When it comes to your financial habits, have you ever thought of what type of money personality you have?
Are you a circle? That’s a person people go to for money because they know you’ll give it to them. Or are you a triangle because you have a ready, aim, fire personality and are willing to take risks for the chance at a big payoff?
Or maybe you’re a rectangle, the person who has it all together, keeps good records, can put everything on a credit card and pay it off at the end of the month just to get the rewards.
How about someone constantly starting a diet and can’t quite stay on it? That’s a square. You really want to budget and you start a plan, but you never quite stick with it.
Or what about a squiggly line? You are outgoing, friendly and an impulsive shopper because you love a good deal, so going to the store can be dangerous for you.
Some people don’t fit exactly one shape. More likely, it’s a combination of two, said Jana Castanon, community outreach coordinator for Apprisen, the parent company of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Northeastern Ohio, who has expanded on this concept of money personality.
Castanon, who teaches personal finance classes in Kansas City, Kan., said she is a true squiggly.
“I have very few rectangle tendencies, but I am able to be OK as a squiggly most of the time because I know that’s how I am,” Castanon said. “I have to carry cash. I do have to make sure not to use my credit cards unless I can pay it off at the end of the month. I do know I can’t just go to the mall and window shop. I have a tendency to buy things that I don’t need.”
Once, Castanon admits, she booked a cruise as an impulse buy.
I asked Castanon whether it was odd that as a financial expert, she was a squiggly. Shouldn’t she be a rectangle?
“I can’t and I’m very open and honest,” Castanon said. “I would love to be a rectangle, but I don’t have that in me to do that. I will never file my bills in a filing cabinet.”
A person’s shape is based on personality as well as how they were raised to handle money. The only shape with a good chance for change is the square, Castanon said, because it offers a way to work toward financial goals.
Castanon said honesty helps in teaching.
“No one is perfect. It’s knowing what you should do and surrounding yourself with the tools and guidelines to be successful,” she said.
Lest someone thinks a squiggly cannot be successful, Castanon said that’s not true.
“I do not have a credit card in my wallet. I have my bills automatically taken out of my account. I had my phone turned off once, not because I didn’t have the money, but because I didn’t get around to paying the bill.”
When I told Castanon about my spending habits, she said I was a rectangle with some squiggly tendencies. While my husband and I pay the credit-card bill each month and earn rewards, I am not a true rectangle. There’s often a pile on top of the filing box waiting for me to get to it.
My vice sometimes is seeing a good, cheap deal. Lately, it’s been the closeout section at Marc’s discount store, where I can find things normally sold at Target for $15 to $20 or $30 and I get it for $1.99 to $3.99. I’ve gotten cute summer pumps, gym shoes for my son and beach towels. They are things we can use, but not necessarily what I had on a list to buy. But for less than $5, it’s not breaking my budget.
“Your squiggly tendencies do not overshadow your ability to get things paid and be organized,” Castanon told me. “With your rectangular tendencies, you are smart about it. You have a plan and you say, ‘I may impulsively buy this, but because it works for me, it’s not expensive. I can afford it and I’m going to use it.’ ”
In any relationship, it’s important to know your partner’s money personality. Castanon said her ex-husband was a rectangle and often, rectangles and squigglies attract as opposites. My husband is a rectangle with some squiggly tendencies since he loves to stock up things we use at the warehouse store, if it has a coupon.
“Ideally, you know your spouses money personality. Imagine you had two squigglies together or two circles together. The circle is a giver. That’s a conversation you have to have. If your partner has it in them that they are going to take care of their adult children and give them money, that affects you,” she said.
Here are more details about money personalities:
• Circle: You are the lovers, the givers, some might even say the suckers. You are there for people short on cash, or when some kid is collecting money for a soccer team. Or it could be your child is in financial distress and you are “helping them out.” There is nothing wrong with giving, but know your limits. And remember, if you are continually giving to another person financial support, ask yourself if you are really helping them or are you enabling the other person not to make better financial decisions for themselves?
• Squiggly line: You tend to be outgoing, typically unorganized, friendly and an impulsive shopper. You love a good deal! Going to stores can be dangerous. There are a million things you “must have” even though you didn’t need them. But there is hope. First, get rid of your debt and credit cards. Carry cash or have a preloaded debit card. Have a dollar amount allocated within a plan for groceries, entertainment, clothes, hobbies.
• Triangles: You have the ready, aim, fire personality of a risk taker. You love the chance of the big payoff. You might invest in the stock market or go to casinos. Focus on how much you can afford to lose, not how much you might win.
• Squares: This group intends to make a budget. There is a plan to start, with good intentions, but then something happens and you have to wait until next week (or month or year) to start again. Stop “budgeting” and start thinking of it as a financial plan. When you make mistakes, don’t give up. This is not all or nothing.
• Rectangles: This group seems to have it all together, keeping good records and setting financial goals with a plan. You are what most people aspire to be, but must keep focused and continue to adjust goals and prioritize expenses.