Divorce and Your Money Personality


T.H.: Welcome, everybody. I’m T.H., and Jessica, you know, of course. We are thrilled to have Mikelann Valterra, the Seattle Money Coach. We are talking from the East Coast all the way to the Northwest Coast here, coming to you on our podcast today. Look, all of our exEXPERTS are awesome. It’s like picking your children, but I will say that the way that she explains money to us is really, really concise and simple. It’s not over any of our heads. She doesn’t complicate it. So listen closely to what we have to say. Welcome to our show today.

Mikelann: Thank you so much. I adore your show. I love working with women somewhere in the divorce process, so this is going to be pretty juicy.

T.H.: Yeah, we’re really excited to start sharing some of the many tips you’ve already shared with us. We were going to really focus today’s call on money personalities, and how they predict how things are going to be when you’re married, how it grows and might change during your divorce, and certainly when you’re on your own, really identifying the type of personality you are and the right coping skills and support that you need. Let’s first start with what is the point of having money? And why is money important to you? 

Mikelann: So I love this question. I would just encourage people listening to answer for themselves, why have money? Because when I do seminars, it’s another way to say this, what’s the point of money? What’s the point? Why have it? Everybody has an answer. The point is: so I can retire, gifts for my children, or I can travel, or braces. I mean, there’s no right or wrong answer. But I mean, T.H., you know, there’s a million answers. But what’s interesting is when people talk about, for them, what’s important to me about money, and why have it, what that really gets to is what motivates you around money. A lot of times, and I’ll just give the two most common or big fat answers, if you will, money is important so that I can do what I want to do. Or maybe you sum up your answer and say, well, money’s important so I can feel secure, so I can feel okay, right? Those are two huge general answers, but most people identify a little bit more with one or the other: so I can do what I want to do, or so I can feel secure. And so those are those two buckets that we want to talk about a little bit here.

Jessica: I feel I can totally relate to being one of the people who wants to have money so that I can feel secure. I’ve always been a person who feels really strongly about owning my own home and feeling I have a place to plant my flag. That gives me a sense of being and feeling more settled. And T.H. knows I’m a huge cash person. I know nobody these days uses cash, but I feel like it helps me better keep track of ancillary spending. So for security minded women like myself, what would you say are their biggest fears?

Mikelann: Well, half of people are going to identify more with being security oriented, like you’re talking about. The other half are going to identify more as being more freedom oriented. So we play those off of each other a little bit. But you’re saying some of the biggest fears, particularly when we divorced, it’s am I going to have enough? Am I going to be okay? Am I going to have the roof over my head? Am I going to be able to stay in control of my own ship? A lot of women that identify the way you’re talking, Jessica, is they very much are, when they get divorced, they will cut every expense, even self care,  just so that they know no matter what, they’re okay. They got the roof over their head. They need to feel safe. Safety is like key, key, key, key. They really do identify with the word “secure”, right? I want to feel no matter what, that I’m safe and I’m secure. I think the three of us know, everybody’s going to a degree say, of course we all want to feel safe, right? But there are a lot of other personalities that are also going to really prioritize a little bit more freedom in there too. And so that’s where this goes a little bit different for different people.

T.H.: But do you think that people who want the freedom already have the security? Like, how can you have money for freedom if you don’t already have security?

Jessica: I feel it’s how people prioritize things. Like, I feel like Daren spends all of his money on travel and fitness and experiences. He rents an apartment, doesn’t own a home, that’s not a priority for him. I don’t go on the kinds of trips and vacations and do things that he does. He’s away all the time. So I don’t know, but I mean, I don’t feel it necessarily means that they have that security. I think it’s they are prioritizing differently in their lives.

T.H.: Well, I also will spend my money on trips. Actually, I’m planning a trip with my boyfriend and all of our kids for March to go skiing, which is not inexpensive. But I’m already thinking like, I have my savings, I know how much this will cost, and I will happily spend that money for that experience. Like, I will. But in my day to day, I will certainly forego things which aren’t going to add up to the cost of that trip. If I didn’t have the security of that money, I could not possibly even think of going on a ski trip and splitting that 50/50. So that’s why I was asking. Like, for security, yes, we built a home together that we share 50/50. We contribute to the expenses 50/50. Now I know that my security – or roof, food, health is taken care of, I can then plan a trip like that. I think that if I was concerned that I wasn’t able to pay for the roof, shelter, and food, then–I don’t even know what to say.

Mikelann: No, I’m with you. Yeah, yeah, I’m with you. So let me do this for a minute, let’s talk about the extremes just to help listeners understand it. Because most of us are fairly balanced, we have a little bit of freedom, and we have a little bit of security. People that are extremely freedom oriented around money, they will say that the point of money is to do what I want when I want. The point is to be autonomous, and they will literally–I mean, we’re talking about the edges here, right, they will literally trade security. They will trade anything so that they can basically be completely free, right? They tend to be very generous personalities, but very much on their own terms. If you think about the world of work, a lot of very intense freedom oriented personalities, they’re the ones that are very much can be self-employed. They hate the nine to five punch the clock, and they don’t want anyone to be in charge of their time or in charge of their schedule. I mean, it’s a big deal – freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom, right? If you go the other extreme, and again, most people aren’t at the extremes, but I think it helps to understand how you are at just the edges just for a second, if you go to the other extreme and you say okay, well the point of money is to be secure. And so if you get to that extreme security personality, the point of money is I don’t want to take any risk. They tend to be very risk adverse personalities. They tend to not be the self-employed personalities. They tend to be super focused. They’re the ones that are really like, yeah, who doesn’t love budgeting, who doesn’t love tracking their money, right?

T.H.: Every penny.

Mikelann: And it’s all about a stable roof over my head. They’re not the personality types that are enjoying the speculative stock game. They invest in sure things and they avoid risks.

T.H.: Save.

Mikelann: I mean, these are obviously two edges, but I think that the piece that is also interesting, and neither wrong, right? Like you said, we all have freedom, we all have security. Most of us are a little bit more oriented towards–I really feel, for me, I am a security oriented person versus a freedom. But half of all marriages are made up of these two types coming together. People call it the spender versus the saver, which that’s a little simplistic, but two people that have different motivations. The freedom oriented person tends to be really attracted to the security oriented person, and vice versa, right? So it’s a really common attraction pattern.

Jessica: So let’s pull that into all of the divorce stuff, because that’s what we’re here to help people with.

Mikelann: Yeah.

Jessica: Is one of the first steps to self-identify what type of a person you are? And how does that help you when it comes to figuring out your financial situation in divorce?

Mikelann: So here’s why. One is it is just interesting and sometimes it helps when women reflect like, oh my God, that’s why me and my ex are not in the same place around money. It’s just another framework, like, oh, no wonder we are fighting. I didn’t think about it that way. But he’s like uber freedom oriented, and I’m totally security oriented. It’s a way of looking at the conflict sometimes. But I think that the other reason why this is such an important topic is when women get divorced, you lose the weight of the other person, right? Because, again, there’s no right or wrong on your personality, but we naturally balance out against each other. We operate almost as a natural break in our personalities when you’re in partnership. Well, when you get divorced, your core personality gets bigger. There’s no one sitting on top of it anymore.

T.H.: Right, no one challenging you.

Mikelann: Nobody challenging. So if you’re a security minded woman and you get divorced, you’re all in. You go big time. There’s good and bad in going all in, but it becomes much more extreme. The freedom oriented person is like, oh, heck, yeah, nobody’s telling me what to do, right? Then that goes extreme. And so it really helps to, it’s like Socrates, know thyself.

Jessica: Is this the money personality that you talk of, that you speak of?

T.H.: That you speak of?

Jessica: That’s right.

Mikelann: That I speak of!

Jessica: Tell us about this money personality that you speak of!

Mikelann: Young padawan, it is the one I speak of! Yes.

Jessica: Can you elaborate more on that, in general, the whole philosophy of money personalities?

T.H.: And men versus women, as far as that’s concerned, in general terms, obviously.

Mikelann: There’s lots out there on the internet about money personalities, and there’s lots of ways to get into it. I tend to go at it from what motivates you around money. So your core personality traits around money tend to be like, we’re talking about freedom versus security. But you can also be very highly motivated by love. It’s like the martyr personality around money and tends to just give their money away to other people. Or you can also be highly motivated by power, like the point of money is to take my vision and move it forth in the world. That could be like Mother Teresa in a non-profit, or it could be alpha dude as a CEO. But our money personalities tend to come from how we were raised. They tend to come from childhood. We all have obviously really complex personalities. You guys know that even people in the same family can be very different. But our core is around who we are. When we trace money personalities, chances are, Jessica, if you look at back to when you’re nine year old little girl, you’re going to see some of the same traits. You were probably always oriented that way around. There are lots of things we could talk about instead of literally the word security and safety. I mean, there’s a groundedness in that type of personality, and there’s just a lot of personality traits that come from way, way back. Then as we grow, it is part of what’s called our money mindset. We have a lot of experiences that either continue with our personality, or we can have a huge thing that happens and can shift our personality. The thing with the men versus women, men have the same makeup. Men are just as likely to be, and we’ll just use that old fashioned terminology “spender versus saver”. It’s interesting that women are seen as spenders more than men. That’s not true. That is not true. The reason that that stereotype came out was because as you look at all the history, women were in charge of the household consumer spending, right? So somehow we end up with this moniker as being spenders. We’re no more likely to be a spender personality, which isn’t even a bad thing anyways, than men. What’s interesting though is that opposites tend to come together. Let’s pretend I’m 25 and I’m a real freedom oriented young woman. I meet a young man, and I’m like, oh, he’s so grounded, and he knows where he’s going, and he just feels stable.

Jessica: Right. That stability is very attractive to someone.

Mikelann: It’s super attractive, until you get married, and then there’s a lot of fireworks around money.

Jessica: You can’t make a purchase without him overanalyzing it a thousand times.

Mikelann: Bingo! And then that’s why the whole divorce process exacerbates it, because money personalities find ways to be at peace when they’re married. I mean, we could get into that. But I mean, you guys are more talking about, guess what, we’re divorced.

Jessica: Well, right.

Mikelann: And that’s when all the stuff comes up so big. Because here we are trying to talk about money in a divorce when we have found a way to sort of play nicely together, even if we have different personalities during our marriage.

T.H.: Well, I’ll talk about my circumstance. Okay, so in my circumstance, I paid all the bills, because he didn’t want to be bothered with it. Not that he was worried about what the money was being spent on, he just didn’t want to deal with it. Then all of a sudden, of course, it all makes sense now why he was going to help me by relieving me of that responsibility, because obviously, he was having an affair. I’m not saying everybody who’s helping their spouse with financial stuff is having an affair, just putting it out there. But in my case, that was it. So I had access to everything. We were savers, but we did go on great trips. We actually did balance each other out, but the controlling is something that I want to talk about right now, during the marriage. Because there are a lot of people in marriages right now that are afraid to leave because of an overpowering personality from the spouse, generally the man, but it could be the woman. Their own credit cards, their own money, you don’t need to see it, and that one person in the relationship controlling the money. And so how does that even fall into personalities? And where do you stop and you’re like, wait a second, this isn’t just a personality clash. This is a problem. How do you identify that?

Mikelann: Well, so originally when you’re talking about your ex husband, I would have called him a “money avoider” – people that don’t want to deal with the money, abdicate responsibility, or maybe everyone is very happily married, but one person just is not wanting to deal. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, right? But you’re getting into money is power, and then money as power over. Again, one of the four motivations around money is money as power. Its shadow side is control. The positive side is, hey, money as power means that I can take my vision and bring it forth in the world. Money as power gets a bad rap. I’ll just say this real quick. If Mother Teresa took a money personality quiz, she would literally score off the charts as money as power. Money as power gets a bad rap, because we need that power to create our vision in the world.

T.H.: Which is what we’re doing with exEXPERTS.

Mikelann: Totally.

T.H.: I mean we’ve invested in ourselves and this mission–

Mikelann: Exactly. Exactly.

T.H.: –to create a positive platform. But when you’re in a marriage, I also remember even though I paid the bills, I had to ask permission for every penny I spent. By the way, I worked.

Mikelann: Yeah.

T.H.: And I contributed.

Mikelann: Yeah, you guys are playing with both sides of the coin of money as power. Because money as power is needed to do what you guys are doing and bringing this amazing vision into the world and it takes a lot of money and a lot of resources. The shadow side is when you use money to control and when you take someone else’s voice away. And so when women are in relationships with men that don’t give them any say, it depends, money as power often will pair with someone who is either money as an avoider or money as love. And so they tend to shrink from that, right? It can work until it doesn’t work. Until it doesn’t work. Because again, for some people, it can be the beginning of an attraction pattern, and then you get this dark side where you don’t have any voice. The moment you’re voiceless is the dark side.

Jessica: If someone is getting divorced and they realize consciously that they and their soon-to-be ex-spouse have vastly different money personalities, would you say that as they start on a new path and are looking for a new relationship, that it’s important to be finding someone who has the same or similar money personality to them? Or no, because like what you were saying before, it does make sense that someone who’s a little bit more free would feel grounded by someone who’s more conservative with their spending?

Mikelann: This is such an interesting question, Jessica. This is such an interesting question. It’s not sexy to partner up with your clone, right? It’s not necessarily a great pattern to re-partner with someone who’s exactly like you. But I think that the key and why this whole discussion is so interesting for people is a lot of us got married really young when nobody was talking about this. It’s kind of a new subject in general, right? We’re all just doing the best that we can. But if you’re going to re-partner in, dare I say midlife, the beautiful thing about it is you want to know who you are, and you want to partner up with a new partner who knows who he is or who she is. There’s nothing wrong with any of them. But if can’t talk about money with someone who’s a potential new partner, huge flag. If they’re not willing to talk about how they feel about it, what’s worked in the past, what hasn’t – I mean, we all have crazy money stories. Nobody has a perfect money story. It’s a rip roaring, good tale to read, if we were to write our money story, but you want to be able to talk about it with somebody. That’s a key of someone who’s open.

T.H.: Right.

Jessica: So tell us about this philosophy of yours, the “elegant simplicity”.

Jessica: “Elegant simplicity” – so one of the things that I love about–it sounds funny to say women who get divorced – I love it, is you’ve got this bright, shiny, fresh, clean slate around money. Because by the time women get divorced, it’s usually just feels like it’s a freaking mess, right? It’s stressful and it’s this and it’s that, right? So now that I’m divorced and I’m on the other side, you get to do money the way you want to do money. There’s no wrong money personality at all. You get to do what you want to do. One of my top recommendations is to set money up as simply, cleanly, and elegantly as you can. And so one of the things that happens, without necessarily meaning to, people start setting up massive accounts and credit cards and a credit card for this and a checking account for that. It’s really hard to keep your head straight around money when you’ve got six different accounts. This is the perfect time now that you’re freshly divorced, to say, okay, fresh, clean slate. I’m an open up one checking account, one savings account, and one credit card at the same bank. Because the more accounts you have, the more money fog you’re in. Money fog, money fog, right? When you look at people that feel really good about money, that feel really peaceful around money, they have far fewer accounts than people that feel very stressed about money.

Jessica: No, what I was going to say is, I mean, that makes perfect sense, and I feel I’m a person who likes to streamline things and know where it all is. We’ve had a number of conversations with financial experts though, and we’ve spoken a lot about the importance of credit and your credit score. You’re saying get one credit card, but I feel some of the messages that we’ve gotten have been you should have at least two credit cards or more just to be able to get a good credit score.

Mikelann: Well, I’m not opposed to two credit cards. You could even technically push it to three. But post more than three cards? No. No. Here’s the other thing that I would sometimes push back with some experts, there is what works in the realm of FICO scores and credit and things that are absolutely totally legit and logical, and what works with your personality. There are some people that are a little bit on the spender side, or they’re a little bit on the ADD side. They’re a little bit on that “this is a lot to handle” side, and I get it. So to recommend that you go set up three credit cards and this and that, just because that might be the perfect thing in the realm of FICO scores, doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing for them as individuals. Because if you’ve got a history around debt or spending, and credit card debt in particular, and then you go recommend that someone gets three new credit cards…

Jessica: Yeah, not great.

Mikelann: That’s a setup for pain. We just have to look at the emotional side of that as well as some of the advice. Because they’re not incorrect on the advice, but it’s not one size fits all.

T.H.: I think what Mikelann just said, honestly, is something everybody needs to stop and rewind and listen to again. Divorce is overwhelming. It’s a process. But you’ve got a team. Then when you sign the deal and you have the first day of the rest of your life, guess what, it’s all up to you. When it comes to money and budgeting, which is overwhelming for anybody, it’s certainly overwhelming for a stay at home mom who’s never managed the money, or a stay at home mom who has managed the money, or a working mom who also helps manage the money. So no matter where you are–or a non-mom just dealing with money, because now it’s all on you, just knowing that you don’t have someone else to lean on, or blame, or push things off on, this is your show now. I think really keeping it simple is smart. I am definitely a victim and a recovering multi-credit card spender person. I like shiny things. I like 20% off when I sign up. I like points. I like freebies. I love it all. My tip is I literally unsubscribe to every single email for every single credit card I have, because I forget if they don’t remind me. So that’s fine. I don’t need to know about the sale every week. I don’t need to know that I have $10 I can save, and then I go spend $150.

Jessica: Right. It sucks you in.

T.H.: I don’t need to refer friends so I can get a free flower. And so what I ended up doing was, I do buy a lot of stuff on Amazon, and I do order my groceries through Whole Foods through Amazon, so I have an Amazon card where I get cashback, and that’s where I can keep track. I wish Amazon told me exactly what I spend on my statement, but they don’t. It still gets a little overwhelming. But that one I do, and I do also have a travel card, and I do have an Amex. So those are my three. Because Amex has no spending limit, so if I’m in a situation, that’s my excuse. But you’ve got to pay that in full. Just understand the credit card that you’re pursuing.

Mikelann: Yeah, I love your honesty on that. Amazon’s interesting because particularly with the pandemic, we all are shopping a ton on Amazon. And so I know that for my clients and myself, when we’re downloading and tracking money, we have the Amazon tab up on the computer so that we can see the order history, because it’s the only way you can see or track– 

T.H.: What you’re actually buying.

Mikelann: –what you buy.

Jessica: That’s weird that the statement wouldn’t list out.

T.H.: It just says “Amazon” and the amount.

Mikelann: Yeah, but the order history on the tab will. And so as soon as you open it up, you see it all. But yeah, you’re right. The other thing to say, and just to go into a little bit of a credit card theory, these cards, in my opinion, want you to stay and beg. This is a multi billion dollar industry. People think they’re somehow going to win the credit card game, that they’re somehow going to game the credit card billion dollar industry. They have our number down. You just totally listed out a lot of their favorite ways to get you to spend money.

T.H.: I’m well aware.

Mikelann: Yeah, so part of it is, if you’re freshly divorced, it’s a great way to go I’m going to take some control back. I’m going to look for some of that elegant simplicity. There’s enough going on in a post divorce situation that you’re trying to track. To give yourself the gift of not having to look in six different places around money is a big gift to give to yourself, regardless of what your money personality is.

T.H.: But it’s not even six places, it’s getting six bills. I mean, oh, crap.

Mikelann: Bingo.

T.H.: I forgot about that one. My kids had a card, and I’m like, what are you spending? You’re still spending. Well, I didn’t have whatever. I’m like, I need the card. I got to cut it up. I got to cut up the card. Then my daughter had to learn the hard way. She got her own credit card, and she had to pay it off. I’m like, that’s too bad. This is the only way you’re going to learn is learning interest rates and late fees. Like, don’t be late, even if you pay the minimum.

Jessica: But this is the same for people who are freshly divorced who really never managed their own credit cards. It’s the same thing. Not everyone knows what is the APR? What does that mean? Whether it’s 11% or 24%, do I care? People have to understand all of the specifics and read the fine print to know that if they aren’t paying their bills off in full on a credit card, where you maybe don’t have to, like what’s the annualized percentage rate that you’re then paying on the rest of those purchases?  

Mikelann: Which is why I would say it’s not wrong to start off with one card. You can add two cards, you can add three cards, but I wouldn’t go over that. But this is why one of the things I love doing with women is helping them create that monthly and annual spending plan. Credit cards are just tools. They’re just tools. The real question is, how much are you spending? And how do you know what you can afford and not be stressed out now that you’re in your new life and everything’s changed?

Jessica: How does that annual plan help people emotionally when they’re fresh out of a divorce?

Mikelann:  It’s huge emotionally. The top number one thing is stress, stress reduction. To do an annual plan helps you see, oh, I can spend on X and Y guilt free. People, their stress goes down, and their anxiety goes down. I mean part of it’s definitely practical. You can see what you can and can’t do. But post divorce, you’re really redesigning your lifestyle. You want to be happier than you’ve ever, ever been. As traumatic as divorce is, you want a way to start crafting your next chapter. But part of the stress around money is it’s just very stressful to not see where the money’s going, and how much do I need? I think that the practical piece is also looking at how much do I need? And ideally, some of that’s been worked through in the divorce process, but not always. Sometimes people still need to see what they need to bring in.

Jessica: Right. Well, this has been a very informative conversation, Mikelann, and a lot of great tips and suggestions that we really hope everyone gets a lot of value out of. We always say that the money side of divorce is definitely one of the most scary parts and an area that causes a lot of fear in people. At the end of the day, it’s really about getting a handle on your own finances and understanding what you need to do and what you need to know so you can keep track of it and not create additional stress for yourself on a regular basis. So it’s a really important topic.

T.H.: And one other thing, you are all, whoever’s listening to this, capable of doing this.

Jessica: Yeah.

T.H.: You may not have handled it in your marriage, it may not have been your responsibility, or you may know nothing, but you are more than capable of learning and taking control. Whatever messages there are in your head that you can’t, it’s not for me, or I’ll let someone else handle it – this is your life. This is your show. Run it your way and take the time to learn, because that’s the only way you’re going to be able to the rest of your life, honestly.

Mikelann: It is amazing. Learning how to plan your spending, it is like you said, it’s about taking control of your life. It’s about creating the life you most want to live. It’s about letting go of stress. I mean, it is so powerful. I think the number one thing I hear when people call me is, well, there’s a lot of fear, but they don’t like not feeling in control.

Jessica:  Right. 

Mikelann: We all want to feel in control of lives.

T.H.: So is there one thing that you wish you knew? You are divorced yourself. Will you share with everyone the one thing that you wish you knew when you were going through your divorce, as far as it was related to money?

Mikelann: The one thing that I wish that I knew is I probably would have brought in a Certified Divorce Analyst and Planner sooner, sooner than I did. I think being a money coach, I thought, oh, I can do it all myself, because I do obviously a lot of money stuff for a living. I wish I would have brought in a bigger support team sooner, and I wish that I would have started working with a psychotherapist about six months before I actually started with a psychotherapist.

Jessica: Fair enough.

T.H.: Great.

Mikelann: There we go. That’s okay, I got there.

T.H.: Listen, that’s what helps other people, is sharing. That’s what Jessica and I do all the time. We know what we wish we knew, so that’s what we’re sharing through exEXPERTS. Thank you so much, Mikelann, for joining us today. Any questions you guys have about this podcast, email us at, and we will answer your questions.

Mikelann: Thank you so much. And if they want me, just go to Seattle Money Coach, and everything is right there, including their free ebook on how to stop stressing about money.

T.H.: We’ll have all your information on your page on the website, as well as a link to this podcast and the article.

Jessica: Thanks everyone.

T.H.: Bye.

Mikelann: Bye from Seattle.

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