Moody About Money

Richard Quinn

A RECENT ARTICLE on this site, written by the editor, put me in a contemplative mood: How do I think about money?

Actually, I was already pondering this question, something I do frequently and especially at the end of the month, when my pension is deposited into one of our bank accounts and earnings on our investments are displayed in our Fidelity Investments accounts. I also ponder this question when I see our stocks and funds go up or down each day. My mood is affected, and my feeling of success changes for better or worse.

To find out more, I tried one of the personality tests that Jonathan referenced in his article. Sure enough, I scored high on “conscientiousness”—such individuals are organized and disciplined—which is what Jonathan predicted for HumbleDollar readers. In fact, I scored so high I probably ought to schedule a counseling session, but I’m not willing to spend the money.

Also as predicted, among the four money scripts, I turned out to be “money vigilant” with a touch of “money status.” But in my defense, my tendency toward money status is not about flaunting wealth or keeping up with the Joneses, but rather about measuring myself against myself and the internal secret goals I’ve set since I was age 18. I’m out to prove something—maybe that I could do better than my parents and grandparents or those kids who were off to Princeton or Harvard after high school.

Perhaps I do need that counseling session.

For the first time in many years, just before my pension arrived, our checking account last month was down to zero after paying off two credit cards. It had been another bad month for car repairs. As I saw what was happening, I panicked because it also meant we weren’t starting July with the balances we usually have.

I mentioned this to my wife, who simply said, “Move some money from the savings account if you have to.” Yeah, that’s the answer. But in my mind we’re going backwards, our savings account balance will be lower and that’s not supposed to happen, because it meant failure was on the horizon.

Part of this feeling comes from my insistence on bucketing our cash. We have bank accounts to pay bills, for travel and for savings, and never does one supplement the other—but maybe it’ll happen this month.

Of course, this is all nonsense. We aren’t going backwards and we won’t run out of money. But as the money vigilant trait holds, “These individuals tend to be very aware of where they stand financially and are overly concerned about their financial well-being.”

According to my wife, that’s me, overly concerned. I guess I am, but at my age nothing will change. I like to think overly concerned is better than a pile of credit cards you can’t pay at the end of the month.

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