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What's Your Family Budget Personality?

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Think family finance is just a matter of dollars and cents? Think again. Ask a “money psychologist” (yes, they exist) and he'll tell you your attitude toward money is tangled up with your upbringing, and like your prized antique armoire, you just might hand it down to your kids. Gulp. Identifying your money personality (be honest!) is the first step to sanding out the rough spots.

The Protectors

Your Money MO: Your kids may not have designer clothes on their backs, but they'll always have a roof over their heads! “You're the squirrel who knows winter is coming,” says Brad Klontz, Psy.D., author of Mind Over Money, so you hoard money like nuts…but may have trouble enjoying “spring” with your fam.

Strategy: Odds are you have solid savings and low debt. Great. But there are also risks to being overcautious, notes Linda Descano, president and CEO of Citi's Women & Co. financial community (womenandco.com). You may stash cash in “safe” accounts that don't keep up with inflation. Ease into higher-return investments, and relax the pursestrings a bit: Kids of protectors may rush to college with a jones to spend, Klontz warns.

The Avoiders

Your Money MO: You'd rather do anything (any diapers need changing?) than tackle the dirty deets of finances, so you stick your head in the sand…and unopened bills in a drawer. “You may feel incompetent or overwhelmed,” notes Klontz. Your fam's not obsessed with cash (good!), but there may not be much to obsess over.

Strategy: Automated bill-pay and savings tools are your financial BFFs. PNC Bank's Virtual Wallet, for example, organizes your finances online and provides “danger days” alerts to keep you from getting dinged with overdrafts. Since we save three times more with a concrete aim (college fund?), according to the Journal of Marketing Research, consider a goal-oriented account, too, like those at smartypig.com

The Joneses

Your Money MO: Yours is the fam everyone's trying to keep up with, but whatever cash comes in disappears faster than Klondike bars in the Sub-Zero. “You enjoy life today and figure things will work out later,” says Joe Duran, CEO of United Capital Financial Advisers, whose “Money Mind Analyzer” helps people understand their money emotions. That can mean trouble later.

Strategy: If you're in debt, start digging out. Need a kick? At stickk.com, co-founded by a Yale University economics professor, commit to a goal (“pay off credit card”), then pick a pal to keep you honest. Build a cash cushion by rechanneling your fam's (spl)urges into impulse saving. With piggymojo.com, text your “savings” whenever you or the spouse passes up a purchase (“$4.50 latte”). Drop the virtual savings into a real account each week. It adds up!

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