- Posted by Michelle Yates, CPRS™, BFA™, CDFA®️
- On August 18, 2020
Many of my colleagues (and a vast majority of our clients) are active or former pilots, so we bear close witness to the alarming economic situation our airline brothers and sisters face.
Due to the fallout from the pandemic, for pilots, 2020 is the worst of times.
With that in mind, here’s something that probably won’t surprise you: According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, 88% of us are stressed about money. It’s no overstatement to say that COVID-related financial difficulties are an all-consuming scourge the likes of which we’ve never seen before.
So, if you’re a pilot facing an uncertain future, what can you do?
Being proactive to the new (and hopefully short-lived) financial normal we are facing is important. This includes working to construct a firewall around what you’ve saved, invested and built, assessing your spending, debt and savings, and also doing everything you can to prepare yourself so that you emerge from the chaos in the best possible position to thrive.
With that in mind, let’s talk about something you may have never considered: your Money Personality. This is important, because clearly understanding who you are (and who your partner is) in relation to money and investingmight be what gets you through the economic chaos in one piece.
When it comes to money and investing, while each of us has our own quirks, comfort levels, goals and opinions, after 30 years of helping pilots and airline families plan for retirement
, we set out to identify the most common ways that pilot personality types approach their financial lives.
The reason we’ve done this is to help pilots better understand not only their financial selves, but that of their partners, as well. That’s because, with 88% of us under duress, identifying habits and patterns can lessen the most common financial conflicts we all have, and, in the process, improve our relationships with our significant others and with our financial situations. In fact, understanding these key drivers and behaviors around money can significantly increase your chances of long-term satisfaction and success.
With that in mind, I’m going to examine the three most common Money Personalities we see, outline some characteristics of each (decide if you and your partner relate to one personality type more than any other), and then offer some guidance about what you and your partner can do to help smooth the air in the financial portion of your relationship.
The first Money Personality is called “The Orchestrator.” People who are Orchestrators feel best when things are under control. They don’t like waiting for things to happen, and, of the three groups I’ll outline here, Orchestrators are the most likely to check their investments every day. One of the great things about finance and Orchestrators is that they tend to do a lot of research and planning to help mitigate risk and stay on top.
The downside is, that, in their relationships, many Orchestrators have a habit of “going it alone” and excluding their partner from the financial decision-making process. This is, of course, not because Orchestrators are intentionally inconsiderate. On the contrary, they are doers and move fast as their desire for controlled outcomes takes precedence over communication. But, make no mistake, the control-oriented “going it alone” financial personality of Orchestrators can cause a lot of tension in relationships.
The second dominant Money Personality I’d like to touch on is that of Explorers. Explorers tend to place experiencing things that bring them joy at the top of their list of priorities. (Think family, hobbies, or the next fun adventure.) Some Explorers don’t like making long-range plans, and many tend to leave things to chance or avoid sticking to, and sometimes even having, a budget. The good news is, that of the three groups I’ll introduce here, Explorers are the most likely to share the financial responsibility (and decision making) with their partner, or to trust a professional advisor to help manage their financial outlooks.
When it comes to money and investing, one thing Explorers do worry about, is that they don’t worry enough. Many admit that having to focus on their finances inhibits their enjoyment of life. On the flipside, unlike Orchestrators, some Explorers leave all the big money decisions to their partners, which results in disagreements over a lack of balance within the relationship.
Seekers are the third Money Personality I’ll introduce. At one time or another, most of us have been a Seeker as we search for an answer or solution, but all-too-often this occurs only after a financial issue (or emergency) arises. It’s also common to find someone experiencing a financial or life change most closely identify as a Seeker, as he or she adjusts to a new reality. Of the three profiles, our experience has been that, while Seekers aren’t afraid to ask for help, they are the personality that is most likely to need help, as they tend to make sudden, emotional financial decisions that can get them into trouble.
As the Money Personality most likely to be overwhelmed by financial stress, if you or your partner (or both) relate to the Seeker mindset, the best thing you can do is find a resource to provide guidance and help with communication as you work towards your end goal.
YOUR NEXT STEPS
So, in the wake of the pandemic, what can you do to help alleviate some of the financial tension that most pilots are feeling?
First, understand which Money Personality most applies to you, and then, non-judgmentally, consider which Money Personality best represents your partner. Remember, while it’s true that our personalities don’t magically stop at the border of our finances, money is the #1 stressor in America. So, understanding (and seeing) yourself, and your partner, in a clear light, could help lessen the stress that has become as ubiquitous as the pandemic itself.
Next, if you and your partner have been arguing (or worrying) about money (and, unfortunately, the statistics say you have), try and wait until you’re both feeling calm and communicative, and suggest a sit down to address the specific financial stressors and conflicts in your life. (This is a mighty challenge, indeed, and not easy. But the alternative is to let the stress slowly eat away at your foundation.) Be sure to take your Money Personality, and that of your partner, into account to help you communicate most effectively.
Lastly, consider the possibility of professional financial guidance. Probably the most important things a good financial advisor will do (and this is something we tell clients), is to facilitate communication, and to bring perspective while removing the emotion that surrounds your money, your investments, and your retirement planning. This includes listening to what you most want for your financial future, and then explaining in clear terms what you’ll need to do to get there.
Admittedly, sometimes, these are not easy conversations. Yet, just as often, when one looks back years later at these types of conversations, there’s often a feeling that a landmark moment was achieved, and it can be remembered as one of the most important things they’ve ever done.
Remember, no single Money Personality is better or preferable to any other. But, in times of financial stress such as the current environment, an introspective look at oneself, as well as an assessment of your relationship to money, and your partner’s, can go a long way toward reducing the stress that plagues us all as we weather the uncertain economic storm that is COVID-19.