What’s your money personality?



“Dad, do you know what kind of animal you are? Are you a lion, an otter, a golden retriever or a beaver?”

This unexpected question came from our daughter after school one day several years ago. Her class had been exploring their unique personality types and had taken a test to discover which of those four animals best matched their behavioral style. For her, the test had revealed that she was a beaver-lion. What did that mean?


The test she’d taken was a version of the “DISC,” a popular assessment that groups people into four categories of personality traits. Authors Gary Smalley and John Trent used animals to make the test easy to understand for children. Here’s how it works: D is for Dominant or Driver; this was the Lion part of our daughter’s result indicating her bent toward leadership. I is for Inspiring or Influencing, represented by the fun-loving Otter. S stands for Steady or Stable, symbolized by the relaxed and reliable Golden Retriever. C is for Correct or Compliant, signified by our child’s other animal label, the precise and industrious Beaver.

Our family has enjoyed using these descriptive terms to get to know ourselves and each other better. We’ve got lions, beavers and a bit of golden retriever at our house, but nobody is 100 percent otter. What “animals” live in your home? It’s fairly easy to categorize family members just by observation. Is one of you assertive, to the point and interested in the bottom line? She may be a Lion – forceful, direct and strong-willed. Maybe one of you is a great communicator, optimistic, talkative and friendly to everyone he meets. He’s probably an Otter. The Golden Retriever in your group is known for being patient, practical, even-keeled and very good at listening to and encouraging others. If one of you really enjoys gathering facts and details, is thorough in all activities and tends toward being analytical, that’s the Beaver.

Everyone has a “money personality” that influences how they think about and handle their financial resources.


As we think back over our years of helping families with money, we recognize it would have been helpful back then to better understand how the four behavioral styles impacted relationships and family finances. Everyone has a “money personality” that influences how they think about and handle their financial resources. The DISC or the four animals would have given us another way to talk through money conflicts and gain mutual understanding.

What’s your money personality? The four types handle many aspects of financial management in different ways. For example, when thinking about a car purchase, the decisive Lion tends to make a decision quickly after gathering the most pertinent information. Lions want to get it done; they aren’t as interested in doing the detailed research and comparisons that a Beaver would think necessary. When choosing what style of car to buy, Otters tend to think about fun and flash while Golden Retrievers would focus on practicality and comfort. With this broad spectrum of perspectives, there’s a good chance for conflict. On the other hand, as different personalities bring their strengths to the conversation, they can all contribute to a better shopping decision.


The discipline of saving is another area in which people do things their own way. Some personalities are more apt to save their money than others, and for different reasons. For a Beaver, systematic savings is motivated by the desire not to be caught off guard. Beavers feel good when they have an emergency fund that will be there for whatever disaster may come their way. Lions are often good savers as well, especially when the savings plan is connected to a desirable goal they can achieve. In contrast, live-in-the-moment Otters and easy-going Golden Retrievers aren’t as motivated to save for a rainy day.

Charitable giving is handled differently among the various money personalities as well. Golden Retrievers and Otters, the more relationship-oriented types, often give generously and spontaneously as they become aware of needs – even if they can’t really afford it. It’s a decision of the heart. Lions and Beavers, the more task-focused types, would rather decide on giving ahead of time and write a check for the same affordable amount every month. For them, the decision is less likely to be affected by emotion.


Tax season highlights big differences in money personality. Beavers are meticulous at record-keeping; some even enjoy doing taxes for themselves, although they would tend to be conservative with deductions and take care to follow the rules. They don’t like to get refunds – it means they made an error and overestimated their withholdings. Lions may hire a tax preparer to save time, but if they do their own taxes, they’re more aggressive with deductions and willing to take risks in order to “win.” They dislike refunds, too, because it means they’ve lost income as the government held their money at no interest. Some Golden Retrievers may patiently wade through self-preparation of tax forms, but they may put it off as long as possible. If they get a refund, part of it might be put to practical use to pay bills. Otters would definitely prefer to have someone else handle all the details of tax preparation. Their fun-loving social streak might tempt them to spend a tax refund on an enjoyable experience with family or friends.

In these few examples of money personality, it’s important to see that each type or person’s way of doing things is not necessarily right or wrong; it’s just different. For couples, differences often complement each other and make life better for both. For example, an Otter married to a Beaver might sound like trouble, but their partnership can be very valuable. In preparation for their summer vacation, the Beaver may be willing to invest a lot of energy into planning out all the details of a fabulous trip. That’s a service to the Otter for whom details are a drag. While on the vacation trip, the Otter’s optimism and excitement may serve to intensify the fun and magnify the enjoyment for the Beaver. Learning to respect the differences and to recognize the value of each style will lead not only to more harmonious relationships but also to a well-rounded and effective response to the financial challenges we all face. Vive la différence!

Ken Gonyer is Director of Member Care at Park View Federal Credit Union (www.pvfcu.org) in Harrisonburg, Va. KAREN GONYER is a real estate agent with KlineMay Realty in Harrisonburg, Va. Email questions to [email protected]


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