Grażyna Wąsowicz-Kiryło
University of Warsaw, Poland
The paper concerns the relationships between subjective well-being (financial and psychoeconomic), income, life attitudes and values, motives of financial behaviours and attitudes towards money
(ATM) described in five dimensions (CONTROL of Financial Affairs, Financial WELL-BEING and
Money Investing, Money as a MEANS, Money as a Source of a Sense of GUILT, and Meaning of Money
for the SELF). The first two dimensions concern mostly the cognitive approach to money. The next is
connected with a strong focus on current spending of money to satisfy such needs as a comfortable and
interesting life. The last two refer to emotions experienced in contact with money that are negative
(GUILT) and positive (SELF).
The presentation encompasses six studies concerning direct relationships between ATM and the
well-being as well as the mediating role of ATM. They were carried out in Poland (2003-2006), on nonrepresentative samples (82-210 persons, aged 18-67 years).
The analyses suggest that personal income does not correlate with ATM, with the exception of
GUILT, for which a negative correlation was obtained. The existence of a relationship between the ATM
and various aspects of well-being was found. E.g. CONTROL is correlated positively with financial wellbeing, and the emotional dimensions of ATM correlate negatively with it. Moreover, the feeling of GUILT
mediates between income and well-being. SELF is related to rejecting social values, which may limit the
experience of well-being on the group level.
The conduct of systematic research of ATM determinants and its relations to well-being is
postulated, from which practical conclusions may be drawn on the directions of action (educational,
therapeutic and social) serving to strengthen those aspects of ATM that may assist in the experience of
well-being both on the individual and on the social level.
Key words: attitudes towards money, well-being
Corresponding address: University of Warsaw, Faculty of Psychology, Stawki 5/7, 00-193 Warsaw,
Poland; e-mail address: [email protected]
Studies on well-being, quality of life and happiness have been conducted in many fields of social
sciences. They are aimed at looking for correlates and determinants of individual and group well-being.
The main reason for this effort is to find answers to the questions: “what can be done to enhance the sense
of well-being and who can be involved in the process”. The literature in the filed is very extensive. It
happens that some contradictory results are reported, but there is some agreement about the multidimensional nature of well-being, the wide range of determinants and correlates that includes economic,
sociological and psychological factors, and about the importance of money (Czapiński 2004). Whether
objective or subjective approach is taken, researchers say that money matters (Hagerty 2000).
Within economic approach it is assumed that „what people want are goods and services which will
provide satisfaction and that money is the measure of how much of these can be afforded; it follows that
having larger income should make people happier” (Furnham & Argyle 2000, p. 266). A lot of studies
have been conducted on representative samples (within and between countries) to test this hypothesis.
The main result, interpretation and doubts are as follows. The positive correlation has been found between
income and well-being, however the relationship appeared to be stronger in case of global comparisons
than individual, and in lower income brackets groups (Czapiński 2004; Ahuvia 2002; Furnham & Argyle
2000). The smaller importance of income in higher brackets groups is explained in terms of diminishing
marginal utility of money and the needs satisfied with money (Furnham & Argyle 2000), that are not as
basic as is e.g. food in lower brackets groups. Mostly, researchers conclude that the causality takes the
direction suggested above (income influences well-being). However, there are some data showing it can
be reversed: that happy people have more money (Czapiński 2004; Graham & Fitzpatrick 2002). Finally,
some negative social, health and psychological consequences of wealth are reported in the literature
(Burroughs et al. 2007; Czapiński 2004).
In the paper the economic-psychological approach is taken. Psychologists believe that people
differ in attitudes towards money (ATM) and that money serves as a means to satisfy also psychological
needs (Wąsowicz-Kiryło 2008; Furnham & Argyle 2000; Belk & Wallendorf 1990; Burgoyne 1991).
They also study the influence of psychological characteristics on well-being (W-B), like: self-esteem,
locus of control, optimism, or personality traits (Ahuvia 2007 following Cummins 2000; Ahuvia & Wong
2002; DeNeve & Cooper 1998). There are, however, relatively few studies that would analyse the issue of
the influence of ATM on subjective psycho-economic well-being, and in the context thereof the
individual diversity of attitudes towards money may be particularly significant.
Researchers agree that the attitudes the people have towards money is complex in nature. This
conviction stems from the results of research in which many dimensions were obtained with the use of
factor analysis (Furnham, 1984; Mc Clure, 1984; Yamauchi & Templer, 1982). The multidimensional
structure of attitudes towards money has also been revealed in research conducted by the author of this
article (Wąsowicz-Kiryło 2008). A description can be found in the Table 11.
The first two dimensions concern mostly the cognitive aspect of ATM, the level of control of
expenses and the attention paid to multiplying one’s resources. The next dimension is related to a strong
orientation on using money on current spending to satisfy one’s needs such as a comfortable and
interesting life. The last two aspects of ATM are connected with emotions experienced in contact with
money, that are negative or positive. The first concerns scrupulous control of expenses resulting from a
sense of guilt and the second from positive emotional meanings attached to money and treating them as
an important criterion in judging people. Note, that the scores on the scale for the second dimension can
serve as indicator of financial well-being, experienced on a relatively high level.
The attitudes towards money defined by these dimensions has become the subject of six
explorative studies in which an attempt was made to find out if this variable is related to psychoeconomic well-being, as well as to HAVE or BE attitude in life (Fromm 2000), motivational domains and
values (Schwartz & Bilsky 1987) and motives underlying financial decisions regarding bank services,
investing and saving.
The scales in the “Money and Me” questionnaire (version B) correspond to the dimensions in Table
1. The description provided concerns the high result pole.
Table. 1. Dimensions of Attitudes towards Money
Prudence with which the individual deals with financial affairs
Money Matters
stemming from a rational and competent attitude to money (expense
planning, up-to-date knowledge of tax laws, securing oneself for the
Financial WELL-
Satisfaction from one’s financial situation and undertaking investment
decisions (stock market, property, credit and loans for future
Investing Money
Money as a
Strong orientation towards using the financial resources on current
needs. Treating money as a means of achieving such goals as a
comfortable and interesting life, the developments of hobbies and
interests, developing skills, independence, safety of close friends and
Money as a Source Scrupulous (stemming from anxiety) control of expenses resulting from
of a Sense of
a sense of guilt accompanying spending money (specifying a sum that
can be spent, comparing prices, checking receipts).
The Meaning of
Emotional, positive attitude to money. Treating money as a criterion of
Money for the
self-esteem and the appraisal of others, a means that can solve all
problems, an instrument of control over people.
The paper is aimed at presenting the empirical results to answer the following questions.
1. Does the relationship between income and attitudes towards money exist? If it is non-existent,
then both the two variables can be of relevance when studying well-being.
2. Does the relationship between income and attitudes towards money vs. psycho-economic wellbeing exist and what dimensions of attitudes towards money can be of major significance in
shaping the sense of well-being?
3. What are the psychological characteristics of persons performing attitudes towards money that
lower well-being?
4. What can be done to enhance individual and group well-being on a basis of gained results?
In all six studies, the main selection criterion was managing one’s own income. They were carried
out in Poland (2003-2006), on non-representative samples (82-210 persons, aged 18-67 years).
Research Instruments
The main research instrument used in the studies was the “Money and Me” Questionnaire (version
B) containing 70 statements constituting scales diagnosing given dimensions of attitudes towards money.
The reliability of the scales was measured by means of Cronbach’s alpha internal consistency coefficient
that fluctuated between 0.72 and 0.92 (for the whole questionnaire 0.90).
Furthermore, the following questionnaires were applied to measure: psycho-economic well-being
(Barylska 2006), “Have or Be” attitude in life (Grulkowski 1996), and motivational domains
distinguished by Schwartz and Bilsky (Brzozowski 1986). The remaining instruments were created for
the needs of the studies concerning motives for using bank services, investing, and saving. The
respondents assessed the lists provided. These lists were created on the basis of classifications of motives
concerning saving (Brzozowska & Goszczyńska, 2002; Warneryd, 1997; Gasparski, 1991) and the two
aspects of risk taking in investment decisions indicated in literature on the subject, taking into
consideration instrumental (goal orientation) and emotional (pleasure seeking) factors (Zaleśkiewicz,
2005). All of them met the normally accepted reliability criteria.
Due to the amount of outcomes obtained, the description of results shall be limited to Pearson’s
correlation coefficient values and supported at some point with mediation analysis. In the analyses, the
results of which have been presented further on in this article, the dimensions of attitudes towards money
were treated as independent individual descriptions.
Does the relationship between income and attitudes towards money exist?
The correlation coefficient was calculated on the basis of data from the six studies (Table 2).
Table 2. Income and attitudes towards money (Pearson’s r)
- 0.33 ** - 0.003
- 0.13
- 0.15
- 0.12
- 0.22
- 0.28 *
- 0.06
- 0.003
- 0.05
- 0.24**
- 0.15
- 0.38 **
- 0.03
- 0.24*
- 0.10
- 0.05
The answer to the question is both ‘no’ and ‘yes’, and depends on a dimension of the attitudes
towards money. There is no relationship for CONTROL, SELF, and MEANS. But there is one for the
GUILT dimension – in this case the correlation is not high, but stable across the studies and negative.
This means that higher income leads to lower feeling of GUILT. This possibly explains, why the
relationship between income and well-being disappears in higher income groups. Though, the main
conclusion here is that both the two variables: income and attitudes towards money can be of relevance
when studying well-being issue.
Does the relationship between income and attitudes towards money vs. psycho-economic well-being exist
and what dimensions of attitudes towards money can be of major significance in shaping the sense of
The Table 3 contains results for six aspects of psycho-economic well-being. The first one comes
from the list of the ATM dimensions. The other five aspects come from a separate study on the psychoeconomic well-being (Barylska 2006). The first two refer to money, the other three – to psychological
Table 3. Attitudes towards money and psycho-economic well-being (Pearson’s r)
Financial WELL-BEING and
Investing: I’m satisfied with my
financial situation / I invest
0.26** #
0.35** #
Study on Psycho-Economic W-B:
Financial Freedom:
I can afford unplanned
0.31 *
- 0.16
- 0.48 **
Financial Security:
My financial situation is stable
0.54 **
- 0.45 **
Job Safety: I perform work
corresponding to my abilities /
My work gives me pleasure
0.36 **
0.24 *
- 0.03
- 0.38 **
- 0.25 *
Independence: I assign my life
goals independently / I cope well
in life on my own
0.31 *
0.35 ** - 0.27 *
- 0.13
Self-Confidence: I’m satisfied
with the person I am / I feel
appreciated by the people who
are important to me
- 0.28 *
- 0.20
* p<.05; ** p<.01; # average Pearson’s r – six studies
Three sets of results are worth noting. The first one is that, indeed, income correlates positively
with well-being, also with psychological aspects that are not directly related to money. The second point
is that the relationship between attitudes towards money and well-being depends on dimensions under
consideration. Cognitive CONTROL correlates positively with financial well-being and job safety. Also
positive correlation was found for MEANS and Independence relationship. However, the most important
is that for both emotional dimensions of attitudes towards money negative correlations were received,
which means that the more the ATM is based on emotions, either negative or positive, the lower the level
of well-being. Moreover, GUILT correlates with all five aspects of psycho-economic well-being,
whereas SELF only with the psychological ones. Thus, the GUILT and SELF dimensions of attitudes
towards money seem to be the most important, as they have a potential to decrease the sense of wellbeing. The next results shall be focused on them. They are presented in order to answer the third question:
what psychological characteristics possess people who experience GUILT while spending money and
who attach personal meanings to money.
What are the psychological characteristics of persons performing attitudes towards money that lower
Attitudes towards money vs. life attitudes and values
Another two studies were conducted in order to explore the relationship between attitudes towards
money vs. Have or Be attitude in life and motivational domains distinguished by Schwartz and Bilsky
(1987), based on instrumental and terminal values listed by Rokeach (1973). There are seven domains,
though the correlations were found for five only. These are: Security, Restricted Conformity, Enjoyment,
Achievement, and Pro-Social concern (Table 4).
Table 4. Attitudes towards money vs. life attitude and values (Pearson’s r)
Study on:
Have or Be Attitude in Life
- 0.09
- 0.67 **
Motivational Domains and Values:
national and family security, a world at peace, responsible
Restricted Conformity
clean, self-controlled, obedient, polite
0.24 *
0.23 *
- 0.05
0.28 *
comfortable life, pleasure, happiness, cheerful
- 0.05
0.18 *
a sense of accomplishment, social recognition, an exciting life,
ambitious, capable
- 0.18
0.26 *
Pro-Social Concern
equality, salvation, loving, helpful, honest, forgiving
- 0.43 **
For the GUILT aspect of attitudes towards money no relationship between Have or Be attitude
was found, but two positive correlations appeared: with Security and Conformity. For the SELF
dimension the most important is the observation that high scored people perform Have attitude, and they
are likely to reject social values.
The latter result is congruent with the descriptions that can be found in the literature concerning
individuals materialistic-oriented: they are said to be less happy than others and focused on themselves,
they ignore social values, and perform rival and non-cooperative behaviours, which enable them to solve
conflicts associated e.g. with common resources dilemmas (Czapiński 2004; Burroughs & Rindfleisch
2002; Górnik-Durose 2002; Fromm 2000; Roch & Samuelson 1997; Grulkowski 1986). Therefore, the
SELF dimension of attitudes towards money seems particularly important, as it can be related both to
individual, and group well-being.
Attitudes towards money and motives of financial behaviours
Inclusion of the two studies and the next three has been based on the premise that attitudes
towards money can be connected with well-being not only directly, but also through their relationship
with values and financial behaviours, satisfaction and performance of which could enhance the “day-today” well-being. The Table 5 shows the results on GUILT and SELF dimensions of attitudes towards
money and motives of financial behaviours. The outcomes for CONTROL dimension are presented, to
expose the difference between motives, considered as related to emotional and cognitive aspects of
attitudes towards money.
Analysis of the relationships between considered dimensions of attitudes towards money and
motives revealed the existence of positive correlations. The relationship between GUILT and safety
motive underlying the use of bank services was found (though safety is not a reason for saving). It is also
worth noting the strong correlation of the hedonistic motive with the Meaning of Money for the SELF,
thus, the dimension connected with, among others, pleasure derived from contact with money and treating
effectiveness in financial affairs as an important criterion in judging people. Moreover, persons that give a
large emotional significance to money use the bank so as to be able to achieve a quick loan and save
money to have access to cash in the future.
In contrast, for high-scored individuals in the CONTROL scale, the list of motives is much longer.
Table 5. Attitudes towards money and motives of financial decisions (Pearson’s r)
Motives in the study on:
- 0.04
0.23 **
0.20 *
- 0.02
0.22 **
Bank services (n=172)
Safety Reasons
Possibility of a quick loan / overdraft
0.16 *
- 0.10
Investing (n=49) - factor motives
0.62 **
0.37 *
0.47 **
- 0.16
0.43 **
0.40 **
0.34 *
0.43 **
- 0.30 *
I like challenges / It gives pleasure to me
Money should bring profit
Saving (n=56) – factor motives
In money matters I can only count on myself
I want to reap benefits from it in the future
I want to ensure my children a good financial start
Lack of savings gives rise to anxiety in me
Summary of results and conclusion
On the basis of the obtained results, it can be stated that indeed income correlates with different
aspects of well-being. We also found that GUILT correlates negatively with both the two variables. One
of possible explanation is that GUILT mediates between income and well-being. The mediation analysis
conducted for GUILT and all the indicators of well-being confirmed that to some extent (Figure 1). The
mediation effect was found for two money-related and two psychological aspects of well-being. These are
Financial Freedom and Security, Job Safety, and Independence. The Beta coefficients for the relationship
between income and well-being decreased after introducing GUILT variable to the model. This means
that income correlates positively with well-being, but the relationship can be altered by the sense of
GUILT. As regards the values and motives important to individuals who experience negative emotions
about money, safety matters. Perhaps the role of safety, both as a value and as a motive, in this group is
to guide actions that help not to experience stronger sense of ill-being.
- .2
- .4
- ( .3 to .5)
+ ( .3 to .5)
+ ( .1 to .3)
Figure 1. Summary of results for the GUILT dimension of attitudes towards money
As regards the SELF dimension it appeared to be related to rejection of social values and lower
level of psychological well-being (Figure 2). The importance of money for the self also can serve as a
mediator: in this case between some psychological characteristics, and psychological well-being. Highscored subjects on the SELF dimension perform Have attitude, and are pleasure-oriented. Perhaps they try
to compensate some psychological deficits in the sphere of self-identity and/or self-esteem.
To Have, Enjoyment,
Achievement, Hedonism
- .4
H: -
- ( .3 to .7)
H: -
- .3
H: +
Figure 1. Summary of results for the SELF dimension of attitudes towards money
What can be done to enhance individual and group W-B on a basis of gained results?
Considering the negative correlations obtained for relationship with well-being the question refers
mostly to the emotional dimensions of attitudes towards money. Three possible directions of actions
could be taken. One is the economic socialisation of children. School and bank programs could be
developed or adapt in order to build the cognitive approach to money, based on treating money as a
means to economic ends and social support, with focus on money as a subject to joint group decisions.
Second is the economic socialisation of parents who can build (whether consciously or not) their
children’s attitudes towards money based on GUILT, importance of money to SELF, and non-cooperative
behaviours related to solving money dilemmas (Wąsowicz-Kiryło 2008; Mathews 1991).
And the third one refers to attitude change. That could be done by means of therapy and
counselling, aimed at debunking myths about money and breaking off the ‘money = emotion’ relation.
The presented results are encouraging to conduct systematic studies of this kind on representative
samples, large enough to apply multivariable analyses. To find out what are the determinants of emotional
attitudes towards money seems to be the most important goal.
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