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Different money styles, similar outcomes: learning to embrace your financial identity

September 28, 2016

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One account, two perspectives

It is said “opposites attract.” Little did I know, my fiancé Jesse and I are the poster children for that saying.

When Jesse and I moved in together, we still had separate finances. I paid the mortgage, the HOA fees, and groceries. Jesse paid the electric and gas bills along with dinners out. He also paid me back for half the mortgage. At the end of every month we settled up on other household expenses. Nine months in, Jesse looked at me, exasperated, and asked: “Can’t there be an easier way?”

We decided to create a joint bank account and joint credit card for household expenses. And as a first step, I asked Jesse to sit down with me so we could create our household budget: how much did we want to spend on groceries, dining out, entertainment, utilities?

Jesse postponed. And then postponed again. Eventually I asked, “Why do you keep delaying this?”

Frustrated, he said: “What does it matter if we spend our money on groceries or dining out or entertainment? As long as we’re spending less than what we’re making, we’re good.”

Just give me a number

I’m what you might call a hands-on money manager. I make a detailed budget. I check all of my bank accounts and credit card accounts every day—sometimes even twice—just to know where I’m at. I use Mint to see all my financial details in one place. But because Mint miscategorizes transactions, I export my data to Excel and track my spending against my budget categories. To some people, this sounds kind of OCD, but it just makes me comfortable.

I’ve set up automatic payments for all of my bills, but I log in and pay my bills manually well before the automatic payment goes through and well before the bills are due. I like to look at the amount of the bill before it gets paid, and I like the confirmation that it has been paid. This eases my worry that the automatic payment might just not work this month.

Through years of this careful money management, I’ve always spent much less than I’ve earned and saved the rest. I now have a respectable savings account and 401(k) and I’d like to figure out how to make my money do more for me.

[caption id="attachment_1867" align="alignnone" width="800"] Image credit:[/caption]

When we first got together, I thought Jesse and I were similar:  he also has an established savings account and 401(k), and pays off all his credit card bills in full every month. But he checks his bank account once a month—tops. And he hates detailed budgeting. Jesse once said: “Managing money in detail isn’t fun. It isn’t enjoyable. Why would I do it?”

Saying we’re different is an understatement. Here’s an example. After we got home from a vacation to Europe together, I went through all of the transactions from our trip and categorized them into shared versus individual expenses. Bill for 5 nights hotel in Amsterdam and train tickets from Brussels to Amsterdam, shared.  Bill for dinner and dancing at my friend’s bachelorette party and shopping at Zara and Mango on Las Ramblas, mine.

When I was done, I tried to share all my work with Jesse.  Before I could even open my spreadsheet, he said, “Just give me a number. How much should I put in the joint account?” He didn’t even want to look at how I arrived at the number. Sigh.

Hands-on, Hands-off

It turns out Jesse and I are not alone. At Varo, we’ve been interviewing people, using surveys, and hosting meetups to investigate different approaches to managing money. One thing we have noticed: there is a basic split between hands-on people, like me, and hands-off people, like Jesse.

Hands-on people like engaging with their money—they’re happy to manage it in a way that works for them. They feel calm and in control when they can see where their money is going in detail. Yep, definitely me.

Hands-off people hate dealing with money and avoid it whenever possible—they just want to set up systems that work in the background so they can minimize the amount of time they spend thinking about money. They feel calm and in control when their systems are working as designed. Like Jesse!

[caption id="attachment_1868" align="alignnone" width="800"] Image credit: Vladimir Kudinov[/caption]

As much as I prefer to think the hands-on approach is the correct one, living with Jesse has made me realize that just because you’re not always looking at your finances doesn’t mean you’re not being financially responsible. You just think about and deal with money in a different way.

Understanding how people think, feel, and act around money—and how their money management style derives from these foundations—helps Varo develop products that suit both hands-on and hands-off people. As a hands-on person, I appreciate having all my finances visible in one place. And I love tips on how to make my budget better alongside reminders and progress checks on my budget. As a hands-off person, Jesse appreciates having a personal financial assistant that sends updates such as “all good” or “heads up, something needs your attention” so that he doesn’t have to check on or worry about his money.

I’ve realized that while Jesse and I share similar money values, we will express those values in very different ways (and I’ll probably be managing our joint expenses and accounts).

What type of money personality are you? Send us an email to [email protected] and tell us your money personality and story.

Want to know more? Visit us at and sign up for Early Access to our Beta today.


*Header image credit: Adriana Velasquez

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