We don’t talk about money enough. There are lots of discussions about consumer spending habits, especially this time of year, but the therapeutic conversations that keep people from making major financial blunders often never take place.
So Syble Solomon, who gives lectures on the psychology of money, came up with a creative way to get people to open up about their finances. She’s created Money Habitudes, a deck of cards ($14.95, LifeWise) that individuals, couples and groups can use to explore how certain attitudes support or sabotage their financial lives. This simple but extraordinarily insightful game is the Color of Money Book Club selection for December. When I come across a tool that I think is useful, I’ll recommend it instead of a book. The point of my picks is just the same: to expose you to good personal-finance information.
I had the chance to see the cards being played during a continuing professional education course that Solomon conducted last month at the University of Maryland’s School of Social Work in Baltimore. The class was part of the school’s Financial Social Work Initiative, which provides education and tools to social workers who help people achieve economic stability.
“The cards are a non-threatening, easy-to-use tool that allows people to talk about financial topics that are often difficult,” said Robin McKinney, director of the Maryland CASH campaign, a statewide network of organizations that promotes financial stability for working families.
McKinney said her organization has used the Money Habitudes cards for about five years, both in training sessions as well as with individual clients. “We usually don’t think about how we feel about money or how we act with it, much less where those feelings and or actions come from,” she said.
Each deck has 68 cards, including three blue ones labeled:
● That’s me!
● That’s not me!
● That’s sometimes me or that’s partially true.
The deck features white statement cards that are arranged into the following six money habits:
● Security. Money helps you feel safe and secure.
● Targeted Goals. Money helps you achieve certain goals.
●Status. Money is often used to create a certain image.
● Selfless. You are very generous, sometimes jeopardizing your own financial security.
● Spontaneous. You like to use money to enjoy the moment.
● Free Spirit. Money is not a priority.
The cards you choose indicate which money habits may affect your financial behaviors. For example, one statement in the “Spontaneous” category reads: “We only live once so it is important to seize the moment and not worry about the cost.” (That’s not me.) A card labeled “Security” says, “I have a difficult time spending money unless it is for something practical or functional.” (That’s me.)
There are several ways to play the cards. In one version of the game, participants use the three blue cards to create three piles. As you read each statement card, you quickly place it in the pile depending on whether you believe the assertion applies to you, doesn’t apply or sometimes applies.
Renee A. Perry, like many who attended Solomon’s class last month, came away with help for herself and her clients.
“My first thought was this game is going to be very useful for my clients. However, after several minutes, I was thinking I need this, too,” said Perry, who works as a therapist at the Phoenix Therapeutic Foundation in Maryland. “With the holidays here, some of my clients are really stressed out because they think they have to buy a lot of gifts. Having the cards will help me enlighten them about their spending habits and how they feel and think about money.”
What I like about this money game is that there’s no judgment. Solomon lists the advantages and disadvantages of each money habit. For example, you may be great at saving money, but are you able to splurge sometimes without guilt? The point of the game isn’t to label some habits bad and others good. The ultimate goal is to help people reach a balance in how they handle their money, Solomon said.
So get a deck of these cards and start talking.
I’ll host a live online discussion about Money Habitudes at noon Eastern on Jan. 12 at washingtonpost.com/conversations . Solomon will be joining me to answer your questions.
Every month, I randomly select readers to receive a copy of the featured book, which is donated by the publisher. In this case, for a chance to win a deck of the Money Habitudes cards, send an email to email@example.com with your name and address. I’ll be giving away adult, teen and Spanish-language decks. Please indicate which deck you prefer.
You can buy the cards on Solomon’s website, www.moneyhabitudes.com. To receive free shipping, type “color” in the coupon-code box. The cards are also available on Amazon.com.
Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.