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Do you worship money?

Most Americans are 'afflicted' by this attitude -- present company excepted, of course.

By doubleace May 10, 2011 11:52AM

This post comes from Lynn Mucken at MSN Money.


Guess what? The odds against you having a healthy attitude about money are 3-to-1. Not as bad as the odds against actually having money, but depressing nonetheless.

According to a study, conducted by Brad Klontz and Sonya L. Britt, professors at Kansas State University, and described in The New York Times, humans and their attitudes toward money come in just four types -- and three of them have negative implications. Here they are, translated as best I can into non-academia language: 

  • Money avoiders. They distance themselves from money, believe they do not deserve to have money and often sabotage their own financial well-being. Klontz says they tend to be low-income and mostly young.
  • Money worshippers. They believe that an increase in income or a windfall will make everything better, and love the status derived from the things that money can buy. "They believe money will solve all of your problems," Klontz said. "This is the money belief pattern that afflicts the majority of Americans."
  • Money worriers. Their self-worth is linked to their net worth. Klontz says they often take bigger financial risks because they want to brag about their success.
  • Money guardians. They are vigilant about their money and do not spend foolishly. They do not necessarily have higher incomes, but always pay off the credit card every month. This is the only attitude without an overwhelmingly negative impact, Klontz says, while adding that guardians might not allow themselves to enjoy the things -- materially and psychologically -- that money can bring.

Klontz and Britt asked hundreds of people dozens of questions to come up with their conclusions. I conducted a less-extensive study: me and my wife, the lovely Nancy.


I appear to pretty much qualify as a classic guardian who loathes debt, abhors interest payments, and believes all vehicles should be driven until they stop dead (hopefully fairly close to home, although years ago I left one on the shoulder of a freeway and never went back).

My financial philosophy is that if you scrimp on the little things, you'll have plenty of money for the big ones. I almost always stick to water as a drink in a restaurant (those $3 Diet Cokes add up) and get agitated when Nancy actually sprays on the spray-on sunblock at the beach (90% ends up on the sand).


I do, however, believe in good tips for both waiters and service providers (those folks are working hard for a living) and nice vacations (life is short). Ice cream is never considered a luxury.


Nancy is harder to categorize. She doesn't much like shopping and is frugal in most ways, yet has weaknesses. I never let her go into The Home Depot or Lowe's alone; we must be the only condo dwellers in America with industrial-sized sanders and drill sets. She also considers the latest iPad or smartphone a necessity.


I am absolutely sure that if I were run over -- or found dead as a result of "nagging" over the little things mentioned above -- she would go out the next day and spend 25% of her net worth on the biggest and most-gadget-loaded SUV available.

And while she appears to have plenty of money in her bank account -- we have two: hers and ours -- she went several years without starting a 401k despite the fact her employer offered a take-your-breath-away match.


If forced into Klontz's categories, she would be a hybrid: mostly a guardian, with a bit of the worshipper mixed in.


That's us. Where do you fit in?


More on MSN Money:
May 11, 2011 6:19AM

Why do you seem to justify the necessity of vacations and ice cream, but dismiss Nancy's desire for the latest gadgets? None of those things are necessary, I rarely take vacations that cost money, and I'm perfectly happy.


Only the very rich can afford excesses in everything, but middle class folk can usually afford excess in one or a few areas of life. I think it's about balance and purpose. Trade money for things you value for yourself or to help others, but not to impress others.

May 11, 2011 7:57AM
I've always been a Money Guardian, but one who enjoys the security money brings.

Coming from one of the poorest families in the "armpit of the county" where I grew up, I met my first rich kids in college.  Working 20-30 hrs/week at night just to attend college, I was instantly jealous of those who could pursue their dreams of becoming writers, sculptors, etc. without having to worry about bringing home a paycheck.

But I never was jealous in the sense that they shouldn't be able to be in that position.  I wanted ME to be in that position!  My goal in life has been to use a self-satisfying career to get me to a retirement position where, around 60, I had at least 20 years to enjoy a 2nd career that is totally independent of bringing home the bacon.

As a consequence, being a money guardian was always part of the equation, but enjoying the ability to do many things I want without financial worry is part of it, too.

May 11, 2011 10:42AM
I suspect most of us who read these types of articles, much less comment on them, are Money Guardians.  The others don't want to know.
May 11, 2011 9:29AM
Great, just what Americans need to hear. Don't be frugal with your money and pay off debt because that gives you an "overwhelmingly negative" outlook.

I'll stick with my "guardian" attitude, so maybe I'll have some money left for an "overwhelmingly positive" retirement.

May 11, 2011 8:02AM
It's actually a hoot. Everyone sacraficing their families, shunning their parents, politicians shafting it's citizens they represent, all for the sake of pieces of paper, that is backed by nothing but air that is devaluing faster than you can collect it.
May 11, 2011 2:45PM
Why yes I do worship money,.......................... HOWEVER, JUST LIKE ALL DEITIES, IT DOESN'T  RESPOND TO MY WORSHIP,  .................but I find that having money and the security that brings is far more satisfying  than the THINGS that money could buy!
May 11, 2011 1:26PM

I'm a total guardian.  I'm 32, work in IT, and I've never owned a cell phone.  I don't have cable TV.  I don't use a credit card.  I started investing in 401(k) when I was 23.  I paid off my 2009 Civic in a year and a half and my wife's 2008 Carolla in three.


I just don't like to worry about debts and I like having the security of a 9-month safety net.  I'm not a total hoarder though.  I play golf two and three times a week and I take a ski vacation every winter.


It sounds like I'm fairly unique about my fiscal attitude, especially in contrast to my fellow gen-Xers.

May 11, 2011 2:10PM
Handling money pretty simple.  Invest with hopefully 10% (or start with 5 and increase) or so of income in the APPROPRIATE asset classes (no cash!!) and shovel hopefully 10% (or start with 5 and increase) or so into emergency fund.  Then it really doesn't matter where the rest of your money goes as long as your expenses are less than income.  That is very simple and can throw most money worries out the door.  If not able to do it, then make a plan to get there (even if it means downsizing etc.).  That's it!!
May 11, 2011 2:14PM

I am a Guardian.


I have no debt.  I say screw the banks, and have plenty of money in my account. And can easily live off less then half my income.


Your wife is a spendthrift.  You're just making excuses.    Something tells me you instinctively know this in the back of your head anyway because you have a 'his' and 'hers' setup.


(PS: I actually had that written much more politely but the damn spam filter kicked in.)


May 11, 2011 6:28AM

Read Chapter One (Economy)  in Walden.  It will change your outlook on money forever. 

It might even set you free!

May 23, 2011 11:33AM
This is a stupid article.  I want 2:00 of my time back.  You can't ignore money in our society and one has to choose the goals they want out of life and align them with a strategy of what fits best monetarily.  Categorizing yourself according to this article gives the impression no matter what you do there are negatives being associated with your choice.  The only one being the "least" negative which is "Money Guardian?"  What is negative about this?  Maybe material wealth isn't a psychological goal of the individual.  Maybe its financial independence! DUH!  Stupid article!
May 23, 2011 5:21AM

I am not a hoarder by any means. My husband is more conservative ( thankfully) than I am but,

we both spend and save joyfully. I think my last word sums it all up...We live with joy. As a result, we have no debt we can't handle, are both retired prior to turning fifty and live in a comfortable home. We did not over spend on that home and think carefully about major purchases. We vacation frequently, eat out when we feel like it but are just as happy to go to

a friends house with a dish or eat at home. Posessions do not define us. We have a nice retirement nest egg which continues to grow and financial guidance based on trust and friendship. Greed has never been the issue...My husband is generous as am I but not foolish.

We have a handle on needs vs wants. We do not make unreasonable demands but leave the door open on our dreams. I just tried on a 15 carat emerald surrounded by 1.5 cts of diamonds. It cost 29k. Did I expect to buy it? No. Not that day but, maybe down the road...Why not? But I won't make my husband miserable for it, I wont jeapordize our lifestyle for it but I may still "find a way" IF I really want it...Life is a big adventure...Money is nice but not central...I love my husband and his happiness more.

May 11, 2011 7:45PM
The only of the four categories I come close to at all is Guardian.  I'm certainly not a worshiper but realize that money can certainly make life more enjoyable.  My wife and I are never going to be wealthy but we approach retirement with a few bucks tucked away, pensions and a recently paid off mortgage.  In 3 or 4 months we will have zero debt and hope to keep it that way.

I know that deep down, true happiness has to come from inside yourself.  No amount of money can bring that to you.  Sometimes that concept slips past me when I monitor our investment accounts but I strive to remain more conscious of the line between happiness and greed. 

Sun 7:04 PM
I believe it's the cheap-*** employer's responsibility to pay their employees. I'm already paying too much for the food & the service. Paying the employees is not my job or responsibility. Screw tipping!

I don't have to tip the cashier every time I buy something at a store so why do I have to tip the waiter at a restaurant? It doesn't make any sense! It just shows how stupid our society is.
May 11, 2011 12:48PM
Hey, I am unemployed.  I almost worship ever dollar that I get to pay for my utility bills.  I will not kiss the ground or someone's boots for it because I will not fold; I quit.,
May 11, 2011 12:19PM

If your a republican, you support the exploitation (and ultimate destruction) of any resource of value, in the same way a parasite uses and destroys its host, just to make an easy buck. Prime examples is pollution, the environment, unhealthy/illegal/unethical working environments by greedy employers....ect. Don't complain about people taking advantage of unemployment, welfare, food stamps, ect, when at a time when they were working a full time job, they were having their labor rights violated while not  getting paid enough to afford basic health insurance. That type of injustice leaves a bad taste in your mouth...and makes one not feel so guilty about exploiting a system that failed to protect them.


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