Money Management & Choice Theory

The holiday season is upon us. For many, it adds financial stress to the other stressful things associated with the holidays. While browsing social media, I found a meme that read: Debt keeps you paying for your past so that you never get to invest in your future. What do you think of that statement?

I imagine your answer to that question is largely determined by the size of your Safety & Security need. Everyone has a need for survival, and yet, according to Choice Theory® the strength of this need is determined by your genetic makeup and, to a smaller extent, what is happening with you. For example, if you are out of work and your landlord is threatening to evict you, your typically low need for Safety & Security may skyrocket. The size does not deviate from its genetically programmed state, but it feels stronger because your ability to meet has been threatened or is frustrated.

A common reason couples come to me for coaching is that they have different levels of the Safety & Security need. One person is high, and the other person is low. How this typically manifests is that one is a spender and the other is a saver, causing a bit of friction in the relationship.

The person with a high Safety & Security need is a saver, doesn’t like to buy on credit and saves up for what they want. They are planners who are concerned with the future and with those who, in their opinion, live recklessly.

Contrast this with their partner who is low in Safety & Security. This person can be reckless with money; they are more likely to buy on credit they don’t have, borrowing to get non-essentials. They engage in adventurous behavior and are quite spontaneous.

Especially at Christmas time, this can create conflict around money. If you are high in Safety & Security, then your way would be opening a Christmas club—the practice of saving money all year to make Christmas more affordable. You would budget only as much as you saved to spend on the holidays and not a penny more. You may find creative ways to stay within the budget: finding bargains, making homemade gifts, or limiting your gift-giving to those closest to you. If you are connected with a low Safety & Security partner, you will likely be frustrated by their overly generous nature, their lack of concern about money and the amount they spend beyond the budget for gifts.

A solution I have found helpful for couples is to have three different pots of money—there is the collective pot for household expenses that you both contribute to, then you have your money and your partner has theirs. You can talk with your partner to determine the equitable way to contribute to these money pots. Some couples figure out a percentage, while others just split the household expenses 50/50. Whatever you have left after your communal contribution is yours to do with whatever you choose without judgment or complaint from your partner. Your partner does the same.

The high Safety & Security person will probably spend their extra money on things like savings and insurance. Investments will not be in high-risk stocks, but will likely be in long-term mutual funds or government bonds. High Safety & Security people resist vacations and anything purchased just as an upgrade, as they are very happy to make do with what they have.

The low Safety & Security person will spend their extra money in any number of ways. They are more likely to make spontaneous purchases anytime something desirable crosses their path. They love spontaneous adventures and can justify going away for the weekend with friends, even if the entire trip is financed with a 28% interest card. Their idea of paying credit card debt might be making minimum payments each month.

When I work with these couples, I help them get from conflict over money to acceptance of one another’s differences and, if we’re fortunate, all the way to appreciation. When you hit acceptance, you stop experiencing painful emotions about your partner’s differences. You realize you love this person and this one area that presents a challenge is just one small part of the whole person you love. If they were to change this one thing, you can’t predict what else might change. You feel at peace with your differences.

When you want to move to appreciation, you start to ask yourself, “How does my partner’s actions serve me?” The spender helps the saver be more spontaneous and the saver helps the spender be more prepared for emergencies. This is a high bar to achieve, but the journey to getting there will surely strengthen your relationship.

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