Divorce and Identifying Your Money Personality


Dare I say there is a silver lining to divorce? Well, there is.  You get a fresh start in so many ways. And your relationship with money is one of these “fresh start opportunities”.

Money is the ultimate tool for designing a new life you love. However, we often act in ways that can sabotage the very life we want to create. Why? Because we are not in touch with our money personality. And if you don’t know yourself, and what motivates you, you will unconsciously make decisions that may not be for your highest good. When you understand your own “money personality”, your new financial life after divorce will be so much easier! I joined Jessica and T.H. on the Divorce etc… podcast to talk all about the different money personalities and how to identify your own.

So, what is YOUR money personality? Let’s find out. For starters:

Why do YOU want money?

Whenever I teach a seminar on money, invariably I ask the audience, “What is the point of having money?” Answers start flying and I throw them on a whiteboard. “Retirement, vacations, money for my kid’s college, pay my mortgage, to have fun, to not be stressed about money, charitable giving, to pay the bills, new car….”

From the specific to the general, there are as many answers as there are people. 

How would you answer the question—

What is the point of having money?

Or another way:

Why is money important to you

Most responses boil down to one of two answers:

  • Money is important so I can do what I want to do.


  • Money is important so I can feel secure.

If you could only pick one answer, which would it be? Which answer draws you more? Yes, we all want to pick both answers, but which one has a bit more truth for you? 

After you make yourself pick one, then read on.

Your choice reflects your “core money drive”, or your core motivation when it comes to money.  And this is part of what makes up your money personality. (Special credit to Victoria Collins who first introduced this concept to me many years ago.)

It all comes down to this: for most of us, the point of money is either freedom or security. 

So, if you feel that the point of money is being able to do what you want to do, and it’s about wanting to feel autonomous and free and independent, you are motivated by freedom. I call this the Liberty personality. 

If it’s all about being and feeling safe and protected, then you are motivated by security. I call this the Safe-Harbor personality.

The Liberty Personality

If what motivates you is freedom, you want money so you can feel…free! You crave feeling independent, and you would likely trade many things in life for the ability to feel free and be free. For you, having money means never being under someone else’s control, and being able to do what you want to do.

The downside can be that Liberty personalities often don’t like managing money, and sometimes can get in trouble with debt. They may enjoy having it to spend and do what they want, but they don’t always take the time to manage it. They sometimes tell themselves that money details are too “tedious” to deal with. (Sometimes their answer is “I’ll make so much money that it will all be fine. Then I don’t need to manage it.”) 

Liberty personalities are generally generous people, who love enjoying life. They love travel and adventure. And they tend to gravitate towards self-employment or contract work so they can set their own schedules.  

In divorce, the Liberty personality often considers starting their/her own business, not wanting to punch someone else’s time clock. 

The Safe Harbor Personality

If what motivates you is security, you want money so you can feel…secure! You think of money as the means to feel protected and safe. A stable home – and all kinds of “safe harbors”—are very important to you. Your friends likely see you as a grounded person. It’s also likely that you enjoy managing your money since it gives you peace of mind to see it and know it is taken care of.

Safe Harbor personalities see money as a means of protection and defense against life’s hazards, and this gives them great peace of mind. Money is a shield against danger, like a harbor that shelters us from a storm, as well as from large expenses like leaky roofs that threaten your peace of mind. Knowing that the future is taken care of is huge. 

Safe Harbor money personalities are grounded, looking out for both themselves and those around them.

It’s highly possible they prefer a steady schedule and a steady paycheck. However, asking for raises can be stressful, so sometimes Safe Harbor personalities opt to say nothing. And Safe Harbor personalities do not relish a lot of risk-taking, so they may not be properly invested in their retirement funds. Additionally, sometimes they don’t spend quite enough money on their own self-care, opting to scrimp and save instead.

Let’s be clear. Both personalities are good. It is only when we are extreme versions of a personality type that we go out of balance.

For example, at the extreme, a Liberty personality may only live for today, and potentially run up credit card debt to enjoy life in the moment. And on the extreme other end, a Safe Harbor personality won’t spend enough on themselves, and instead puts everything into saving, not enjoying life enough.

Most of us have both personalities within us. But we naturally gravitate towards one. It is important to know which one you’re drawn to.

After we divorce…

Many marriages are made up of “opposites attract”. So, there is a good chance that you were married to your opposite. 

If you are a Liberty personality, you may have been more of a “spender” than your spouse. And it’s quite possible you just divorced someone who is very security oriented and they could never save enough! You may even have called them a scrooge at some point. However, Liberty personalities are very attracted to a Safe Harbor type in the earlier part of their relationship.

And if you identify as a Safe Harbor personality, you may have just divorced someone you called (at times) a “freewheeler”. They may have been more interested in doing things spontaneously and may not have valued saving money as much as you do. But initially, Safe Harbor personalities are very drawn to Liberty personalities. In the beginning, it is very exciting.

However, during a relationship, these opposites find a way to live with each other, by cooperating and compromising. In some marriages, these types harmonize nicely, balancing each other out. Although having different money personalities can be at the heart of some marital conflict.

However, once we are single, we no longer have this opposing force in our life. Living on our own again, we once again move back into our core personality, and there is no one to balance us. Freshly divorced, we can do as we please with our money. And so, we need to be more conscious of our choices and motivations.

Blind Spots to Be Aware Of

Here are potential blind spots to be aware of. 

The Safe Harbor personality can sometimes take savings too far in a divorce. The fear of not having as much money as before triggers all their security alarm bells, so they can contract and become super savers. They save, save, save, and feel they have no money for any fun or any self-care. So, now that you are single, are you actually spending enough? Or are you withholding money from your own self-care?  

And a Liberty personality can sometimes overspend in the wake of a divorce since there is no “brake” on them. In fearing a loss of freedom with potentially less money, a Liberty personality often overspends post-divorce to prove to themselves they are free. This is not necessarily conscious, but their freedom triggers are often ringing, due to a potential reduction in income from a divorce.

Divorce commonly provokes this fear of deprivation in almost everyone by the way. Often in divorce, there is a fear there will be less money, at least for a while. Safe Harbors deal with it by saving, almost to the point of hurting themselves. And Liberty types can hurt themselves by overspending to prove to themselves all is still okay in their world. 

Neither way is better than the other. And in fact, we are all both spenders and savers — we all want liberty in the here and now. And we all want a safe harbor. But in the wake of divorce, our natural money personality becomes even stronger and can threaten to run the show, sometimes to our detriment. 

The key is understanding yourself and knowing why you do what you do with money. As Socrates said, “know thy self”.  The more self-aware you are, the happier and more successful with money you will be.

Just know that no matter which type you are, if you’re self-aware enough, you can achieve a healthy relationship with money and craft nourishing spending plans for your new life – a life full of freedom AND security.

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