Connections: Scott and Bethany Palmer
Discovering Money Personalities
Scott and Bethany Palmer, “The Money Couple,” believe they have a calling from God to reduce the divorce rate by helping married men and women understand each other’s money habits and methods. Their new book, The 5 Money Personalities, is designed to help couples understand how they have one primary and one secondary personality among the categories the Palmers have dubbed saver, spender, risk taker, security seeker, and flyer.
Scott, 41, and Bethany, 47, have been married for 15 years. They live in Colorado Springs, Colo., with their two sons, Cole, 11, and Cade, 9. The Palmers recently discussed money matters with Pentecostal Evangel News Editor John W. Kennedy.
evangel: You say money miscommunication is a major cause of divorce.
BETHANY PALMER: We need to separate the difference between finances and money. Finances involve the tactical: getting out of debt, making a budget, retirement planning, tax planning, investment planning, estate planning. These all are important. But it is the day-to-day decisions you make in which money is involved. That is where the conflict comes in when it involves nitpicking, nagging and misunderstanding on a daily basis. Seventy percent of divorces are over money.
evangel: Define what you call financial infidelity.
SCOTT PALMER: Financial infidelity is any hiding, hoarding, secret checking accounts — anything to do with money where there is a total lack of transparency. We find it in 50 percent of all relationships. It can devastate a relationship. We’ve counseled couples where one spouse confessed to $15,000 in credit card debt without the other spouse knowing about it.
evangel: Do you contend financial infidelity can cause as much strife in a marriage as physical adultery?
BETHANY: In a sense it’s like sexual infidelity, which starts when you are at the water cooler, then you meet at your cubicle, then grab a cup of coffee, then go out for dinner — and all of a sudden you are in a full-blown sexual affair. In the same way, financial infidelity starts small: “I told him I was going to spend $50 and I spent $100; he’ll never know.” Or you get a $500 credit card because you want to buy your husband a gift without him knowing about it. All of a sudden you’re $10,000 in debt, and you don’t know how that happened.
Trust is hard to get back. Because money impacts almost every decision we make each day, there will be a little reminder that your spouse did something against your relationship.
evangel: Why are so many spouses so secretive?
SCOTT: Fear is a huge reason. People are scared their spouse may not be doing a good enough job saving for retirement, so they figure they need a stash of cash. Or a wife is afraid her husband is too controlling with the money, so she gets a secret credit card. When someone controls all the money in a relationship, the other person is almost forced into financial infidelity.
evangel: Do most people marry someone with an opposite money personality?
SCOTT: Absolutely. Realistically, 70 to 85 percent of people marry their money opposite. Opposites attract, and they get married — and then opposites attack. A man may woo a woman by buying gifts and flowers and going on day trips. She loves it. Then they get married and have a mortgage and kids and financial responsibilities, and she doesn’t love it. She tries to change the way he deals with money. He is probably a primary spender and she is a primary saver, and that is where the conflict comes into play.
evangel: So it’s not wise to try to change your spouse’s money pattern?
BETHANY: We believe God cooked your money personality into you. Both of my parents have saver in their money personalities, and one of my money personalities is spender. One of our sons is a saver — and that’s not something we taught him. Understanding differences allows us to take value judgments out of our discussion. You don’t judge others for who they are, you accept them, and talk to them in a way that they can hear you.
evangel: In your book you suggest that massive debt isn’t a marriage breaker, but not talking about it is.
SCOTT: God designed us to have a partner to go through tough times with. If you have a mountain of debt, but you’re being transparent and you’re not blaming, you really have the opportunity to succeed.
BETHANY: One of the things we find is that many couples will work on getting out of debt and they will accomplish that goal. But two years later they have the same problem because they approached getting out of debt from the perspective of an activity, not of understanding each other’s money personalities. A person might agree to get out of debt, but not change behavior.
There is no right or wrong money personality. Every personality has challenges with it. Both Scott and I are primary spenders, so we have to make sure our savings is taken out automatically each month or it’s not going to happen.
evangel: Can money personalities change over time? Earlier in my marriage I had nearly $30,000 in consumer credit debt. Now I refuse to carry a credit card balance.
BETHANY: Just because a person says debt is wrong and doesn’t want to have it doesn’t mean the money personality has changed. Circumstances changed. You get wiser because you learned. It doesn’t change who God made you.
evangel: Is it common for spouses to never really explain — or even know — why they make the money decisions they do?
SCOTT: That’s why we wrote the book! Most of us go through life either putting our head in the sand or being mad at our spouse regarding money decisions. We believe God wants us to have a solid, tight relationship.
If you dig a little deeper you can learn. Why does she want to go to a different restaurant every week? Why do we have to buy a present for somebody we hardly know? Why does she have to use a coupon for everything? If we can really understand why our spouse does these things, it takes away frustrations.
BETHANY: In His Word, God says, “The love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10, KJV). Love is a relationship word. God knew that money was going to impact our relationships. For a married couple to say he has his money and she has hers, they have separated the one thing that impacts them every day. They would be closer if they understood how their money personalities work.