How do we, as Christians, bring the concepts of faith and money into harmony? And do we need to? For me the answer is yes. Absolutely. Let me share how I created more comfort for myself regarding money. Because most of us struggle with these issues, I developed a series of questions to examine how we relate to practical, emotional, and faith aspects of money. Some of us struggle with all three.
I ask, “Am I saving enough, or not at all? Do I spend too much, or am I stingy? Do I think about money all of the time, or hardly ever? Do I feel that I never have enough money, or am I comfortable with what I have? In making decisions, is money a core concern—or do I blank out on financial implications? Do I give graciously and responsibly to my church, or am I more generous than I can afford to be?”
Five Money Types
As the wife of a minister for 38 years, and in my professional life as the creator of a financial counseling service, I am aware of the many money issues that people face. And to address these issues, I use the five “money types” described in this article. Though most people do not fit nearly into any one category, the same five money types hold true for all of my clients—including ministers. Though all leave our counseling sessions and workshops with a better understanding of how money can affect lives and relationships, it is the many ministers that are “money mindless” who leave knowing that they need to work at becoming better financial stewards.
Like so many traits, money type develops early in life. We learn from families and caregivers to be comfortable with or to have fears related to money. We learn to save or spend, to be generous or tightwads, to plan—or to ignore money and the decisions it requires. And we copy or reject the models we saw as children. Surprisingly, a person’s money type is not linked to whether they grow up well-off or are financially comfortable now. The early response to models is key.
These are the characteristics that I use to identify money type:
Mindless: The money mindless avoid thinking about money. They don’t know where their money goes, are overly generous, and may not save or pay bills on time—all because money is fear-based or painful for them to think about. They may have grown up with financially irresponsible parents or in homes that experienced trauma due to illness, job loss, addiction, or a death in the family.
Entitle. The entitled (or deserving) grew up believing that they deserve to be taken care of. As a result, they can be overly generous, spend too much, save too little, and may be careless about money management. Growing up they often received “things” rather than love and attention, and as adults they consume, hoping to fill the emptiness in their lives. They also feel shame for overspending.
Balanced. In my experience, money is a non-issue for very few people. But balanced money types are the ones we might wish to emulate. They pay bills on time, save adequately, and are reasonably generous. Money is not a central focus of their lives. They grown up with positive models who did not use money to manipulate them, and lived in comfortable homes where bills were paid on time, with parents and caregivers who both lived within their means and were able to save.
Worriers. For worriers every decision begins with money. They wonder whether they have enough money, if they can afford anything—and what will happen “if.” They are cautiously generous, can be stingy, and save, save, save. Spending is not fun. Like the mindless, these people grew up with money trauma but it adapted differently. Worriers have usually experienced real or perceived deprivation, which explains why many people who lived through the Depression era fall into this group.
Obsessed. The obsessed are the ones who die with a million dollars under their mattresses. Their worries are extreme, and because they are always prepared for the worst they seldom have fun. They pay in cash, live meagerly, and are not generous because they believe they have too little to share. Holding on to money rules their lives.
Most people fall into more than one money type, but their primary type is the one that best describes their money personality. It is not helpful to characterize any type as good or bad, but it is important to know your money type because it helps explain both why you deal with money the way you do and how you relate to others—especially in relationships with people who are other types. It can also help you to correct course if your financial situation needs adjustment.
In my work I have met many ministers who are money mindless. They assume that the church will take care of them (or be mindful of money for them) while they take care of their congregations’ spiritual needs. But this attitude can leave ministers and their families vulnerable when their financial needs are unmet or poorly managed—and being money mindless can spill over to oversight of church budgets or staff with fiduciary responsibilities. I believe that ministers who learn more about their own money type can become better stewards and role models for financial stewardship.
One Family’s Story
My family history helps illustrate how money types emerge. As children, my siblings and I grew up in a financially secure home. My maternal and paternal grandparents were financially secure savers who managed their money responsibly. But they overindulged their children. As a result, my parents became entitled (deserving) money types who were less responsible than their parents. After marrying and living comfortably for nine years, my parents divorced. And I have no memory of ever having heard them have balanced conversations about money. They argued about it, spent too freely, never saved—and my grandparents repeatedly bailed them out. Both of my parents eventually remarried and had more children, creating more financial strain.
Now that we are adults, my siblings and I have money personalities that reflect how we individualized our early experiences. My older sibling, and entitled type (and a compulsive shopper), quickly went through a million dollars following the death of a spouse—and is now in financial straits. As the middle child, I became a money worrier, rejecting the financial chaos of my parents’ lives for what feels more secure to me. And those early experiences ultimately led to my work as a financial counselor. By contrast, my younger sibling is both a worrier and mindless, and will have to work to age 65 or beyond because of it. I married a money mindless minister who sometimes drives me crazy—but who has helped relieve my money anxiety and gives me permission to be more generous with myself.
In my professional life, and as the parent of grown children, I understand the importance of money in our relationships. And I am acutely aware of the tremendous influence our behavior and verbal messages can have on how children and others we know will relate to money.
Good stewardship to me means using money responsibly by giving to the church, paying bills, saving, and having some fun (including a vacation). But it also means taking responsibility for your needs. If we do not ask for and receive adequate financial compensation for our work, who will take care of us and our families?
Most of the clergy families I know are good stewards who give generously to their churches. But many clergy families do not have financial plans that will allow them to save for vacations, college, retirement, and their families’ other financial needs.
Physical or mental limitations prevent some from taking care of themselves, but if you are fortunate enough not to have those limitations, who will take fina
ncial responsibility for you? Your family? Your church? If you expect your church to take care of your financial well-being, do they? Or do they simply provide a salary and benefits?
Stewardship means being an effective conduit for taking in and giving out all that God intends for you to have and to be. To me personally it means not just taking in what comes my way, but also using the skills, training, and talents that God gave to me. I must thoughtfully manage and disperse what I have by being generous with others, saving, responsibly paying bills, and by giving to myself—all in good measure.
I believe that everyone should identify their money type to better understand how it affects their decisions and relationships. If you are a good money manager, keep up the good work. But if there are areas where you would like to change, make a plan—or get the help needed to change. Remember that it is what we say and do about money that makes it a great gift from God, or a destructive and hurtful force.