Temperament and Money: The Phlegmatic

When faced with a big purchase decision, are you good at researching and planning but not so good at actually making the decision? Have you been at the same company—or in the same type of position at different companies—for a long time? Do other people call you frugal, maybe even a tightwad? You may be a phlegmatic.

Steady Eddie

People with a phlegmatic temperament tend to be even-keeled, peaceable, and friendly. In fact, according to Jerry and Ramona Tuma, authors of a great book about temperaments and money called Smart Money, phlegmatics “are the most likeable of all the temperaments.”

They are also the most likely to have had their utilities turned off or to have paid a late fee due to their disorganization. However, once they get moving in the right financial direction, perhaps with the help of a melancholy spouse, they tend to keep moving steadily in that direction.

Preferring to be in the stands rather than on the field, phlegmatics will accept leadership positions reluctantly, but they tend to do a good job when they find themselves in such a role. Whereas a choleric may run you over on their way to a goal, phlegmatics try to avoid conflict.

Frugal to a fault, and especially reluctant to spend money on themselves, phlegmatics may wear clothing long after it has worn out and/or gone out of style.

Their stinginess can make generosity a challenge. As the wife of a phlegmatic told the Tumas, “You can see how pained he becomes when you watch him give a tip. As he pulls it out of his wallet, he will massage the money with his fingers. He says he does this to make sure there are no bills stuck together, but I think he is saying goodbye to his money.”

Financially cautious

While phlegmatics are reliable, which can make them effective team members, they tend to lack drive, and that can hold them back professionally.

Their cautious nature may cause them to stay with a job, or an investment, longer than they should. Speaking of investing, their desire for security and safety can make phlegmatics overly conservative.

While they don’t like to shop, they are especially good bargain shoppers. Their instinct to avoid conflict can make it tough for a phlegmatic to engage in a nose-to-nose negotiation. However, the Tumas point out that “you can’t out-wait a phlegmatic,” which can be an effective negotiation technique unto itself.

Some suggestions for phlegmatics

When it comes to investing, phlegmatics may benefit by working with an investment advisor, who will drive decisions, or by subscribing to an investment newsletter that tells them exactly what investments to make and when.

To grow in generosity, if you’re planning to go out to eat, commit ahead of time to give no less than a 20 percent tip. Okay, you can start at 15.

And above all else, memorize scripture, “so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” (Joshua 1:8)

Some recommended verses for generosity include:

But since you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you — see that you also excel in this grace of giving. – 2 Corinthians 8:7

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. – 1 Timothy 6:17-19

And be encouraged by this: When a phlegmatic learns to fully trust in God’s provision, no one will be a more faithful giver.

Know thyself

So, that’s a wrap on our series about the four core temperaments—sanguine, melancholy, choleric, and phlegmatic. I hope you’ve found this series interesting and helpful.

As I said in the first post, temperament may be the most underrated factor that influences our views and use of money. If you don’t understand your temperament, you will very likely live at the effect of it, often wondering why you do what you do with money and why you seem to keep bumping up against the same financial problems and conflicts.

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On the other hand, if you do understand your temperament, you have a great opportunity to learn how to maximize your inherent money management strengths and minimize your weaknesses.


If you know someone who is engaged or newly married, consider buying them a copy of my book, Money & Marriage. It goes much deeper into the topic of temperament and guides couples toward other ways of using money that will enrich their relationship with each other and with God.

And if you haven’t done so already, please sign up for a free subscription to this blog. Twice a week, you’ll receive ideas and encouragement for using money well.

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2 Responses to Temperament and Money: The Phlegmatic

  1. Jon June 22, 2017 at 1:31 PM #

    Would love to see a chart with the four types side by side – I found myself identifying with parts of all four ?

    • Matt Bell June 22, 2017 at 2:02 PM #

      Jon –

      Go to the link below and scroll down to where you see “Identify your temperament.” You can download a 3-page document that lists the characteristics of each temperament, which can be helpful in identifying your primary and secondary temperament.

      For some people, their primary temperament is overwhelmingly dominant. For others, they’re more balanced. My primary temperament is choleric and my secondary is melancholy. But they’re pretty close to each other. You probably have something similar going on where your primary temperament isn’t way stronger than your secondary temperament.

      If you really want the advanced course in this, pick up a copy of the book, “Please Understand Me.” That helps people see which of 16 temperaments they have. It took me a while to figure that one out, but once I did, it was amazingly helpful.

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