Caring Currents

Family Money Conflicts

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Last week I explained the most common money styles and how to figure out which one is yours. You can also use this list of common money styles to figure out the money styles of your spouse, parents, siblings, or others.

Knowing how the important people in your life view money (especially in a caregiving situation) -- and how those views differ from yours -- will do wonders for your ability to get along and avoid the pitfalls that tend to trigger arguments and blow ups.

Here, some of the most common ways family members with different money styles push each other's buttons -- and what to do when that happens.

  • Money Styles Conflict #1: Hoarder vs. Spender
    One of you saves for a rainy day, the other wants what she wants and resents feeling deprived, especially where comfort is concerned.

    How to Resolve: The ignition spark in this conflict tends to be status; spenders are status-conscious, and spend to keep up with others. So when the hoarder tries to get the spender to cut back, this can trigger a sense of social shame and inadequacy. The secret? Take the spender's social image consciousness into account when choosing where to cut spending. For example, annual dues for the local country club or community center might seem expendable to the hoarder but not to the spender. So cut back in some less visible way, such as limiting movie and other entertainment expenses instead. One family I know compromised on this one by painting the front of their parents' house but not the back; they cut the painting costs in half, but the house still looked presentable to the neighbors!

  • Money Styles Conflict #2: Worrier vs. Hoarder
    You'd think these two would get along well, since they're somewhat similar, but it's a case of two wrongs not making a right. Both are conservative when it comes to money, but worriers fret about money without actually doing much about it, while hoarders take practical and concrete steps to save.

    How to Resolve. Hoarders find worriers endlessly frustrating, especially if the worrier asks for advice and then doesn't take it. To prevent this, form a partnership in which the hoarder helps the worrier manage her money. Talk about the worrier's fears and anxieties, then set up a financial plan so the worrier can see that there's a workable budget and the hoarder feels satisfied that the worrier is doing more than worrying.

  • Money Styles Conflict #3: Worrier vs. Binger
    Bingers keep their money under control until they feel they "deserve" something, at which point the sky's the limit. This tendency is going to bring out the worst in a worrier, who watches the binger's sudden spending sprees with horror.

    How to Resolve: To work out such conflicts, each side needs to see and acknowlege the other's strengths and make use of them. The binger can benefit from listening to and being guided by the worrier's more conservative approach, while the worrier -- who tends to become paralyzed -- can benefit from the binger's financial management abilities during his better moments.

  • Money Styles Conflict #4: Miser vs. Hoarder
    This is one of the worst combinations because hoarders spend a great deal of energy thinking about and managing money, while misers believe thinking about money shows lack of character.

    How to Resolve At the root of this conflict is the issue of respect. If a miser is living in la-la land because he feels money doesn't bear thinking about, then he's going to make a hoarder feel crummy. If a hoarder takes great pride in his money-saving bent, he may look at a miser with disdain. Both parties need to think hard about the positive qualities of the other and find a way to work together respectfully. Misers, for example, can get hoarders to relax and focus less on money, while hoarders can instill some much-needed practicality in misers -- if they let each other. This one requires everyone to set aside their judgmental tendencies.