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Numbers May Not Be the Answer

What to ask clients who want to change their financial behaviors

Do you have clients who want to change their behaviors related to money? Here are seven
questions to ask before jumping into the numbers and looking for logical ways to solve their

  1. Have you faced this same financial challenge before? This could be anything such as: bankruptcy, being in debt from the holidays, losing opportunities because of waiting too long to act and being taken advantage of financially in a relationship.
  2. Do you feel like gremlins enter your brain and take it over causing you to spend or make financial decisions you later regret?
  3. Does it feel like, as hard as you try, you end up in the same spot, regardless of how much money you have?
  4. Do you know what you need to do to spend less, save more, invest or get organized, but it’s hard to take the first step and follow through?
  5. Is it a struggle to appreciate and spend the money you have? That may mean you can’t use it to bring joy or benefit to yourself or others.
  6. Are there people or circumstances in your life that hold you back from earning more or reaching your goals?
  7. Does the thought of being financially secure or even wealthy have a downside for you?

If a client answers YES to any of these questions, it’s likely that a budget or financial plan and good intentions alone will not lead to success….something else is going on to sabotage their efforts.

Often this is at a subconscious level and clients don’t see the connection between some experience or message in their past and their behavior. If your expertise is financial knowledge, there’s no need to feel you must also be a therapist and connect those dots. However, if you really want to serve your client well, approach them with curiosity about their life and be prepared to be able to refer your client to programs or professionals that can help when necessary. You may also benefit from working in collaboration with counselors in non-profits, on campus or with clinicians in private practice.

Although many people have a problematic relationship with money, most of your clients will be just fine. However, if taking this extra step helps even just one or two clients, it would be worth the extra effort and could be life-changing for them.

Syble Solomon
Creator of Money Habitudes®

Relationship Holiday Spending Tips

According to a Nerd Wallet 2022 survey1 nearly a third of people reported that they still owe money from last year’s holidays and 72% plan to charge this year’s holiday purchases on credit cards. Others plan to take stores up on their buy now, pay later plans, use a cash advance or get a payday loan.  Since most couples don’t take the time to talk about how much they will spend on holiday gifts, holiday entertaining or end-of-year giving, those January bills can be a powerfully negative game-changer for couples.


Let’s not talk about the debt, but the impact of those bills. Here are five common responses:   

  1. Surprise: The amount that one or both people spent can be an overwhelming surprise.  Often people aren’t tracking their expenses and don’t realize how quickly they have added up.  Both people can feel blindsided by the amount of debt they now have and this often leads to finger-pointing and blaming each other or feeling personally guilty and ashamed.
  2. Betrayal:  Sometimes couples have communicated and agreed to parameters for spending, so if one person doesn’t follow-through and spends more, the partner feels betrayed.
  3. Resentment:  If either person is spending extra to compensate for feeling guilty, avoiding appearing cheap, or trying to please someone, the partner may not understand the reasoning or accept those strong emotional motivations and resent the extra expense.
  4. Blame:  When couples incur extra expenses to travel to spend the holidays with one of their families and it doesn’t go well, one may blame the person who made it happen.
  5. Trust:  If one person has a difficult time spending money and wants to control the family finances, the partner may ignore that and spend anyway but try to keep it a secret or hide the real costs. This leads to a lack of trust.


It’s important to acknowledge that in each case, the actual debt may or may not be a problem for the couple to pay off, but the more significant issue is the damage caused by the lack of communication.

It may not be too late this year to at least be aware of what you’ve spent and talk about it honestly with your partner before the January bills come and set off a tsunami of emotional reactions.  Then use January to review how money was spent and let it be the starting point for a different outcome next year.  Here are some suggestions to make changes:

  • Set aside some quiet time to talk about how each of you experienced the holidays when you were growing up.  Talk about what remains important to you to continue or let go.  If your families didn’t have traditions, talk about what would be meaningful to you. Share your stories about why those things are important and your memories that associate them with strong feelings. Being open and sharing this information may be difficult, but can change the conversation away from money to understanding and meeting each other’s emotional needs.
  • After the holidays, talk about what traditions and situations brought joy and stress this year.  How could that be changed for the next season to work better and be more affordable for you?  Remember, it’s easier to have reasonable, successful conversations about money when you’re not in the middle of the holidays and the spending frenzy.  And if other family or friends will need to agree, talking about it now is easier than waiting until the next holiday season if you want their buy-in.
  • Together, determine a reasonable amount to spend on gifts, entertaining and giving.  Save money each month to meet that amount by December and keep it in a separate account.
  • Consider agreeing on an amount that can be spent without discussing it with each other and talk to your partner if you feel you want to exceed that amount for any reason before spending the money. 


Holidays are not about money and the January stress when bills come is not really about money either.  Having meaningful conversations about how and why you spend can make all the difference.  Give it a try and see how it can improve your holiday experience, your relationship and your finances. 




Overusing the Giving Habitude – charitable money personality type

Money Habitudes cards help people understand their financial habits and general money personality. Money Habitudes are the six most common money types. The activity reveals your money personality and spending habits by showing you your own unique combination of those money types. All of the Habitudes are important but overusing any one of them can be problematic. For example, let’s look at the Giving Habitude.
When it is a strong dominant pattern, people get joy by giving to others and being charitable. That can be very good, fulfilling and rewarding. They automatically donate money or give without necessarily considering the long-term consequences of their generosity. But, what is the downside to being too giving and charitable and overusing Giving?

The downside to overusing Giving

  • Giving Habitude - charitable money personalityGiving too much money may jeopardize people’s ability to take care of themselves financially. They risk becoming a financial burden on others. They may go into debt. Their own credit rating may suffer. They may not be able to afford the basics. They may forfeit having choices for education, health care and a safe, adequate lifestyle.
  • Giving with the expectation that it will be reciprocated can be unrealistic and very disappointing. Here’s a good example of someone who’s given a lot for his family, but hasn’t had it reciprocated.
  • Giving may seem caring on the surface but can actually be enabling and keep the recipient from taking responsibility and being resourceful. The difference between being supportive and enabling can be a fine line that is often difficult for a parent, friend or family member to see.
  • Sometimes givers see themselves as generous but others see them as judgmental and manipulative. This happens when the gift implies that the recipient wasn’t meeting some standard that the giver values.

Talking about money: the Giving Habitude

Talking about giving can be a rich and enlightening conversation, especially for couples. For example, after using the Money Habitudes cards, Ann had many Giving and Security cards.  She requires the recipient (whether it’s a charity or her niece) to provide data and accountability before she’ll part with a penny. Her husband, Ray, had many Giving and Carefree cards. He’s a soft touch for friends, fundraisers and family members. His money simply disappears.
Ray thinks Ann is too demanding and manipulative giving people the third degree instead of trusting them to use the money wisely. On the other hand, Ann thinks Ray is foolish, wasteful and financially irresponsible the way he gives money indiscriminately. Although they donate money differently, they balance each other so the more Ray gives without thinking, the more analytical Ann becomes.

Questions for those with a dominant Giving Habitude

If Giving is a dominant Habitude, the questions are:

  • How does Giving play out in your life?  Is it working for you?
  • Would giving less or differently be beneficial for meeting your financial, life and relationship goals?  Look on the back of the yellow interpretation card for suggestions if you are overusing the Giving Habitude.

The Guide for Professionals and My Money Habitudes workbook also include additional questions and discussion suggestions.

How to talk about money: tips & advice

How to talk about money? Because it’s so difficult to talk about money, people often don’t talk about it. After all, it’s often said that people find it easier to talk about sex rather than talk about money.

Tips about how to talk about money

how to talk about moneyOne of the big challenges is that people rarely talk about money until they have to talk about money! So, for example, a couple may be married for 10 years and don’t talk about money – but then when someone loses a job, the sudden change in income requires talking about money. Or imagine the couple that will not talk about money day-to-day but then gets into an argument when the credit card bill comes. Or, consider a couple that’s getting married and their first real talk about money is when one wants a small, frugal wedding and the other wants a lavish affair. In such cases, talking about money isn’t easy and enjoyable. Instead, people make the association that it is frustrating, embarrassing or threatening to talk about money. As a result, people often come to this conclusion: If talking about money feels bad, then I’m best to not talk about money.
Therefore, when thinking about how to talk about money, a secret is to start off with easy, non-threatening, small conversations about money. By contrast, here are some big money conversations:

  • How will we ever save enough for retirement?
  • How should I structure my will?
  • How will we combine our finances when we’re married?
  • Can I pay for my child’s education?
  • Why won’t my spouse keep to his/her money promises?

It’s not that you should avoid these money conversations. But if you aren’t in the habit of having good conversations about money, it can be jolting to start with such big money questions. Similarly, dating or re-marriage articles will often suggest that you talk about money early in a new relationship. While that may indeed be good advice, it can feel weird, uncomfortable and accusatory to have someone demand to see your credit report or ask how much you have in the bank or how much you make. Even when presented in a very careful manner, these money questions can seem threatening. When people feel threatened, they tend to have fight or flight reactions. That’s not good for conversation.
Another hallmark of these big money questions is that they often quickly become conversations about numbers. Of course, when you talk about money, it’s hard to not talk about numbers. However, the figures can usually wait a bit. Also, many people lack the financial expertise required to address the numbers correctly; and lack of confidence, competence or knowledge is a good recipe for a money conversation that goes off the tracks and isn’t enjoyable. In general, build the interpersonal relationship, rapport and trust before doing the spreadsheet.
In addition, many of these questions have answers that are right or wrong – or there is an implied right and wrong. If you start by focusing on the fact that you need to save $1000 a month, it can seem overwhelming and frustrating. Or, if you think your husband or wife (or child or business partner, etc.) is spending foolishly, leading with that probably won’t lead to a productive money conversation. Would you want to talk about money with someone who begins by saying, “You’re really stupid and irresponsible with money”?
Instead, try starting a money conversation with sharing formative experiences. But, first, make sure you’re giving yourself environmental advantages to have a good money talk.

How to talk about money: setting the scene

This seems self-evident, but try to talk about money when you’re not already feeling down. Those cases are sometimes grouped together by the abbreviation HALT. In other words, you shouldn’t talk about money (or other serious topics) and expect great results when you are:

  • Hungry. Even when we’re no longer toddlers, we get cranky when we need food. Imagine you’ve been running around and haven’t eaten all day and then walk in the door and your spouse confronts you about a charge you made on the credit card; even innocuous money questions can turn into conflagrations on an empty stomach.
  • Angry. Consider that you got assigned an impossible deadline right before leaving work, then sat in traffic for an hour before arriving home. Then you’re asked whether you’ve paid the mortgage. Probably not the best moment to talk about money. Unfortunately, if you have a history of unsuccessful money talks, there can be built in anger or resentment that’s triggered when money comes up.
  • Lonely. In this case, one feels bad or drained because of a lack of attention, companionship, etc.
  • Tired. Again, even adults are subject to feeling bad and making poor decisions when operating with a lack of sleep.

Is there a perfect environment or a perfect time to talk about money? No. However, if you avoid these HALT times, you give yourself an advantage. Some tips about picking a good time and place to talk about money:

  • Plan ahead. It’s easier to say, “Let’s have this conversation on Thursday night” than “We need to talk about money right now!!!” Surprises are usually bad when it comes to talking about money.
  • Talk over food. A better conversation may happen over a nice meal, or coffee or a glass of wine. Some couples plan a regular financial check-in date night every 3-6 months and incentivize themselves with a nice dinner or dessert.
  • Be comfortable. Research shows that financial planners have better conversations about money when they simply have more comfortable chairs in their office.
  • Finally, start by acknowledging that talking about money can feel awkward. However it builds trust and lays a stronger foundation for your relationship.

How to talk about money: what to talk about

When thinking about “how to talk about money” realize that you have to crawl before you can walk before you can run. The first conversations will seem very basic. However, they are meant to be non-threatening. They are meant to build trust. It helps if you can first prove that you can talk about money and that conversation can be ok. This is true for a couple talking about money at home or a financial planner meeting with clients or a therapist meeting with clients. While it may be practical to start immediately with “Let’s fill out this form with all of your assets and income,” better results come when people feel they relate to each other on a personal level and have a real conversation as opposed to just talking numbers.
Here are a few money conversation starters to try:

  • Remember the first time you bought something with your own money? What did you buy? How did you get the money?
  • What was your first job and what did you do with your money?
  • What did you learn from your religion about money?
  • Growing up, how was money talked about in your home? Who paid the bills? How were big financial decisions made?
  • How would you know when your parents disagreed about money?

The goal here is largely to have a money conversation that goes well, feels calm, and leaves a good taste in your mouth. Secondly, you should come away with a deeper understanding of the other person with whom you’re talking about money. This may be a spouse, a financial planning client or a counseling client. You’re giving the other person a chance to open up and talk about money where there is no right or wrong. One of the main reasons people don’t like to talk about money is because those conversations often feel so judgmental: “I’m bad with money.” “You’re irresponsible.” “I’m right. You’re wrong.” The conversation starters above are meant to get people away from right/wrong answers and start a dialogue. If you see that someone never had much money growing up and always felt it was important to hold on to money, it can change the nature of the conversation from “You’re so cheap and tightfisted,” to “I understand why you don’t want to spend that money.”

How to talk about money: using Money Habitudes

Money Habitudes - money personality testOf course a great way to talk about money is to use a tool specifically designed to generate money conversations. Money Habitudes is one part financial personality test and one part money conversation starter. Still, using the tool feels like playing a card game. It’s designed to be non-threatening and easy-to-understand.
Again, if you’re going to use the cards in addition to or in place of the conversation starter questions above, remember to give yourself the advantage of a good environment. Don’t start using the game when you’re Hungry-Angry-Lonely-Tired and do it in a space that’s comfortable. That’s true if you’re using the cards at home or using them in an office environment (or classroom) with clients.
What people like about the cards over just spoken money conversation prompts is:

  • They provide a framework or an excuse to talk about money. It can often be easier to say, “Let’s try out this game” versus “Let’s talk about money.” That’s a simple but important distinction.
  • The cards are hands-on and tactile. Many money conversations can quickly take on an interrogation tone where one person is asking questions and the other person is answering them. (That’s especially true of financial professionals and therapists.) Using the cards is more participatory. Therapists note that it gives some of the power to the client to do something versus sit and answer questions.
  • The hands-on format also gets people to relax. It feels like a social card game and not a test or an interview.
  • Between the 54 statement cards in each deck, one’s money personality results and interpretation cards, there are many, many conversation starters. Conversation usually flows naturally from people’s curiosity to understand themselves and their results, as well a the results of the person or people with whom they’re doing the activity.
  • Because of the nature of the statements and the interpretation process, much of the conversation starter questions above come up, but more subtlety. Instead of asking how someone’s parents used money, the person doing the Money Habitudes activity may see his or her results and volunteer a comment like, “Wow, I’d never thought how much my mother’s saving nature affected the way I’d relate to money as an adult.”
  • The cards often prompt storytelling and sharing – real conversation – versus simple question-and-answer.

Couples who use Money Habitudes cards have remarked that it’s sparked the best conversation about money they’ve ever had. That’s true for couples who are still dating, engaged or newly married – as well as those who’ve been married for decades. Professionals who use the cards find that they start a different kind of conversation that quickly builds trust, rapport and understanding. It’s a far different process than just sitting behind a desk and asking money questions or asking someone to fill in intake forms with lots of numbers.

Psychology of Money – Money Personality

The psychology of money can be hard to understand. Why do we spend the way we spend? Why do we save? Why might two siblings see money so differently? What do you think about money? How do you feel about money?

What influences the psychology of money?

Although it’s a big topic, Money Habitudes makes the psychology of money easy to understand – for professionals (therapists, financial planners) and for laypeople. Money Habitudes feels like a fun card game. However it is actually a structured conversation starter and a money personality test in one. The assessment cards explain the psychology of money in terms of one’s money personality. It is a practical, applied use of the psychology of money.
Money Habitudes helps people see what influences the way they see money. Typical money psychology influences include:

  • family - psychology of moneyCulture (including religion)
  • Parents and influential people; family of origin
  • Media
  • Personal experiences

People rarely think about their own money psychology. Therefore, it can be a breakthrough to understand why they see money the way they do. While this is true for individuals and couples, it’s especially true for people whose work touches on the psychology of money: therapists and mental health providers, financial planners, financial educators, life planners, and money coaches.

Implications of money psychology

brain - psychology of moneyUnderstanding the psychology of money is not only about understanding formative factors, but also how this affects one’s life today. The Money Habitudes money personality test clarifies one’s:

  • money habits
  • money attitudes
  • money values
  • financial behaviors

This is important because so many of the issues around money deal with behavior change: How to save more money? How to spend less money? How to not fight about money?
When one understands money psychology, it opens the door to positive behavior change.

Financial professionals preferred money profile

Money personality is important, but what is it? In the same way that people have different personalities, we also all have a different money personality. We all see and relate to money in different ways. But how do you know what your money personality is?

A money personality test

Money Habitudes - money personality testWhile you may have a sense for how your money personality is different than someone else’s, it’s easier to understand yourself by doing a personality test or personality profile. Perhaps the most well known personality test is the Myers-Briggs. As is typical of personality tests like Myers-Briggs, 16PF, DISC, etc., the user answers a number of questions. The answers then produce a score. That score can be interpreted as one’s personality profile. Some personality tests are very broad; others are specific to a certain topic like relationships, leadership, etc. Money Habitudes functions as a money personality test.

Why does money personality matter?

How we see and use money affects us in a variety of ways:

  • relationships; money is often cited as the number one cause of couples fights
  • personal finance; how much money we have and if we’re prepared for the future
  • career; what we choose to do, whether we invest in ourselves, etc.

Understanding your money personality helps you more clearly understand these facets of your life.

Using a money personality test

Like the Myers-Briggs personality test, Money Habitudes uses a standard set of questions. People sort these questions according to whether each is:

  • like you
  • sort of like you; sometimes like you
  • not like you

For example, an actual Money Habitudes statement is: “Even if I can afford things that will make my life easier, I will not buy them.” As is true with most personality tests, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer. Where Money Habitudes is different from other personality tests is how it’s used. It is more active an engaging and feels less like a test.

  • Instead of pages of questions, it feels like a fun, hands-on card game.
  • Instead of filling in bubbles on a score sheet, users physically sort cards into different piles.

Based on how you answer the questions, you get a money personality profile. Each of the statements is coded to one of six different money personality types. A personality assessment and evaluation step helps users interpret how they see and use money. A simple personality scale, people can have different combinations of the six different money personality types. Each type has a strength of 0 to 9.