What's Your Money Personality?

knowing the answer can help ease your personal finance worries

Barbara Arnold

"What’s Your Money Personality?" That was the question 20 or so of us wanted answered in a workshop held at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in early May. For free. Yes, we were going to learn how we felt about money without paying a single penny out of our pockets. The only cost was an hour or so of our time.

Our fearless leader in this exercise is Berni Johnson-Clark, education manager for FamilyMeans Consumer Credit Counseling Service, a nonprofit serving Minnesota and Wisconsin families for more than 50 years with counseling and therapy, caregiver support, debt and financial management, youth programs, and grief support.

A dark-haired beauty with a spitfire personality, Berni immediately puts all of us at ease by sharing her personal story about how money has come and gone in her own life. She grew up in a poor family, not even close to middle class. She was on public assistance for a couple of months – one month before and one month after – her daughter was born. She got by then for several years on her low income, resources for child care financial assistance, and food stamps. Then a dream job came along. And, for six years, she earned almost six figures, which she admits is when her spending personality kicked in. “Oh, how I would do things differently if I had that income again,” she says. But she has survived and now thrives on presenting Money Personality workshops wherever she is invited to do so.

After warming us up, Berni hands out the piece of paper we’ve all been waiting for: the “What’s Your Money Personality? Quiz,” which resembles the kind of quizzes you see in Cosmo and other magazines. There are 10 questions, each with a particular letter assigned to it. After answering the questions, you add up the number of times you choose each letter and rank the letters. The highest number “wins.” Now to make this work, of course, you need to be brutally honest with yourself.


“Answer what immediately comes to mind,” Berni adds. “Try not to think too much or analyze.” So off we go, eagerly penciling in our answers.

When I’m done, I have a majority of “H” answers, which I learn later from a handout Berni provides signifies the “Saver” personality.

Berni then asks us to join our groups of like letters – those we share our “Money Personality” with – in different areas of the room, and we rush to our like-minded letter and money souls. There are:

Savers: Money provides security and is used to create a safety net.

Free Spenders: Money is used to gain happiness and is used for pleasure.

Givers: Money can be evil and should be used for the greater good and those less fortunate.

Power Brokers: Money gains power and is used to build wealth and power.

Interestingly, there are no Avoiders here tonight. Avoiders believe that “Money is overwhelming and is better handled by others.” Kind of makes sense. Would an Avoider even attend a Money Personality workshop? Perhaps, but not tonight.

We find that our group of Savers includes one Millennial – a 15-year-old a home-schooled sophomore from Fall Creek. The Baby Boomers appear most interested in how she became a Saver. She credited her parents, who tell her that if she wants to have a car she needs to work and save money to buy it, as well as to pay for insurance and gas. She even spent less than $25 on her prom dress. Wow! Baby Boomers share that our parents, who lived through the Great Depression, primarily influenced our saving ways. We save for rainy days and emergencies like squirrels burying nuts before winter comes.

The other groups share their findings, too. Similarities and differences abound, but there are no value judgments. Afterwards, Berni shares a handout with the characteristic of the different types of Money Personalities, and several of us exclaim “Ah!” as we recognize ourselves or others on the list.

For those who want a different relationship with money, Berni offered another handout featuring “Money Management Strategies.” And all of us quickly share what has or has not worked for us through our many years of experience dealing with this thing called money.

Was this Money Personality workshop worthwhile? Hands down, a resounding “Yes”! Whether you’re a follower of Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey or any other financial guru, taking the time – even if it’s an hour at the library – to assess where you are and where you want to be, is definitely time well-spent.

If you are interested in sponsoring a “What’s Your Money Personality?” workshop, contact Berni Johnson-Clark, education manager for FamilyMeans Consumer Credit Counseling Service at bjohnsonclark@familymeans.org, (800) 780-2890, or (651) 789-4052. Learn more about her agency at familymeans.org.


The Money Personality workshop is derived from psychotherapist Olivia Mellan’s book, Money Harmony. Mellan initially went into private practice in 1974 specializing in women’s issues and couples conflict resolution. In 1982, she began to focus on the psychology of money and money conflict resolution. 

Mellan and attorney friend Michael Goldberg realized that “money was the last taboo in the therapy office and in life in general.” They offered their first workshop at a retreat center in Virginia, and created the term “money harmony.” Soon they were training other therapists in money psychology work.

An article in The Washington Post on money personalities soon led Mellan to self-publish a workbook called Ten Days to Money Harmony. That workbook evolved into her book Money Harmony: A Road Map for Individuals and Couples. Soon her speaking engagements expanded to financial counselors, financial planners, and women’s groups in addition to psychotherapists. Learn more about her work at moneyharmony.com, where you can take a version of Money Personality quiz.

On the Money is sponsored by:

Royal Credit Union
200 Riverfront
Downtown Eau Claire

On the Money is sponsored by:

Royal Credit Union
200 Riverfront
Downtown Eau Claire