Couples and money: What is your personal money motivator?

This article is Part 2 of a series on couples and money. Part 1 is How to talk about finances without fighting.

Money itself is not intrinsically good or bad. However, it can symbolize how we feel about ourselves in the most profound ways, carrying a lot of emotions along for the ride.

Unfortunately, money can also be one of the biggest sources of stress in any relationship. So, being on the same page about how to handle your family finances can be a game changer for many couples.

As they say, if you’re not together … you’re going to be separate.

One of the best ways to improve your relationship with money — and each other — is to understand what motivates you about money, as well as what motivates your partner.

Identifying your money personality

People generally have a primary motivation in their relationship to money, such as:

  • Freedom;
  • Security;
  • Power; or
  • Love.

The important thing to remember is that there is no one “BEST” personality type. There are pros and cons to each. Instead, use this information to better understand your behaviors regarding money.

Additionally, discuss your personal money motivations with your partner in order to understand each other better. Ask yourself and each other some of the following questions to get the conversation started:

  • How do I feel when I have enough money?
  • How do I feel when money is tight?
  • How does money contribute to or hinder my lifestyle?
  • How would my lifestyle change if I had significantly more money? What would I do with it?
  • Do I enjoy or avoid tracking my money and overall financial picture?
  • How do I feel about borrowing money or taking out loans?
  • What is my attitude about giving money to charity?
  • How does it make me feel when I buy someone a gift or help them financially?

Your answers to these questions should help you determine your attitude about money and what your personal motivations are behind accumulating and spending money.

Understanding your money personality

After you’ve had a chance to think about your own motives and feelings surrounding money, review the explanations below to find your best match.

Money = Freedom

For this personality type, money is primarily considered a source of freedom, thrills, chills, risks, big wins, big losses, and unlimited access. Money gives you the ability to experience life.


  • You are generous, but on your own terms.
  • You may trade love, security, and even power in exchange for the options to go anywhere and do anything you want.
  • You can be very rich or very poor.
  • Ultimately you are a freelancer and a soloist at heart.
  • Commitments are difficult, as is balancing a checkbook or sticking to a budget — except when you are forced to.

Money = Security

In this case, money is primarily a source of security and symbolizes stability, protection, and insurance: a roof overhead, food on the table, and a buffer between you and the vagaries of tomorrow.


  • You crave safety above all else. You glorify the predictable and keep a safe distance from the unknown or unforeseen.
  • You love to watch the value of your real estate property appreciate or your blue-chip utilities go up a point.
  • You invest in sure things and avoid risk.
  • You hold a steady job and spend your paycheck responsibly.
  • Every money-making move is hedged with a countermove to protect it.
  • You have a hard time passing up a bargain, freebie, or good deal, and you balance your checkbook to the penny.

Money = Power

For you, money is primarily a passport to greater options, fame, admiration, control over resources, and other people.


  • You want success and the status symbols it is measured by.
  • You like to be in control and are well adapted to management positions — as much as you drive others, you drive yourself harder.
  • You will not be happy until you are the chairman of the board.
  • People can’t keep up with you and you are often impatient, thorough, and to the point.
  • You detest vulnerability and if there is a choice between family and career, home life finishes a distant second.
  • Someone else balances your checkbook.

Money = Love

When money is motivated by love, money is primarily used to enhance your relationships with family and friends, who you value above all else. This personality type can go in multiple directions — using money/gifts to express love, using money to take care of those you love, or using money to avoid rejection.


  • You are kind, understanding, motherly/fatherly, and consenting.
  • You are a tireless listener — you give, give, and give some more.
  • You can’t resist an open hand.
  • You are a perennial nurturer, contributor, and volunteer.
  • Money is used to make life better for friends and family.
  • There may be a tendency to use money to buy love in the form of appreciation, attention, and acknowledgement.
  • You not only balance your checkbook, you balance everyone else’s too.

Moving forward together

Most likely, you and your partner will have different motivators with different value systems surrounding money. Rather than focusing on those differences, focus on the fact that you now understand each other — and yourselves — better than before and have more tools for approaching your finances to move forward together. The goal is to create a more collaborative and cooperative approach for achieving your joint financial goals.

Ellen Bernards is assistant vice president-mortgage loan officer at State Bank of Cross Plains (SBCP) serving the Cross Plains and Black Earth markets. Bernards brings a wealth of experience to her role, having specialized in the housing industry since 2004 as both a mortgage lender and counselor, assisting and educating countless Wisconsinites along their personal journeys toward homeownership.

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