I'm a hoarder.
Olivia Mellan, the author of "Money Harmony: Resolving Money Conflicts in Your Life and Relationships" (Walker & Co.) -- this month's Color of Money Book Club selection -- describes a hoarder as someone who enjoys holding on to his or her money.
Hoarders love saving and have trouble spending money on luxury items or immediate pleasures, for themselves or others. Hoarders worry too much about their financial security, even though they have money.
In her book, Mellan uses a money personality quiz to help people understand how they handle their money. Mellan identifies, in addition to the hoarder, four other basic money types:
* Spender: You buy what you want regardless of whether you can afford it. You have a hard time saving, budgeting and delaying gratification for long-term goals.
* Money Monk: You avoid amassing too much money. You would feel guilty if a large amount of money came your way.
* Avoider: You put off doing various financial tasks, such as balancing your checkbook or paying bills on time.
* Amasser: You're likely to be overly concerned with keeping large amounts of money at your disposal to spend, save and invest.
So, what's your money type? Are you a hoarder, or maybe a spender? What about your other half? Are you a spendthrift married to a hoarder?
You may think this is all baloney, but consider this: Too many couples fight about money. You may be one of those. If you are, what are you doing to end the fighting with your honey over money?
The first thing you can do is read "Money Harmony." I selected this title for the book club because of Mellan's clinical approach. She is a psychotherapist who has been counseling individuals and couples on money-conflict issues for more than 20 years.
Mellan said she's seen it all -- the bickering, the blaming and the breakups as a result of money disputes.
"Couple relationships are often a balancing dance of opposites," she said during an interview. "As a result, couples polarize around different money priorities. For example, the wife may want to spend money on decorating the house. The husband may want to save for their children's college education. If you don't work on balancing these differences, the relationship will die."
Mellan spends the first half of "Money Harmony" trying to get individuals to have an honest conversation with themselves about why they do what they do with their money.
"You have to fix yourself first before trying to tackle the money issues in your relationship," she said.
And what if you really are doing everything right, and your wife or husband is sabotaging your efforts by poor money management?
"Give up the blame game," Mellan said. "The point is you have to move to the middle. That starts with goodwill and respectful communication."
Mellan recommends that after you figure out your money personality, imagine that money is a person with whom you are having a conversation. What would your money say about how you are treating it?
Here's how my conversation with my money might go.
Money: "Why do you worry about me all the time?"
Me: "I'm afraid if I let you go, you'll leave me and never come back. Then I'll be poor and miss you in my old age. I just can't let you go."
Money: "Have you ever heard the expression 'You can't take it with you'? Since I can't go with you, why don't you and I have a little more fun together? You've protected me all these years. I'll be around for a long time."
This exercise may seem a trifle silly, but try it.
"The money dialogue is a powerful assignment," Mellan writes. "Do not underestimate its power to shake loose dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors and to move you toward balance in your money life."
Once you understand your relationship with money, then you can begin a conversation with your spouse about the money conflicts affecting your relationship, Mellan said.
Start off by acknowledging something good about your partner's money style. For instance, if you're a hoarder and your spouse is a spender, compliment the spouse for his or her generosity.
Most important, talk about money regularly.
"Try to at least have monthly money meetings so everybody is on the same page and nobody is left feeling like they are a child," Mellan said.
My husband took Mellan's quiz but he really didn't fit into one category. Technically he's a hoarder, but he's much more balanced about money than I am. He likes to save a lot, too, but he rarely worries about money. He enjoys spending money for necessities and luxury items. Mellan says he has achieved money harmony.
I, on the other hand, have got some work to do. I'll have to have a few more conversations with my money before I become completely balanced.
For a chance to win a free copy of "Money Harmony," send me your name, address, and daytime and evening phone numbers on a postcard or blank index card. Please don't put your card in an envelope. No e-mailed entries will be accepted. Send the card in care of the Color of Money Book Club, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Include the name of the current book selection. Entries must be postmarked by Feb. 22.
If you're in a relationship and having financial difficulties, send an e-mail with your name, your phone number, and a brief description of your love-and-money conflict to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While Michelle Singletary welcomes comments and column ideas, she cannot offer specific personal financial advice.