Whether it's a love you have with a dear friend, roommate, family member, or the enduring spark in a romantic relationship, you want to express your affection for those closest to you. And when it comes to money, we have different ways of showing and receiving love.
You might have heard of the classic love languages, but there are also financial love languages. Let's break down each of these "money love languages” and how they translate into a relationship:
Someone stashing away funds into an emergency fund might not seem like the most flashy, exuberant expression of love. But when someone sets up a savings account for you, they show they care by building financial security.
They will appear more frugal, explains Jacent Wamala, a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) turned money mindset coach, and author of The Financial Freedom Formula: 5 Steps to Decrease Debt, Increase Your Income and Save Money. "Maybe it won't translate into going on expensive dates or wanting to do extravagant financial outings," she says. "But they are saying they want you to have that safety net and be prepared for when life happens."
Traits: Frugal, prudent, resourceful
Signs of love: Establishing an emergency fund, savings account
Those whose financial love language is expressed through spending will shower you with gifts, impromptu concerts, or a meal out. These are those that love to wine and dine you.
"This person might seem more spontaneous, impulsive, and flexible," says Wamala. They live in the here and now. And because they love you, they want to enjoy rich, memorable experiences with you.
Traits: Fun-loving, spontaneous, impulsive
Signs of love: Surprise outings, meals to new restaurants, day trips
Even if someone is focused on tackling debt, if their primary financial love language is investing, they're thinking ahead, and are paying attention to what they're building for the long-term, explains Wamala. "They're thinking beyond their own income and their own ability to just have money today," she says.
For example, they contribute to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b). They might get their feet wet with micro investing and invest small amounts through an online discount brokerage or popular micro investing platform.
Traits: Forward-thinking, builder mentality
Signs of love: Retirement contributions, investing in a discount brokerage or micro investing platform
If you're concerned about protecting your loved ones, you might have purchased disability insurance or life insurance policy with your family members as beneficiaries. It might not seem very romantic, but it will help your loved ones be financially secure should you fall ill or pass away.
On the legal side of things is estate planning, explains Wamala. This includes a will, trust, and estate planning. "Everyone wants to create generational wealth," she says, "but we actually only create generational wealth when there is a will, trust, or estate in place.
"You may not be able to have a will or an estate plan right now," says Wamala. "But to start building, have an idea of what you would like included in an estate plan. Put it on paper."
Traits: Considers all potential scenarios, tends to worry
Signs of love: Insurance policies, estate plan
If you grew up in a household where your parents worked hard to provide for you, you are probably quite familiar that working hard to cover bills can translate to a money love language.
This could be a parent or partner who works multiple jobs or side hustles to rake in extra cash. Maybe you want to purchase a promise ring for your partner, or make sure your kids can afford extracurricular activities. "If earning is your money love language, you want to make sure your family is taken care of, and that you can provide at a basic level," explains Wamala.
Traits: Hardworking, diligent, persistent
Signs of love: Working extra hours or taking on additional jobs to provide
Borrowing gets a bad rap because it's often misunderstood, says Wamala. There tends to be a lack of financial literacy when it comes to borrowing, because people don't fully understand how it works and their responsibility. People end up struggling because they don't always know exactly what they're doing and how to really leverage their borrowing power, she explains.
"There's a difference between debt and when people talk about good and bad debt," says Wamala. "Leverage is something that gives you access and catapults you in a direction that you want to go. So when you know how to utilize borrowing to work in your favor, it could be a great love language."
For instance, you take out a mortgage to purchase a home. Or student loans so your child can go to college. Tapping into "good debt" can open doors to opportunities you wouldn't have access to otherwise.
Traits: Can assess the risks versus the gains, big-picture thinker
Signs of love: Taking out a mortgage, student loans to improve the lives of loved ones
We communicate in the love language we're the most fluent in. Someone is going to do whatever they would otherwise do on a grander scale, using money as a resource, explains Wamala. "For instance, If someone is a gift giver, then they're going to use money to help them give gifts to someone that they care about," she says.
However, just like with the traditional love languages, sometimes you might misinterpret an expression of love through money. "Someone might use money to communicate love in whatever way that they essentially believe it to be, but that doesn't mean that's how the other person receives and understands love," says Wamala. "So essentially it gets lost in translation."
So how can you do it in a way that is meaningful and the recipient fully understands its intent?
The easiest way to make it clear is to communicate verbally, says Wamala. For example, let's say you want to surprise your best friend by taking them on a trip. Let them know ahead of time that you’re planning to do this because you really care about them.
And just like who we are and what's important to us can change over time, so can our primary financial love language, explains Wamala. Sometimes, this can be triggered by a life event.
For instance, you get a better paying job, which can allow you to show your love through spending. Or you have a baby, and you decide to tighten the purse strings and focus on protection for your family.
Reassess on a regular basis, even if it's once a year, recommends Wamala. "As far as what your life is looking like, what you really value, and where you see yourself now and where you want to go in the future, because it may change and evolve."
No matter what your primary financial love language is, to fully give and receive the love and affection of those near and dear to you, take the time to interpret different ways of showing we care. You might realize there's more love in your life than you thought.
What's your money love language?
A personal finance writer for over 8 years, Jackie Lam covers money management, lending, insurance, investing, and banking, and personal stories. An AFC® accredited financial coach, she is passionate about helping freelance creatives design money systems on irregular income, gain greater awareness of their money narratives, and overcome mental and emotional blocks.
Her work has appeared in publications such as Bankrate, Time's NextAdvisor, CNET, Forbes, Salon.com, and BuzzFeed. She is the 2022 recipient of Money Management International's Financial Literacy and Education in Communities (FLEC) Award, and a two-time Plutus Awards nominee for Best Freelancer in Personal Finance Media. She lives in Los Angeles where she spends her free time swimming, drumming, and daydreaming about stickers.
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