Have you ever wondered what makes some people spend money they don’t have, or others never spend the money they do have? Why are some people anxious about money, some flaunt it, and still others are nonchalant about finances? Believe it or not, each personality type has a different perspective on money, and understanding this not only sheds light on our own financial tendencies, but helps us understand those around us as well.
As a therapist, author, and top podcaster, I find the Enneagram to be an overwhelmingly effective tool to help navigate all manner of relationships—including our relationship with money. But what is the Enneagram? The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system that teaches there are nine different personality styles in the world, one of which we naturally gravitate toward and adopt in childhood to cope and feel safe. Each type or number has a distinct way of seeing the world and an underlying motivation that powerfully influences how that type thinks, feels and behaves.
The best advice I could give a financial advisor is to have each client take an Enneagram test. Knowing what type each client is would save tremendous time, and would answer questions like, “Why is she so anxious?” and “Why is he so spendy?” or “Why is this person wanting to take a risk on this investment when it’s not well-researched?”
Each Enneagram type has a unique set of strengths, which can be incredibly powerful when an individual is self-aware. But similarly, when life’s stressors get in the way, each type has pitfalls that can be unique to their Enneagram number, causing conflict on the homefront. Here’s a breakdown of the nine types, plus the positives and negatives of each as it relates to money:
Type One: The Perfectionist
Ethical, dedicated and reliable, they are motivated by a desire to live the right way, improve the world, and avoid fault and blame. Ones tend to be great budgeters, paying attention to detail, rarely in debt and thriving on being in control. Unhealthy one’s will rub it into other people when they see them making money mistakes, but healthy ones are quick to teach and educate others on how to make smart decisions.
Type Two: The Helper
Warm, caring, and giving, Twos are motivated by a need to be loved and needed, and to avoid acknowledging their own needs. As such, Twos tend to overgive. However, they can be generous to a fault—oftentimes expecting others to give back or to be compensated some way. Healthy Twos will pause and ask, “What’s my motivation for giving? Is it to be loved, or is it because I really want to give this?”
Type Three: The Achiever
Success-oriented, image-conscious, and wired for productivity, Threes are motivated by a need to be (or appear to be) successful and to avoid failure. In money, Threes tend to be over-spenders and they are more likely to be in debt than any other number. Threes are so busy being productive that they tend to think less about what they buy, and more about if what they buy will impress others. A great question for a Three to ask before making a purchase is: “If no one sees what I buy, do I still want it?”
Type Four: The Romantic (or Individualist)
Creative, sensitive, and moody, Fours are motivated by a need to be understood, experience their oversized feelings and avoid being ordinary. Fours tend to make financial decisions based on emotions, and many Fours would say that conversations about money are beneath them. Because they have a high need to be individual—or not ordinary—their purchases are equally unique, and they will go to any cost to buy what is unique. For example, a Four would be more likely to spend $4,000 on an original piece of artwork when they could have spent $40 for a copy. However, Four’s can also thrift well—if they find the token one-of-a-kind item on consignment, they are golden!
Type Five: The Investigator
Analytical, detached, and private, Fives are motivated by a need to gain knowledge, conserve energy, and avoid relying on others. Fives can be more scarcity minded than any other number. For example, they want to make sure they have X amount of money in the bank before they will make non-essential purchases. They tend to hoard—think 20-year-old cars and t-shirts from a decade ago—and will go to painstaking extremes to research an item before purchasing it. Compare this to type Threes, for whom spending money is a status thing—for Fives, not spending money is a security blanket.
Type Six: The Loyalist
Committed, practical, and witty, Sixes are worst-case-scenario thinkers who are motivated by fear and the need for security. Sixes are unique because they are high-anxiety and they can have one of two reactions to money: high-phobia to spending (always thinking of worst-case-scenarios) or counter-phobia spending which soothes their anxiety (since we don’t know if we’ll be here tomorrow, I might as well spend today). Sixes tend to be frugal, which typically makes them great with slow-growth, long-term investments.
Type Seven: The Enthusiast
Fun, spontaneous, and adventurous, Sevens are motivated by a need to be happy, to plan stimulating experiences, and to avoid pain. Sevens can be impulse buyers. For example, a Seven may want to take up snowboarding but rather than renting a snowboard for a season to make sure he likes it, he’ll go out and buy three! Another name for Sevens is “epicure,” meaning they love finer things in life—beautiful watches, high-end cars, name-brand clothing. But while this may look like a characteristic of a Three, it’s actually an issue of delayed gratification for Sevens. One question Sevens can ask before they make a purchase is, “Will I really want this tomorrow?” Or, even putting a policy in place that they must wait 24 hours to make a purchase will help Sevens make much better decisions.
Type Eight: The Challenger
Commanding, intense, and confrontational, Eights are motivated by a need to be strong and avoid feeling weak or vulnerable. Eights don’t want to be at the mercy of a debt collector, the IRS, or anybody, so this makes them the least likely number to be in debt. Ironically, while many people think Eights want to be in control, they are actually more concerned about someone else controlling them—thus, the need to avoid debt. But, because Eights are lusty and gusto, they can also make decisions quickly, sometimes impulsively, which can cause money problems. As with all numbers, it’s important for Eights to pause and ask the motivation for spending. It’s especially critical for Eights to take the time to self-reflect and be deliberate about their decisions as opposed to living in fear of being controlled.
Type Nine: The Peacemaker
Pleasant, laid back, and accommodating, Nines are motivated by a need to keep the peace, merge with others and avoid conflict. Nines can be disorganized, procrastinate and have trouble prioritizing. You’ll find Nines probably with a stack of bills on the dining room table that they started to work on, but something else got their attention and they wandered off to do that. That said, because Nines can be so easy-going about money, they are well-suited for outsourcing their finances and will thrive with someone telling them exactly what to do and when to do it.
Did you see yourself in any of these descriptors? Understanding our true selves is the key to engaging with our finances in a healthy, fruitful manner—and can even help us in our relationships with our spouse, in business, making wise investment decisions and even avoid disastrous pitfalls.
If you’re still not quite sure what type you are, take an assessment here, and start tapping into your true self.
Ian Morgan Cron is the author of the bestselling book, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery. He is a psychotherapist, Enneagram teacher, Episcopal priest and the host of the popular podcast, Typology. Ian Morgan Cron has helped people around the world become more aware of who they truly are, more alive to who they were created to be, and more awake to the beauty of the people and world around them through the Enneagram.