Updated: Mar 14, 2024

How to Understand Your Relationship with Money

Believe it or not, we all have deeply emotional relationships with money. Here‘s how to learn about yours - and how to use it to maximize your financial health.
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We all know that money is a highly emotional subject.

Arguments over money are the #1 cause of divorce.

Money anxiety can affect your health.

Money faux pas can negatively impact relationships with friends and family.

Beyond tracking your finances and creating a plan to build wealth, you can also benefit greatly from understanding your emotional relationship with money. Core money beliefs lurk in all of our subconscious and they comprise the values that influence our daily decisions.

As clear cut and simple as the math behind money may seem, we can't escape the fact that we all have a personal, emotional relationship with money. And that relationship influences aspects of our personal lives we may not realize at first: from the health of our love to the stability of our home, to which career and school choices we make, to how we raise our children.

Our personal relationship with money influences are decisions small and large:

Do we buy the bigger home even though we don't "need" it?
Cut the latte to pay off student loan debt?
Forgo hanging out with the friend who constantly talks about the last big sale they made at work?

When it comes to our relationships with money, we have a choice. We can either turn a blind eye to its importance (or believe that it's not important) or we can take a deeper look to learn how to use our relationship with money to our advantage. But first, we need to talk about the four most common money mentalities so you can see where you stand.

What Influences Your Personal Relationship with Money?

Just like an individual's personality, the formation of a person's ideas about money begin in childhood. These ideas are influenced by a variety of factors, but primarily come from our parents or primary caregivers' relationships with money.

Money mentalities and behaviors can also be influenced by life altering circumstances, such as job loss or a shopping addiction that leads to debt.

And of course, your personality influences your relationship with money. This is true of everyone. Worrier or carefree, outgoing or shy, wealthy or not, our personality affects the way we all deal with and think about money.

In 2011, The Journal of Financial Therapy published a paper on money beliefs and financial behaviors. From a sample of 422 respondents, four money therapists used a random sample to zero in on the four primary attitudes people take toward money.

The Four Main Money Mentalities

In general, there are four main money mentalities:

  1. Anxious Money Mentality
  2. Avoidant Money Mentality
  3. Abundance Money Mentality
  4. Worship Money Mentality

Each of these mentalities bring their own specific set of traits, mantras, pros, and cons. Here we'll discuss the details so you can see which one sounds the most like you - and how you can make this money relationship work for you.

Anxious Money Mentality

Those with an anxious money mentality are the uber frugal, money hoarders, and penny pinchers of the world. They're always concerned with money – no matter how much or little they have. An anxious money relationship comes from a scarcity mentality, either learned from others or from personal experiences in the past.

Signs you have this money relationship:

  • Always thinking about money
  • Couponing and bargain hunting even when it isn't necessary
  • Constant complaints about money woes (whether real or perceived)

Common money mantras:

  • "It's extravagant to spend money on yourself"
  • "Always save for a rainy day"
  • "Always look for the best deal, even if it takes more time"


  • Always have a little something in the bank, perfect for when emergencies strike
  • Building savvy skills when it comes to finding deals and negotiating


  • Those with anxious money relationships often avoid risking their money, even when it could be good for long-term growth.

How to Make This Relationship Work for You:

Build in rewards for when you achieve your financial goals. Learn how to splurge guilt-free so you can lessen your financial anxiety. Also, place financial constructs that can provide security in the event of unforeseeable circumstances, such as insurance and estate planning.

Avoidant Money Mentality

Just like avoidant attachment types dodge deep commitment in relationships, those with an avoidant money mentality typically evade making financial decisions and avoid confronting their financial problems.

Signs you have this money relationship:

  • Not paying bills on time
  • Ignoring statements and other financial documents
  • Little to no emergency fund or retirement savings
  • Constantly receiving late payment and overdraft fees

Common money mantras:

  • "People shouldn't care about money"
  • "I'm just not good with my finances"
  • "I'll think about that tomorrow"


  • Those who avoid dealing with their finances often do so because money isn't high on the priority list
  • Not being materialistic is a good thing - there is more to life than the endless pursuit of wealth


  • Eventually, your lack of financial planning will catch up with you.

How to Make This Relationship Work for You:

You don't have to become a money wiz to get your financial act together. If you're just not interested, consider outsourcing to an accountant, financial planner, or money coach who can help. Make money management easy on yourself by automating everything from bill pay to savings transfers.

Abundance Money Mentality

You've likely been classified as a "spender" your whole life. Those with money abundant attitudes tend to be the gamblers and risk takers of the world. Sometimes to "win big" you have to "risk big", and abundant types believe any money spent will eventually come back to them.

Signs you have this money relationship:

  • Living without a strict budget (or any budget at all)
  • Love of gambling
  • Making impulsive money decisions
  • Habits of always spending money and
  • Frequent shopping

Common Money Mantras:

  • "It's just money"
  • "I'm spending because I'm making an investment"
  • "You can't take it with you"


  • With a high tolerance for risk, folks with an abundant money mentality search for ways to grow income rather than hoard and penny pinch


  • Make too many big gambles and you could lose a lot of money
  • Being of a money abundant mentality could mean you're not as savings focused as you should be

How to Make This Relationship Work for You:

You're not afraid to take big leaps, which could mean serious earnings for you in the future. Just be sure to combat risk with a healthy dose of due diligence on any future investments, business ventures, or big purchases.

Worship Money Mentality

This money relationship is just what it sounds like and it's very common in America.

Signs you may have a money worship relationship:

  • Correlating net worth with self worth
  • Being competitive and envious of others' financial success
  • Love of brand name everything

Common Money Mantras:

  • "All of my problems would be solved if I had more money"
  • "I only spend money on the best"
  • "I only buy new"


  • If you value money, you likely know you have to put in the work to get more of it
  • Many hustlers of the world have a money worship mentality


  • It can be very easy to develop a life of living above your means if you have this money mentality
  • Many may rely on credit cards to chase those status symbols

How to Make This Relationship Work for You:

Get clear on your values: which aspects of your aspirations truly resonate with you and which can you leave behind? Also, realize that if you're in debt, you're not wealthy. Create goals for your finances and combine those goals with thoughtful plans. Then you can healthfully and sustainably turn your dreams of status into a reality.


Our relationships with money are as complex as we are. Despite the emotional nature of money, it's important to push past the discomfort we may feel in talking or thinking about money.

If we can push past the discomfort, we can fully examine our thoughts and habits so we can learn, grow, and improve our lives, financial and otherwise.