Because money and personality are two topics I love to mesh together.
Your Personality, Using the Big Five Personality Traits
Before we go on, we have to spend some time talking about personalities – what is its definition? In comes behavioural science.
The book Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being by Professor Brian R. Little gave me some great info about the categorisation of personalities, so I’m going to use that. There are many ways to test personality types, including the popular Myers-Briggs model, but Prof Little said the one I’m about to share is the most peer-approved one.
Note: It’s important to remember that for most people, it’s never as clear-cut as A or B (ie, introvert or extrovert). It’s more like a spectrum. Not only we can have qualities of both, we can adjust it to the situation as well.
The Big Five Personality Traits which can be used to explain the spectrum of our personalities are:
- Conscientiousness. How orderly, organised and careful you are.
- Agreeableness. How pleasant, cooperative and friendly you are.
- Neuroticism. Your sensitivity to negative cues in the environment.
- Openness to experience. Your receptiveness to new ideas, interactions and environments.
- Extraversion. How much/often you seek high levels of arousal.
Note that I’m summarising whole chapters, so some info is lost, but yeah roughly it’s like that. Read the book for in-depth explanation. I got it from BookXcess.
Now, do you want to take a short quiz to know where you stand in each of your Big Five personality traits?
Of course you do. Here it is – the higher you are on the scale, the more conscientious / agreeable / neurotic / open to experience / extrovert you are. These are clues to your personality, and not meant to be a diagnosis.
Ten-Item Personality Inventory (TIPI)
Write a number next to the statement to indicate the extent of which you agree or disagree with that statement. Use:
- 1 – Strongly disagree
- 2 – Disagree moderately
- 3 – Disagree a little
- 4 – Neither
- 5 – Agree a little
- 6 – Agree moderately
- 7 – Agree strongly
Statements – I see myself as:
- Extraverted, enthusiastic
- Critical, quarrelsome
- Dependable, self-disciplined
- Anxious, easily upset
- Open to new experiences, complex
- Reserved, quiet
- Sympathetic, warm
- Disorganised, careless
- Calm, emotionally stable
- Conventional, uncreative
I won’t include the scoring system here because it’s not super important, but even this snippet is insightful, so do it, it just takes a few minutes. Scribble the numbers in a notebook.
Did you score high in any particular trait? Are you right smack in the middle for some traits? It’s fun to find out before you move on to the next section. If any of you reading are psychology majors, I’d love to hear your input.
What Each Trait Means to Your Money Management Style
Ok, again, before we go on, a big, honking disclaimer. These are mostly conclusions I drew after reading this book. I’m also using my personal observations about money behaviour. But I think I managed to explain traits in relation to money management style in a way that makes sense. Tell me if it doesn’t.
- High points on dependable, self-disciplined
- Low points on disorganised, careless
I’d imagine the people who score high in conscientiousness find it easier to turn messy finances into something more organised. They know and track their bill cycles and expenses. They make notes and plans for their future investment. They have systems in place to keep track of financial records.
This describes me so well, actually.
In a couple, it’s probably a good idea to have at least one person who is conscientious by nature. If not your financial records will be all over the place.
- High points on sympathetic, warm
- Low points on critical, quarrelsome
If you score high on this trait, people tend to like you. Your natural personality is empathetic and supportive. It’s a highly desirable trait.
In terms of finances, this trait can be used to kinda sorta predict long-term success. In the short-term, people might like you, but they might also walk all over you (you struggle with being assertive). But in the long-term, people prefer you as business allies because they trust you.
But on the flip side, you might find it hard to refuse requests from people, maybe even financial requests. So don’t go signing loans on behalf of someone or something like that. Not good for you.
- High points on anxious, easily upset
- Low points on calm, emotionally stable
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but ‘those who score on the neurotic end of the dimension also score low on many different facets of positive functioning: they have lower subjective well-being, more negative than positive emotions, difficulties in marriage and interpersonal relations, less job satisfaction, and compromised physical health.’
If you consider yourself a neurotic individual, you might want prioritise things that can help you with costs associated to those problems, like insurance, contracts (including prenups) and emergency savings plan.
I would say a dash of neuroticism is healthy. Those are all good things to have in place anyway.
On Openness to experience
- High points on open to new experiences, complex
- Low points on conventional, uncreative
You like new things and experiences rather than routine, so it’s easy to see the financial link here: you’d spend more money in the process of trying them out. It does give you a lot of joy though, so you don’t mind it. Be careful though – some people like experiencing life too much that they don’t save up for their future.
- High points on extraverted, enthusiastic
- Low points on reserved, quiet
Instead of looking at extraversion from a human relations angle, look at it more from a working environment angle. People who score higher on this scale are energised by complex teams dynamics. On the flip side, introverts find energetic work environments overwhelming.
Neither is ‘better’ when it comes to money management style, I don’t think. It’s more of a reflection point on what kind of environment would suit you best and make you as productive as possible. Pick the right fit and you’ll likely thrive in your work (and earn more money).
What if you have personality traits that are ‘not good’ for money management?
All of the above personality traits have their own upsides and downsides. Even conscientiousness have a downside – people who plan well tend to struggle with creative processes, because you can’t plan what comes out of it. Improv is challenging for people like me, but that’s the thing that brings out out-of-the-box ideas, like new solutions to problems. We all know how profitable that can be.
But if it still worries you, I wouldn’t sweat it. Humans are fluid in character, we can and have adapted for thousands of years. The book pointed out the science behind ‘out-of-character’ behaviour, and it turns out that we do change our behaviour (despite not being your ‘core’ personality) when it’s the social norm, or if we do it for the sake of professionalism and love. That energetic lecturer could be an introvert who learned how to command a room to teach more effectively. That inheritance money might come from a late uncle who you thought hated your guts.
So there you go. You now know more or less where you lie on the conscientious / agreeable / neurotic / open to experience / extrovert scale. I hope by this point, you understand yourself a little bit better, so you can use your tool – money – a little bit better.
Did you score a particularly high or low point on any of the five personality traits? What do you notice about your money management style?
Check out another money and personality-type article: Why We Can’t Stop Spending Money