What Influences Your Personal Relationship with Money?

Just like an individual's personality, the formation of a person's ideas about money begins in childhood. These ideas are influenced by a variety of factors but primarily come from our parents or primary caregivers' relationships with money.

Money mentalities and behaviors can also be influenced by life altering circumstances, such as job loss or a shopping addiction that leads to debt.

And of course, your personality influences your relationship with money. This is true of everyone. Worrier or carefree, outgoing or shy, wealthy or not, our personality affects the way we all deal with and think about money.

In 2011, The Journal of Financial Therapy published a paper on money beliefs and financial behaviors. From a sample of 422 respondents, four money therapists used a random sample to zero in on the four primary attitudes people take toward money.

The Four Main Money Mentalities

In general, there are four main money mentalities:

  1. Anxious Money Mentality
  2. Avoidant Money Mentality
  3. Abundance Money Mentality
  4. Worship Money Mentality

Each of these mentalities brings their own specific set of traits, mantras, pros, and cons. Here we'll discuss the details so you can see which one sounds the most like you – and how you can make this money relationship work for you.

Anxious Money Mentality

Those with an anxious money mentality are the uber-frugal, money hoarders, and penny pinchers of the world. They're always concerned with money – no matter how much or little they have. An anxious money relationship comes from a scarcity mentality, either learned from others or from personal experiences in the past.

Signs you have this money relationship:

  • Always thinking about money
  • Couponing and bargain hunting even when it isn't necessary
  • Constant complaints about money woes (whether real or perceived)

Common money mantras:

  • “It's extravagant to spend money on yourself”
  • “Always save for a rainy day”
  • “Always look for the best deal, even if it takes more time”

Pros:

  • Always have a little something in the bank, perfect for when emergencies strike
  • Building savvy skills when it comes to finding deals and negotiating

Cons:

  • Those with anxious money relationships often avoid risking their money, even when it could be good for long-term growth.

How to Make This Relationship Work for You:

“Build in rewards for when you achieve your financial goals. Learn how to splurge guilt-free so you can lessen your financial anxiety. Also, place financial constructs that can provide security in the event of unforeseeable circumstances, such as insurance and estate planning.

Avoidant Money Mentality

Just like avoidant attachment types dodge deep commitment in relationships, those with an avoidant money mentality typically evade making financial decisions and avoid confronting their financial problems.

Signs you have this money relationship:

  • Not paying bills on time
  • Ignoring statements and other financial documents
  • Little to no emergency fund or retirement savings
  • Constantly receiving late payment and overdraft fees

Common money mantras:

  • “People shouldn't care about money”
  • “I'm just not good with my finances”
  • “I'll think about that tomorrow”

Pros:

  • Those who avoid dealing with their finances often do so because money isn't high on the priority list
  • Not being materialistic is a good thing – there is more to life than the endless pursuit of wealth

Cons:

  • Eventually, your lack of financial planning will catch up with you.

How to Make This Relationship Work for You:

You don't have to become a money wiz to get your financial act together. If you're just not interested, consider outsourcing to an accountant, financial planner, or money coach who can help. Make money management easy on yourself by automating everything from bill pay to savings transfers.

Abundance Money Mentality

You've likely been classified as a “spender” your whole life. Those with money abundant attitudes tend to be the gamblers and risk takers of the world. Sometimes to “win big” you have to “risk big”, and abundant types believe any money spent will eventually come back to them.

Signs you have this money relationship:

  • Living without a strict budget (or any budget at all)
  • Love of gambling
  • Making impulsive money decisions
  • Habits of always spending money and
  • Frequent shopping

Common Money Mantras:

  • “It's just money”
  • “I'm spending because I'm making an investment”
  • “You can't take it with you”

Pros:

  • With a high tolerance for risk, folks with an abundant money mentality search for ways to grow income rather than hoard and penny pinch

Cons:

  • Make too many big gambles and you could lose a lot of money
  • Being of a money abundant mentality could mean you're not as savings focused as you should be

How to Make This Relationship Work for You:

You're not afraid to take big leaps, which could mean serious earnings for you in the future. Just be sure to combat risk with a healthy dose of due diligence on any future investments, business ventures, or big purchases.

Worship Money Mentality

This money relationship is just what it sounds like and it's very common in America.

Signs you may have a money worship relationship:

  • Correlating net worth with self-worth
  • Being competitive and envious of others' financial success
  • Love of brand name everything

Common Money Mantras:

  • “All of my problems would be solved if I had more money”
  • “I only spend money on the best”
  • “I only buy new”

Pros:

  • If you value money, you likely know you have to put in the work to get more of it
  • Many hustlers of the world have a money worship mentality

Cons:

  • It can be very easy to develop a life of living above your means if you have this money mentality
  • Many may rely on credit cards to chase those status symbols

How to Make This Relationship Work for You:

Get clear on your values: which aspects of your aspirations truly resonate with you and which can you leave behind? Also, realize that if you're in debt, you're not wealthy. Create goals for your finances and combine those goals with thoughtful plans. Then you can healthfully and sustainably turn your dreams of status into a reality.

Conclusion

Our relationships with money are as complex as we are. Despite the emotional nature of money, it's important to push past the discomfort we may feel in talking or thinking about money.

If we can push past the discomfort, we can fully examine our thoughts and habits so we can learn, grow, and improve our lives, financial and otherwise.

Ready to have your best year ever? Use Financial Best Life’s free goal setting worksheets. Download here!
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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Anaya
    July 13, 2017 at 12:16 am

    Hi lauren,

    Still loving your blog I’ve been reading for about a year now!

    I wanted to know if you could possibly write a piece on net neutrality and your thoughts on the topic. Also, how do you think net neutralitiy changes and laws may affect bloggers?

    Thanks!

    • Reply
      Lauren Bowling
      July 14, 2017 at 9:46 am

      Hi Anaya,

      I don’t typically write about things outside my area of expertise, but net neutrality is definitely a big deal, and could be very detrimental to small businesses and those blogging as a business IF regulations on it are passed.

      Here’s a great article on the subject: https://99designs.com/blog/business/net-neutrality-for-entrepreneurs/

      But yes, write to your representatives. The internet NEEDS to remain neutral for everyone.

  • Reply
    Leah
    July 11, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    Loved this article! But what do you do if you don’t really fall into any of these categories? Or rather, more than one…

    I feel as though I have aspects of both “avoidance” and “abundance” – Like the abundance mentality, I have a spending problem in that I tend to buy impulsively (food, clothes, literally whatever I’m “in the mood” for), and it’s gotten me into around $2300 of credit card debt, but I’m not a gambler (in fact, I really hate the concept of gambling).
    On the other hand, I also feel like I have the avoidance mentality, in that I don’t like to think about money. Most of my bills are automated, included a weekly burst into my savings account (which is currently going into my credit card to pay off that debt instead). I’m trying to pay more attention and be money conscious, but I hate finances – how do I move past this? This can be a hot spot for my partner and I because he’s much more focused on his personal finances, but I view it as being easy for him because he makes double what I make in the workplace. Any advice?

    As an aside – I purchased your Bundle Tracker late 2016 and set myself up with a budget for 2017, and I noticed a huge problem right away. I make enough to cover my bills, with little to no spending money left, and yet, I spend anyway, and I’ve not once stuck to my budget.

    #hotmessexpress

    • Reply
      Lauren Bowling
      July 11, 2017 at 9:02 pm

      Hi Leah!. I’m going to tackle this one by one 🙂
      1) You can certainly have more than one money mentality – and often avoidance and abundance go together. You can like to spend AND like to avoid thinking about money. I’ve lived this too!
      2) I would try to go deeper into the “why” behind why you don’t like thinking about money. Is it because you don’t make enough and thinking about it makes you sad? Is it because you’ve never had to think about it? Conversely, I think it would be great for you to think about what your life would be like
      3) I think the best place to start is with a free tool like Learnvest that folders your money for you. Spend at least four minutes each day in that software or checking balances in your banking mobile apps your checking account etc. Even tracking spending in a little notebook works!
      4) Finding ways to earn more money would go a long way to solving a lot of what you outlined above. I know, easier said than done. Have you thought about getting a side hustle?
      5) Pat yourself on the back! You got the bundle tracker and have actively looked at your finances at one point – this is HUGE and a lot further than most go. 🙂

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