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Why We’re Attracted To Our Money Opposites With Scott Rick

Haley Paskalides  |  February 14, 2024

Scott Rick lays out how to get on the same page if you and your partner have different ideas about how to save and spend money.

In her most recent book, Women With Money, HerMoney CEO Jean Chatzky asked hundreds of women: “What do you want from your money?” Although women’s answers were all over the map, they were all some form of safety and security. They ranged from cash in the bank to a safe car or a paid-off mortgage… But would men say the same? Probably not, because we know that in general, women and men see money differently.

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With that in mind, this week we’re exploring how you and your partner can get on the same page when it comes to talking about money — even if you’re coming from completely different places. A recent CNBC survey found that 64% of couples admit to being “financially incompatible” with their partners. We also know that the less you talk about money in your relationship, the more likely you are to get divorced, which is why it’s time for us to start talking about our finances more often. 

Scott Rick, author of “Tightwads and Spendthrifts: Navigating the Money Minefield in Real Relationships,” explains why we’re so attracted to our money opposites, and how we can better understand each other this Valentine’s Day — even if it feels like we’re on completely different pages with our partners. (For example, if one of you is a “tightwad” and one of you is a “spendthrift.”) 

Rick defines a tightwad as “someone who has a lot of psychological distress when they’re considering purchases, mainly optional purchases,” and a spendthrift as “someone who doesn’t have enough distress when they think about spending. The distress that they have, if anything, comes later after they’ve spent.” 

Through his research, Rick has found that about 40 to 60% of us live in the middle and are known as “unconflicted consumers.” Rick says, “They have some distress when considering purchases, but not too much or not too little. They are happy with what they’re spending and they look pretty good psychologically. That is a nice place to be, but it’s hard to get there.”

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So what happens if you’re a tightwad married to a spendthrift or vice-versa? Scott Rick says it’s more common than you’d think. “A tightwad might be fascinated by a spendthrift partner being so loose with money and the spendthrift might also find the tightwad’s approach quite charming,” Rick says “And so at first, we think it’s fun and interesting and novel. We do find that these two types, tightwads and spendthrifts, are more likely to marry each other than they are to marry themselves.” 

Scott Rick’s best advice, if we find ourselves married to our money opposite, is to learn about their tendencies, and try to understand where the other person is coming from. Especially on Valentine’s Day,  “they may get you a suboptimal gift, not because they don’t love or understand you, it’s just how they feel about money.”

In Mailbag, we hear from a listener who doesn’t mix finances with her husband and is wondering what steps she needs to take to ensure visibility into the family’s funds. Another listener is moving in with her partner and wants to draw up a cohabitation document. In our money tip of the week, why we should all take a “financial health day” — especially during tax season!  


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All advisory services offered through Financial Engines Advisors L.L.C. (FEA), a federally registered investment advisor. Results are not guaranteed. AM1969416

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