One of the biggest problems with many personal finance books is that they are written with the assumption that everyone is the same when it comes to money. There’s a single path to financial security that is laid out, which may be different for each adviser, but assumes that everyone has the same goals and end desires. You might not be on the same step, but inevitably, you’re moving toward the same goal.
Master Your Money Type from Jordan Goodman takes a different approach. Rather than assuming that everyone is the same when it comes to money, it looks at six different money ‘types’; distinctive personalities and approaches to earning, investing and otherwise using money. Does a more varied approach yield a better personal finance book? Let’s find out.
The first chapter starts out with the basic premise: that by understanding how you deal emotionally and psychologically with money, you can get a better grip on your finances and control your spending, investing, and saving habits better. It then provides a brief overview of the six money types covered in the course of the book: Strivers, Ostriches, Debt Desperadoes, Coasters, High Rollers, and Squirrels.
The second chapter takes a closer look at the emotional relationships we have with money, and how it can affect our attitudes and actions. As Goodman notes, there are many different things that money can mean to us; for some of us, money is a source of security, for others, it’s a source of power, and for still others, it means means love, happiness, or a way to relieve our pain. These feeling are born from a number of different sources, from our parents’ and grandparents’ attitudes about money to our experiences in childhood and as young adults. The chapter ends with some of the basics of acknowledging, confronting, and changing our undesirable fiscal personality traits in order to get our financial house in order.
The next six chapters (which compose the bulk of the book) look over each of the aforementioned personality types in depth. Each one explains what the main traits of the personality type are, the pros and cons associated with each type, and several examples of people whom Goodman has worked with in the past who exemplify those those personalities. He then covers some of the more harmful traits each personality exhibits, and provides a shift in thinking to help rectify them. Once the emotional stuff is out of the way, he provides a financial plan to help each type get their finances under control, usually with tools most appropriate for each type. Each chapter ends with a list of resources that will be most helpful to people with those personalities.
First up in chapter three are the Strivers. These are the people with a strong desire to be successful, or more importantly, to be perceived as successful by those around them. At their best, Strivers are driven, focused, and determined to make their goals a reality; at worst, they stretch too far to appear well off, overestimating their income and underplaying their expenses. The solution for this overreaching is to rein in the tendency to stretch their budget to show off their self-worth, and there are numerous budgeting and cash flow tools at the end of the chapter to allow them to still put their wealth on display, but doing so while staying in budget.
The second major type is the Ostriches, so called because they bury their heads in the sand when it comes to money (never mind that real ostriches don’t do that; it’s too good an image to resist). The good news is that this group isn’t consumed with money, but they take it too far, not knowing (or caring) enough to get their money under control, and sometimes falling for bad advice because they don’t have the savvy to realize how bad it is. The solutions given are to take control of their money, in the least painful ways possible, by automating their savings and investments as much as possible.
The next chapter covers the Debt Desperadoes, possibly the group with the fewest positive traits (mainly the ability to bounce back from a crash) and several negative ones, including denial of the reality of their situations. The chapter opens with a quiz to see if you’re spending too much and several of the reasons that people can get in high levels of debt. The list of financial solutions range from creating a financial plan to deal with the existing debt to the possibility of bankruptcy.
The Coasters are an odd breed, having a a decent handle on their spending and earning, but not having a longer term plan. They have a tendency to prefer stability to change (even positive changes). There’s a sub-category called Optimists who have a tendency to believe that everything will work out, and that the universe will provide what they need in life. The major piece of financial advice for these groups is to expand their financial planning to ensure that their plans will cover ALL their goals, with plenty of retirement planning tools included.
The High Rollers are next; their pros include a high tolerance for risk and belief in their vision, while their biggest problem is the tendency towards thrill-seeking and gambling. The major suggestions include making educated gambles, shifting a portion of invested money into safer investments like bonds, and making sure that the money put into speculative ventures can reasonably be lost without adversely affecting longer term goals.
The final group is the exact opposite; Squirrels value stability and safety over everything else, and as a result, have a tendency to live much below their means and not enjoy life as much as they could afford to do. This is taken to the extreme in the sub-type of Bag Ladies, who tend to accumulate a great deal of wealth without any enjoyment (think of the stories you’re heard of the people who live like paupers and end up leaving several million dollars to charity when they die). The solution is to slowly bump up the risk they take, to be better prepared for the future.
There’s a list of resources at the end of the book, providing a collection of material that could be useful to anyone who needs further information.
–More Individualized Approach to Personal Finance Advice: As mentioned at the beginning of this article, one of the strongest advantages of this book is the lack of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ attitude. The book understands that all the readers are not the same, and attempts as best it can to tailor the advice in such a way as to be helpful for everyone. While a book can’t hope to provide every single person with a unique plan for financial success, it does manage to differentiate significantly to help a wide variety of people.
–Interesting View of Money and Psychology: In a similar vein, too many books don’t take into account the effects of individual personalities and attitudes on how to handle money. While some books cover the problems or goals for a particular group (get out of debt books for Debt Desperadoes, for example), a holistic approach for many different personalities is a bit of a rarity. Getting advice on a variety of different money issues from both an emotional and monetary perspective helps to handle numerous different problems.
–Solid Financial Advice: It might seem like this book focuses on the mental aspect of using money, possibly skimping on the details of how to actually manage your money. But, Goodman provides a solid foundation of money management and plenty of tools to help plan your financial future, from retirement planning figures to basic budgets, spread throughout the book.
–Sometimes Hard to Find Needed Information: Since the book is organized primarily according to the money types rather than the tools provided, it can be hard to find the budget tables (in the Striver chapter) or the investment return tables (unexpectedly, in the High Roller Chapter). Given that many of the financial tools could be helpful to multiple types (there are several references telling one group to look in a different chapter for the appropriate tools), it seems like a better organization would be to put all the financial planning tools in one section, like an appendix.
-No Advice for Blended Types: Although there are early comments from Goodman about the need to consider that you may fall into multiple types and need to look at all aspects of your money type, the book doesn’t make this easy. All the examples are solidly (and usually intensely) within one type and the book provides advice for only one type at a time, some of which contradicts the advice for other types. A bit more advice for those who fit into multiple types (perhaps a section at the end of each chapter describing how to handle money for people with some traits that fit into another type) would be helpful.
–Too Many Resource Pages, in Too Many Places: At the end of each type chapter, there’s a list of resources specifically suited to that money type, and there is also an appendix that includes a list of general resources. Many of the recommended books, magazines, and websites, showed up multiple times following the individual chapters, and again in the appendix. Cutting down the number of places to list resources would make the book run smoother (and seem a bit less like an attempt to sell other books).
Master Your Money Type is a pretty solidly written book. A few organizational changes would make the book a bit more useful, but it’s still useful and interesting. Knowing your money type is an interesting point of view for money management, and it’s good to see someone looking at finances through a psychological perspective. If you’re looking for a solid, unique personal finance book to help understand the basics, it makes a good introduction.