Financial Archetypes

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By Dr. James M. Dahle, WCI Founder

Let's do a fun post today that may help out a lot of couples—and even individuals—become more financially successful. We'll start with an email I received.

Via email from one half of a couple:

“Our individual money habits from our respective childhoods and cultural upbringings have played a significant role on how we view and spend money as a couple. I knew exactly how much my dad was making, how much our house cost, and how much we were saving. I was taught from an early age to be frugal, work hard, and save . . . My mom, unfortunately, subscribed to the belief that renting was just throwing money away. My husband came from a family where his father was also a physician and made a huge salary in the 1980s but ultimately did not have much to show for it. Money was never really discussed in his house and his dad would not have taken kindly to questions regarding his income or spending habits.

I mention this story to illustrate that many couples come from very different financial backgrounds and have had different childhood experiences relating to money. It was only after understanding this that I began to appreciate how differently my spouse and I viewed money. For 20 years, we have had very different philosophies on how to spend and save. I am a saver, and he is a spender. I manage all the finances, and he barely knows our AGI, let alone the maximum contribution limit for his 401(k) or the definition of a Roth IRA. When we take the quiz, it turns out I am a Saver and Guardian while my spouse is an Innocent. I would encourage WCI members to take the financial archetype quiz along with their significant other. I gained a lot of insight into how we as a couple view money, and it has definitely eased our relationship around finances.”

The reader suggested that we take a financial archetype quiz and use it to improve our relationships and finances. I'm a sucker for stuff like this, so of course, I did take it! I even found a second quiz to take. Unfortunately, the two quizzes had completely different lists of what the financial archetypes are, but perhaps there is a lesson in that.

Let's start with the first quiz, developed by Abacus Wealth, which once sponsored the WCI Scholarship. Abacus lists eight financial archetypes:

Let's describe each archetype, one by one, taken directly from the Abacus website, and then I'll reveal what the quiz said about Katie and me. I recommend you pause right here and take the quiz yourself. It'll only take a couple of minutes, and you don't even have to give a real email address to get your results.


The Saver

“As a Saver, self-sufficiency is a high priority for you, which is admirable. You seek security and sufficiency by accumulating or protecting financial assets. However, you can also be frugal, hoarding, or even obsessive about money. The risk is that you believe, unconsciously, that money truly can provide some kind of ultimate security. But it can’t. Today, try making generosity, relaxation, or enjoyment of your life the highest priorities. The deepest part of you doesn’t care how much you have in the bank, although your values have a greater ability to be expressed when you feel secure.”

What to work on: Spending for pleasure and being more generous

Archetypes that balance the Saver: The Pleasure Seeker, The Idealist, The Caretaker


The Pleasure Seeker

“As a Pleasure Seeker, you prioritize pleasure and enjoyment in the here and now, which feeds your body and your spirit. While your pitfall is that your desires or impulsiveness can at times get the best of you, you also enjoy life to the fullest—an admirable quality! Today, find at least one way to experience great pleasure that doesn't cost money.”

What to work on: Focus on resting. Learn to enjoy life without spending

Archetypes that balance The Pleasure Seeker: The Guardian, The Saver

financial archetypes

Stars? Warriors? I don't know, but we had a lot of fun scooting down this canyon


The Star

“As a Star, you lead by example, perhaps by heading a movement or company, being an early adopter or investor, or having an above-average relationship to social media (or other outlets). You may be motivated by the part of you that wants to be loved and accepted, a very natural human need. Or you may be entirely comfortable with yourself but want to influence others to move in a certain direction. Or both. In the next few days, notice whether any of your spending, giving, career, or investment decisions are even partially motivated by a desire to be noticed or to lead others in a certain direction. If so, what do you suspect is your underlying motivation?”

What to work on: Focus on making a difference for others rather than being recognized

Archetypes that balance The Star: The Innocent, The Caretaker, The Idealist


The Idealist

“As an Idealist, you likely intend to help solve one (or more) of society’s big problems—and you aspire to direct your resources and energy toward those causes. Social and/or environmental transformation isn’t too tall an order, and you very likely believe that large-scale systems change is the only way we’ll get to where we need to be. On bad days, you experience mistrust, skepticism, or disillusionment; on good days, you’re able to express vision and great efficacy through the use of your resources. Today, find one way to use money to further your ideals. The next time you speak about your ideals to someone, focus more on describing the attributes of the society you want to see, more than the one you’re hoping to move away from.”

What to work on: Identify and root out hypocrisy in yourself

Archetypes that balance The Idealist: The Innocent, The Empire Builder, The Star


The Empire Builder

“As an Empire Builder, you thrive on hard work and innovation to create something with enduring impact. At worst, you can be grandiose, dominating, or insatiable, but you also exhibit great capacity for hard work, focus, innovation, and decisiveness. The question is, given that you know your time here is precious and finite, are you balancing your life appropriately? Today, take a few hours to act ‘as if' your empire was already as large or impactful as you dream it will be one day. How will you spend your time? Relaxing? Hanging out with loved ones or good friends? Reading something for pleasure? Gardening, playing an instrument, or working out?”

What to work on: Learn to enjoy the here and now

Archetypes that balance The Empire Builder: The Pleasure Seeker, The Caretaker, The Innocent, The Idealist


The Caretaker

“As a Caretaker, you give and invest money to express compassion and generosity, emotions which were very likely stirred in you by seeing or reading about suffering. This can sometimes lead to enabling behaviors sometimes, but your desire to alleviate suffering and help others succeed is admirable. You're more likely than most other archetypes to make charitable contributions or to help family and friends. The question is, do you care for yourself as well as you do for others? Today, turn your compassion and generosity toward yourself, perhaps by making sure your own needs for security, enjoyment, or acknowledgment are being cultivated.”

What to work on: Carve out time for yourself and allow yourself to be in relationships where you aren't needed

Archetypes that balance The Caretaker: The Innocent, The Pleasure Seeker, The Saver


The Innocent

“As an Innocent, you're optimistic, trusting, and passionate. Inspiration is a key value for you, and your optimism can often be contagious. You're hopeful and adaptable, and you enjoy networks, trusting others with relative ease. However, you may also have some avoidance issues–and if you find yourself not paying close enough attention to warning signs, having teammates with a tendency to analyze things closely (Guardians, Savers, and Empire Builders) is very valuable for you. Today, take one step to learn one more detail about your financial situation or a particular investment, or set up a schedule with a family member or your advisor(s) to review things in more detail than is customary for you.”

What to work on: Use your network and pay more attention to your finances

Archetypes that balance The Innocent: The Guardian, The Empire Builder, The Saver


The Guardian

“As a Guardian, your positive intention is to be careful, alert, and prudent. Safety is your highest priority. Concern for safety is a wonderful expression of your higher wisdom, which always has your and perhaps others' well-being at heart. But when your worry gets the best of you, the anxiety might become intolerable, or you might feel as if catastrophe is just around the corner. To create peace for your Guardian, take time today to pursue a calming activity that you love—perhaps listening to music, being in nature, getting some exercise, or having fun with a friend or loved one.”

What to work on: Overcome your anxiety by visualizing yourself coping with the worst-case scenario

Archetypes that balance The Guardian: The Innocent, The Pleasure Seeker, The Empire Builder


Our Archetypes

Katie and I both took the quiz. It seems to provide your top three archetypes. Here were ours:


  1. The Saver
  2. The Caretaker
  3. The Empire Builder


  1. The Caretaker
  2. The Saver
  3. The Empire Builder

I guess that explains our compatibility—and maybe also the lack of balance in our lives!


A Second Archetype Quiz

Apparently, not everyone agrees with these eight archetypes. An entirely different archetype quiz can be found all around the internet. It also offers eight archetypes, but only one of them overlaps with the above list (The Innocent). Note that this second list is far more negative than the first list. Here are the archetypes:

  • The Innocent
  • The Victim
  • The Warrior
  • The Martyr
  • The Fool
  • The Creator/Artist
  • The Tyrant
  • The Magician

Let's describe each of these archetypes, as noted by the Pamela Plick website.


The Innocent

“The Innocent takes the ostrich approach to money matters. Innocents often live in denial, burying their heads in the sand so they won’t have to see what is going on around them. The Innocent is easily overwhelmed by financial information and relies heavily on the advice and opinions of others. Innocents are perhaps the most trusting of all the money archetypes because they do not see people or situations for what they are.”


The Victim

“Victims are prone to living in the past and blaming their financial woes on external factors. Passive-aggressive (prone to acting out their feelings in passive ways rather than through direct action) in nature, Victims often appear disguised as Innocents, because they seem so powerless and appear to want others to take care of them. However, this appearance is often either a conscious or subconscious ploy to get others to do for them what they refuse to do for themselves. Victims generally have a litany of excuses for why they are not more successful, and they are all based on their historical mythology. That is not to say that bad things haven’t actually happened to the Victim.”


The Warrior

“The Warrior sets out to conquer the money world and is generally seen as successful in the business and financial worlds. Warriors are adept investors, focused, decisive, and in control. Although Warriors will listen to advisors, they make their own decisions and rely on their own instincts and resources to guide them. Warriors often have difficulty recognizing the difference between what appears to be an adversary and a worthy opponent. A worthy opponent should be embraced as an opportunity to put down the sword and recognize the potential for growth and transformation being offered in disguise.”


The Martyr

“Martyrs are so busy taking care of others’ needs that they often neglect their own. Financially speaking, Martyrs generally do more for others than they do for themselves. They often rescue others (a child, spouse, friend, partner) from some circumstance or other. However, Martyrs do not always let go of what they give and are repeatedly let down when others fail to meet up to their expectations. They have formed an unconscious attachment to their own suffering.”


The Fool

“The Fool plays by a different set of rules altogether. A gambler by nature, the Fool is always looking for a windfall of money by taking financial shortcuts. Even though the familiar adage ‘a fool and his money are soon parted' often comes true, Fools often win because they are willing to throw the dice; they are willing to take chances.”


The Creator/Artist

“Creator/Artists are on a spiritual or artistic path. They often find living in the material world difficult and frequently have a conflicted love/hate relationship with money. They love money for the freedom it buys them but have little or no desire to participate in the material world. The Creator/Artist often overly identifies with the interior world and may even despise those who live in the material world. Their negative beliefs about materialism only create a block to the very key to the freedom they so desire.”


The Tyrant

“Tyrants use money to control people, events, and circumstances. The Tyrant hoards money, using it to manipulate and control others. Although Tyrants may have everything they need or desire, they never feel complete, comfortable, or at peace.”


The Magician

“The Magician is the ideal money type. Using a new and ever-changing set of dynamics both in the material world and in the world of the Spirit, Magicians know how to transform and manifest their own financial reality. At our best, when we are willing to claim our own power, we are all Magicians. The archetype that is active in your life now is the place you need to grow from. By understanding your own personal mythology and the history behind your current money type, you will become conscious of patterns and behavior that are preventing you from having the relationship with money you desire.”


While they don't perfectly match up, there is definitely some overlap here:

  • The Saver
  • The Pleasure Seeker = The Fool
  • The Star = The Victim
  • The Idealist = The Creator/Artist
  • The Empire Builder = The Warrior
  • The Caretaker = The Martyr
  • The Innocent = The Innocent
  • The Guardian = The Tyrant

The second set of archetypes clearly renders a lot more judgment than the first. An innocent is bad, and a magician is good. Which makes me feel pretty good about my results:


Financial Archetypes


I'm a magician with a bit of a warrior streak.

So, what do we need to work on? We clearly need to learn to get more pleasure from spending (especially me), build more relationships with people who don't need us (especially Katie), and learn to live in the present rather than always looking to the future. This quote from a wise, ancient Star Wars Jedi sums it up nicely.


Luke Skywalker Not Ready


What do you think? Did you take the quizzes? What are your financial archetypes? How about your partner? Were you surprised? Does it explain anything about how you view money? What do you plan to do to take advantage of your strengths and overcome your weaknesses? Comment below!

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