What’s Your Financial Archetype? with Brent Kessel

Cover art for episode featuring Brent Kessel.

If Money Were Easy

Hosted by Mary Beth Storjohann and Neela Hummel

What’s Your Financial Archetype? with Brent Kessel

If Money Were Easy
If Money Were Easy
What's Your Financial Archetype? with Brent Kessel

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Episode Summary

Have you ever wondered what influences the financial choices you make? Or why certain habits are so difficult to break? Or why reaching your financial goals seems so easy for some, but difficult for others? Today Mary Beth Storjohann and Neela Hummel talk with Brent Kessel to discuss the eight financial archetypes, The Caretaker, Innocent, Empire Builder, Pleasure Seeker, Guardian, Saver, Idealist, and Star, and the characteristics each archetype brings. Together they explore how to discover which archetype you are and what your archetype says about your values and decisions you make. You’ll also learn why it can be so helpful to understand your financial archetype(s), and how you can find a balance of strengths and weaknesses of each.

What You’ll Learn in This Episode:

  • The benefits of discovering your financial archetype
  • How you can use archetypes to build more stable connections with others
  • A quiz to help you discover your dominant financial archetypes
  • What some of the financial archetypes are and their characteristics
  • Life events that can shift your financial archetype
  • Why it’s important to look for exceptions when analyzing your archetype
  • How to recognize when your archetypes are out of balance
  • How understanding your archetypes can help you manage expectations around money

Resources Mentioned on the Show:

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Transcript of the Episode

Mary Beth (00:14):

Hey there. Welcome to the If Money Were Easy podcast, the show where we teach you how to expand what’s possible with your money. We are your hosts, Mary Beth Storjohann –

Neela (00:23):

And Neela Hummel –

Mary Beth (00:24):

Certified financial planners and Co-CEOs of Abacus Wealth Partners. Today on the show we’re talking about your financial archetype. Before we jump in, a brief disclosure from our Director of Compliance. This podcast is for educational purposes and is not intended as investment, legal, or tax advice. Any opinion shared is not an opinion of Abacus Wealth Partners.

Neela (00:47):

Today on the show, we’re delighted to invite Mr. Brent Kessel. Brent is the Co-founder of Abacus Wealth Partners, a $3 billion dollar impact wealth management firm whose mission is to expand what’s possible with money. That sounds familiar. <laughs> Abacus has been a dedicated impact investment advisor for over 25 years, including providing seed funding for the world’s first sustainable index mutual funds. Abacus was the first financial advisory firm to be certified as a B Corp, is carbon neutral, and donates over 1% of revenue to charity each year. Brent is the author of It’s Not About The Money, published by Harper Collins, named one of the Top Five Business Books of the Year by Kiplinger’s. In 2019, Brent had a health scare that led to a hunger for more meaning, purpose, and effectiveness with his time and money. His focus these days is the Enough Project, which curates a community of fortunate people who wish to use their excess resources to contribute to tackling the world’s most pressing problems. Brent has been meditating and practicing yoga for 18 and 30 years respectively, and has appeared on the covers of both Yoga Journal and the Wall Street Journal. Honestly, look up the yoga journal pose. It’s very, very impressive. He has taught impact investing at MIT, has presented at seminars and financial planning industry conferences throughout the U.S., and has led personal development workshops across the U.S. and Europe. Brent lives with his wife in Santa Monica and Mammoth Lakes, California, and has three adult children. Welcome to the show, Brent.

Brent (02:12):

Thanks, Neela. Hi, Mary Beth.

Mary Beth (02:15):

Hi. Thanks for being here.

Neela (02:16):

So, we’re so excited to have you. Your book, It’s Not About The Money, really goes into the different financial archetypes. Can you give our listeners an overview of what financial archetypes are?

Brent (02:33):

Sure. Thanks for asking. So back in about 2005 or 2006, I was speaking with my mentor at the time, Robert Strock, who at that point had been a psychotherapist for 35 years I think, and had worked with a lot of people about money, behaviors and patterns. And I had been a financial planner and investment advisor for a lot of years. And so I was seeing a lot of these patterns play out and I’m like, “Why is it that different people with very similar balance sheets or incomes or professions can behave so differently with money?” And as I delved into my client’s stories and talked to Rob about it more, you know, I came to realize just this huge power that our early life conditioning has on how we behave with money. And what’s so interesting to me is that people, including myself, find our ways of relating to money as the only way anyone should be with money. Like if I’m a saver, if saving is my security, then like you’re insane if you don’t save, like you’re absolutely insane. And kind of similar with someone who spends money on things that bring pleasure, like why would you not do that? Like you can’t take it with you when you die. You should use it this way. So anyway, I embarked on a couple year research project with Rob’s help and guidance, and some other folks as well, and defined these eight financial archetypes that really in a – in as non-judgmental way as possible – help us have a common language for what our money behaviors and tendencies are. And those can be good behaviors and tendencies or self-destructive ones.

Mary Beth (04:08):

So after that research, how has it played out in your career and in your work with clients?

Brent (04:13):

Well, I think the way it’s played out is that it has allowed me to relate to people from their worldview. So if I’m sitting with someone who is a chronic over-spender, let’s say, or someone who is worried and anxious beyond reason, we’ve already done the financial plan, the financial plan says you’re fine. Even if 2008 comes around again, even if your privately held business goes down by 50%, you’re gonna be fine. We’ve run these numbers a million ways from Sunday and proven it mathematically and yet you still feel worried and anxious. So that would be the archetype that I call the Guardian. And that would be kind of a dysfunctional expression of the Guardian. Now a high-functioning expression of the Guardian is to be prudent and to be alert. And that’s good. Like we want to be prudent and alert about money. And so what I would do with a client like that is explain the healthy constructive purpose of the Guardian is pay attention, but only to a point. Only to the point that you’ve like, let’s say, run the numbers or talked to a friend or hired a certified financial planner. And you’ve assuaged the fears that another archetype like the Innocent, who tends to sort of have faith and trust and optimism that everything will just work out, they need some Guardian, they need some alertness and prudence. They need more of that energy. And so I think one answer to your question, Mary Beth, is using the archetypes to both emphasize the productive qualities of each and modulate the destructive qualities of each. And then also to look at which other archetypes are really dormant in me. So this overly worried and anxious person likely saves a ton. Maybe they’ve got a business or some other empire they’re trying to build, but chances are they’re not likely to be that generous. They don’t have a whole lot of Caretaker/Idealists going on and chances are they may not be enjoying their money very much. They may not be having experiences or purchasing things that would bring them a lot of sensory joy. And so part of the system, if you will, is being able to say, “Hey, let’s calm down this Guardian a little bit and let’s create some structures that allow you to get more pleasure from your money, that allow you to experience your own generosity and making a difference in other people’s lives because those will be the medicine for the worry and the anxiety that is expressing itself through this hyperactive Guardian.”

Neela (06:44):

It’s almost like finding this sweet spot in your archetypical – I’m gonna just destroy that word – yeah, finding that sweet spot with whatever is your most dominant part. Cause what I love about what you’re saying is it’s extremely validating, because we often bring so much shame to money and this idea of, “I do this thing and I’m kind of nervous about,” or, “I’m afraid to admit that I do this thing.” And what you’re saying is that we’ve all got a mix of these different archetypes, some are more dominant than others and each one has a benefit, and so harness the benefit of that without going so far in the direction that it becomes destructive.

Brent (07:22):

A hundred percent. I love the way you said that. You know, the working title for my book was actually The Yoga of Money, and thank you for your kind words about the cover of Yoga Journal. 

Mary Beth (07:32):

Please Google it. We’re not kidding. Please. Yeah, please look it up afterwards.

Neela (07:35):

Wildly impressive.

Mary Beth (07:36):


Brent (07:36):

The reason it was The Yoga of Money, you know, it sounds all catchy and whatever, but it actually had real meaning behind it which is that yoga is a couple of things, especially it’s introspection, it’s looking inward for the answers rather than looking outward. So a lot of modern yoga is done to fit into the best pair of leggings or to, you know, whatever, like hit some pose that you’ve seen in a calendar. But the real purpose of yoga is to learn about ourselves, is to understand where we bump up against our own limitations and then to breathe in that frontier of discomfort to increase our capacity to endure uncomfortable life situations. So introspection is a big part of it, but another really big part of it is balance. So those who have done yoga, or really any form of discipline – it could be any exercise or martial art or creative or artistic pursuit – the tendency for all of us is to overemphasize what we’re good at. We overemphasize our strengths because we get positive reinforcement for them. Like, “Oh wow, look at that, you’re so flexible! Your hamstrings are amazingly loose! That’s incredible! You do such good forward bends!” And the ego gets a nice stroke. And so that person left to their own devices is likely to do a whole lot of forward bending and show off those loose hamstrings to the avoidance or detriment of balance or strength-building or back bending or hip open – you know, other types of things. And so in my mind, The Yoga of Money, if you will, was a metaphor – is a metaphor – for creating this balance between these different archetypes.

Mary Beth (09:13):

Two of the words that came to me while you were sharing initially about these archetypes is, one, the idea of self-compassion. As you’re learning these things and understanding the levels and complexity involved of both sides. And then the idea of when you shared about being able to connect with others and understanding where they’re coming from. This idea of empathy, right? I don’t know if empathy is the right word, but you’re connecting. You can empathize as a saver if I’m connecting with a spender, as opposed to, “You are completely ridiculous. What are you doing? You’re doing it all wrong.” Having empathy for where they’re at and where they’re coming from. And so those two words just popped into my mind of building those more stable connections.

Brent (09:53):

Yeah. I think it’s so helpful for us to recognize, both in ourselves and if we’re in a primary relationship, whether it’s a a spouse or a parent or a child, wherever your sort of strongest economic relationships are in your life, to recognize that each of us is exhibiting the money behaviors that have served us the best to this point. Now you might look at someone who’s got like a hot mess of a financial life and say, “How can you say that that’s what served that person best?” And it’s not that it served them best on a balance sheet or a profit and loss statement, it’s that it served some emotional need and that needs to be unpacked. What was the emotional need that this money behavior came into being in order to address? And so my starting presumption is always, this was a coping mechanism. This was the best survival strategy this person knew how to do. And so especially when we’re triggered by a loved one, we’re triggered by ourselves, why am I doing this? (And maybe in a few minutes I’ll go into myself a little bit cause I’m actually in a pretty vulnerable moment at this very juncture of my life, in transition from one dominant archetype to others, and like having compassion for ourselves.) “I adopted these behaviors because it’s what served me the best.” And I think it’s really important to point out also if you’re doing this with a spouse or a parent or someone where every muscle fiber is saying, “God, I can’t validate this. I can’t tell them this is okay because it’s destructive or it’s driving me absolutely batty,” just remember you’re not validating the behavior, you’re validating the money beliefs and the hoped-for outcome that that person is going for. It’s not the money behavior itself or the choices they’re making, it’s the overall archetypal direction. So in the case of the Guardian, which we were talking about before, it’s protection, it’s risk avoidance. That person is trying to avoid risk. Now that might mean that they’ve bought gold and cash and stashed it under the mattress and they have whatever, like a whole bunch of Armageddon strategies with their money. And if you’re their spouse or child or something, you’re absolutely nuts and your money’s not growing and you’re not getting to enjoy it. And there’s all these crazy destructive things going on. And you can say that it’s a very young part of that person that is doing those strategies, right, to like insulate themselves against pain. And so if we reject that part of them, if we say, “Hey, this is wrong, this is stupid, this is dumb,” it’s just gonna get stronger. They’re just gonna take their heels and want to do it even more. If instead we can validate, “Hey, I see you really want to avoid a negative situation. You want to avoid something scary happening in your life, you want to be prepared for any eventuality that could come along.” It’s those kinds of validating statements like, “I see your positive intention behind this behavior,” as opposed to I validate the behavior itself.

Neela (12:59):

Right? The behavior is a result of some emotional need that the person’s trying to really fulfill. So you’ve teed us up a little bit and I’m sure listeners are very curious, well what’s my archetype? And so we will put the quiz that we have associated with Brent’s book in the show notes so you can learn about your own archetypes. But we’re gonna ask about yours and are these archetypes, are they fixed? Is this a horoscope or are they movable? Are they things that can change over time?

Brent (13:31):

They’re definitely movable. Mine have moved quite a bit, I’d say. So my dominant ones when I wrote the book were Guardian, Saver, and Empire Builder. So the Guardian wants to be alert and prudent, Saver views accumulating financial wealth as the answer, as freedom, as security. And the Empire Builder wants to create something of lasting and enduring value and impact. And so I had a role in co-founding Abacus and some other enterprises that were my effort to build something lasting, and that had a lot of impact and that was my coping strategy for some early life experiences that were traumatic and unsettling. Basically, having my family of origin go through some divorces leaving South Africa, the country I was born in when I was 10 years old, and saying goodbye to all my friends in my school and everything familiar, I think sowed some seeds of like, “Wow, life is unstable, life is shaky. If I’m going to have a sort of trustable stable life experience, I better build this fortress of financial security for myself.” And I remember I used to use the term financial freedom all the time and one of my best friends used to bust my chops about it. He’s like, “What are you talking about? There’s no such thing as some financial point at which you are then free forever.” And I would push back, I’m like, “Of course there is. Of course there is. Like there has to be. That’s my entire life formula. You can’t take that away from me.”

Neela (15:06):

You’re like, “Look at my spreadsheet, I have the financial freedom spreadsheet.”

Mary Beth (15:08):

I was actually, I’d say, the fortress built on spreadsheets. That was my question. Because the fortress – is it actually just Excel models surrounding us? Is that what it is? Cause that sounds very familiar.

Brent (15:18):


Neela (15:18):

And comforting.

Mary Beth (15:19):

And comforting. Like when you sleep with it turns into–

Brent (15:21):

A hundred percent. Yeah. And I think I built my first one in like 1985 <laughs>, since I was 16 or 17. And I’m like, “Okay, if I have $300,000 I invested, make 10%, that’s this much a month, that’s enough, da da da.” So yes, that was very much the Guardian-Saver-Empire Builder at work.

Mary Beth (15:37):

Does that ever stop, those spreadsheets? Just, uh, just asking for a friend? 

Brent (15:44):

Fantastic question. I mean, for me the answer in that particular case is no. So the Guardian-Saver is still, they’re still in my top three. But Empire Builder has been replaced by Caretaker. 

Neela (16:02):


Brent (16:02):

Well, the high functioning version is the Caretaker expresses compassionate generosity through his or her use of money. The lower functioning version is, “I need to be needed, I need to be liked. I need to be wanted. Let me help you, let me help you, let me help you, let me help, you know, let me just sort of take care of everybody financially, however much I can so that you won’t reject me or you won’t abandon me.” So again, it kind of goes back to that early life experience for me that like, “Oh, it makes sense that that would be one of the behavior patterns you’d be exhibiting.” And so what’s interesting about it is, as I do fewer of those spreadsheets, and as I am not in the same kinds of notable roles in my company, in my industry, as I’m not sort of seeking fame and glory in the sort of old empire-building ways, it feels a bit like coming off an addiction. I guess I’m lucky that I haven’t had, you know, some of the addictions that I think might be the worst or the hardest chemically. But I certainly have had an addiction to building wealth, to getting approval, to performing at a high level and being seen as I perform at a high level. That’s been my addiction. And so the inner work I’m having to do here in my mid-fifties is pulling that needle out to, you know, use the addiction metaphor, and cope with the withdrawal symptoms. Like, I so badly want to go out and create something and let me do this. Let me get notice for this article or do that TED talk or land this kind of a consulting client who’s working on their ‘enough’ thing. And then everybody will notice and clap for Brent, you know, and that’s the old archetype at work, that’s just the Empire Builder in different clothes. So yes, I’m slowing down the spreadsheeting and it is difficult.

Neela (17:52):

You love a good spreadsheet. We could turn this into a therapy session. <laughs> Mary Beth and I probably have a little bit of Saver, probably a little Guardian. In fact, I think most financial planners probably do, right? It’s not an accident. I love the idea I’ve got like Mary Beth in my head to name the thing, when there’s something going on, the best thing that you can do is name it and name it in a way that you don’t have judgment. And so hypothetically, if I’m a Saver, if I can name that, then I can work on coming out of not going too deep into that shadow side. So I’m just thinking of archetypes, name the thing, and then see what you can do to make sure that you’re not going down a negative path. And so for you, when I hear Empire Builder shift to Caretaker, that’s – it seems like a huge shift. When did you notice that shift?

Brent (18:46):

You know, it’s interesting. So, because I started working on the book almost 20 years ago, it came out, what, 14, 15 years ago? I was aware of my inner Caretaker and Abacus was the first financial advisor ever to be certified as a B Corp. So it’s not like doing good things for the world and caretaking is some brand new thing in my life or to Abacus’s life. But you know, when I had the health scare you alluded to in my bio, it was a wake up call like, “Oh wow, I don’t wanna just stay on this treadmill, this accumulation and preservation treadmill until I die,” and I could have been dead in six months. I mean, everything’s fine with my health. And it was just a scare. It was literally just a very short-lived scare. But had it been diagnosed, the doctor was afraid I probably would’ve only had six months to live. And that was like a smack upside the head with a two-by-four. And I’m like, if that had been true, and I just lived my life right up until the end trying to build this fortress, trying to accumulate and preserve, wow, what a tragedy, what a sad un-expression of the more compassionate, generous sides of myself. And so that’s really what caused me to reevaluate and then chose to step down as CEO of Abacus and just started taking a bunch of steps to move more in this direction of emphasizing the caretaking. And then what happened is that a whole bunch of other folks who are fortunate to have more than ample money, more than ample financial resources, saw me doing this and read some writing I was doing about it and said, “This is intriguing to me. Like, I feel stuck on this treadmill, too.” Even inheritors, “I feel trapped by this wealth that I’ve inherited.” Or someone, who like me, has spent decades building a business and had created wealth for themselves. “I just don’t, I don’t wanna keep doing this. I don’t want to keep climbing that ladder. Where does it end?” And so, yeah, I’d say two, three years ago is when the shift, you know, really kind of kicked into higher gear where I’d say the Caretaker overtook the Empire Builder as the dominant archetype. Now there’s a really interesting thing I want to point at, which is that my Empire Builder is far from dormant and so he’s in there going, “This is pretty cool, I like this Enough Project stuff. Look, people are paying attention to it. Let’s make this the new empire <laughs>, this can be Brent Kessel 2.0.” So he’s sneaky as heck and I’m, I’m having to work with it, but it’s nice,

Neela (21:27):

I’m envisioning the angel/devil on your shoulders, like the little Caretaker, you know, archetype on one side and then the Empire Builder and they’re duking it out. <laughs>

Mary Beth (21:37):

I’m laughing because of conversations Brent and I have had behind the scenes in terms of not having to do it all to build the empire and creating. <laughs>

Brent (21:47):

You know, the irony is – so one of the things that I think is super useful in working with one’s archetypes is looking for exceptions. We tend to have confirmation bias, right? And so we have this worldview around money and we look for the data that affirms our worldview. So yeah, look at that. That person ran outta money because they weren’t alert and prudent, that person is on the cover of X, Y, Z magazine, or everybody’s applauding them because they’ve built this incredible business or charity or art collection or whatever the empire might be. So we look for the things that validate our worldview. One of the homeopathic interventions, if you will, is look for exceptions, no matter how small they are. Look for the person who is prioritizing, like in my case, look for people who are prioritizing rest and fun and connection and community even without a bunch of wealth, even without notoriety or having built something or having people applaud them and see the nature of their fulfillment. Like actually get to know how they’re experiencing their own lives. And it’s what you really can – actually, you can enjoy it – and you can relax that way. And so, you know, just start to poke some holes in the impenetrability of my dominant archetype’s worldview.

Mary Beth (23:04):

That’s fascinating. With a Caretaker, I think specifically, and I’m going to assume as the primary audience for our podcast, probably there are some Caretakers in the listeners – how do you know when it’s gone too far and how do you find that balance you spoke of? Because I think caretaking – and we see it with our clients a lot – caretaking can manifest in a variety of ways. But it also can become your sacrificing of yourself and your own financial security and you’re drained. And you just talked about finding the people who find the joy and the balance. How do you find that if you’re a dominant Caretaker?

Brent (23:40):

In answering your question, I want to come back to what we were talking about a few minutes ago, which is that so many financial planners are Savers and Guardians at heart. And so if any of the other archetypes are dominant for you, including Caretaker, working with a certified financial planner is a fantastic way to essentially outsource the Saver-Guardian archetypal needs and points of view. I mean that’s literally what our industry is. It’s outsourced savership and guardianship. So what’s harder is for someone who’s already oriented as a Guardian-Saver to then find examples of balance that they don’t think are insane. Cause our culture also really applauds wealth, applauds success, and shames people who are the opposite financially. To answer you, Mary Beth, I’d say with any of these behaviors, if there’s kind of an insatiability, if no matter how much I’ve done to express my compassionate generosity with money, it’s never enough. I need to do more. What’s the next thing? Who’s the next person I can help? I gave away $50,000 last year, I should give away $100,000 this year. There’s kind of this, the hungry ghost quality that they call it where it’s like this monster who just gorges himself on more and more, more and more, and is never sated. So that could be true of pleasure seeking, it could be true of saving, it could be true of caretaking. So it’s that kind of imbalance and addictive quality to the behavior that I think is the sign that, “Ooh, this is a bit out of control. How do I bring in a relationship or influences that can help temper this with some of the other archetypal focus?”

Neela (25:25):

It’s interesting you brought up the concept of addiction a few times and what came up for me is this idea of when the dopamine hit is very short-lived and it’s, “Okay, next. Okay, next. Okay, next.” That feels like a level of, “Okay, this is maybe going too far.”

Brent (25:40):

Yeah, for sure.

Mary Beth (25:42):

That feeling runs rampant in our society, though, I feel like. Or maybe that’s just as a Type A overachiever in this room, <laughs> or virtual room as we’re talking. But I feel like we find a success and it’s, “Yeah, next.” It’s, “What’s next?” How much do we actually bask in the success of the win versus putting it behind us and moving on to the next thing?

Brent (26:02):

Yeah, basking in the success. And also I would say just being really honest with ourselves about what it doesn’t bring. Like the promise we make to ourselves beforehand, “If I get my business to be at this level or if my savings get to that level…” And for me anyway, that blank has often been “I won’t suffer” or “I won’t suffer nearly as much” or “I’ll be really happy” or “I’ll just be able to relax.” So I think it’s easiest for those of us who are Guardians and Savers and or financial planners to think of in terms of like a shopaholic, like someone who just engages in addictive overspending. If that person audits the promise that they make to themselves when they go online, they’re shopping for something, the dopamine is coming on, there’s this excitement about, “Oh God, I want that one, I want that one.” Reading the reviews, they’ve got it in the shopping basket and then they click ‘check out’. That’s the peak moment of dopamine. And then it starts to recede. And generally there’s guilt, sometimes remorse that comes as dopamine recedes just as a neurochemical reaction that just happens. It doesn’t even necessarily have to do with it. You regret buying the thing you bought, it’s just a function of dopamine receding. But go through that cycle and then a few hours later, a few days later, what were the promises that I made to myself about buying this item? And then what’s actually true? What did it bring and what didn’t it bring? And, and maybe it was great, maybe it brought everything that you wanted it to bring and it’s just fine. It was a good expenditure. But with any of these things, with caretaking, with empire building, with saving, there generally is an overstated promise. And so if we audit those overstated promises and either talk to a friend or journal about it, “Huh, I thought this would happen but in actuality that happened,” we can start to sort of loosen the white knuckles on the steering wheel the next time we’re at the front end of one of these behaviors.

Mary Beth (28:05):

It’s so interesting to sit with that. What’s the story, the narrative that you’re telling yourself and you going back to, “I won’t suffer.” And just thinking about the purchases, oftentimes we’re buying because it’s coming down to beauty, right? Where a lot of women, we’re buying something because it’s going to make us look better. And then really that’s coming down to, “I’m gonna like myself more, I’m gonna feel more at peace.” That’s what these purchases come down to, is finding this version of peace or this version of ourselves that we want. And as a society – and I know myself individually – slowing down to reflect, I don’t do it often. I don’t do it often. I hit the buy button or I’ll put the money in the account and say, “When it hits this amount, I’m gonna feel so good and then I’m gonna be secure and–”

Neela (28:46):

And then the amount changes and–

Mary Beth (28:48):

Then the amount changes. I’m constantly, moving–

Neela (28:50):

There, there, no.

Mary Beth (28:51):

My favorite is when I save for the goal and then I have to spend it and then I freak out because then I’m like, “Well, then the net worth is going to go down!” <laughs> So this idea of taking the time to reflect, the peace comes from doing the work. Is that the right assumption? I mean, I think there’s probably a lot of discomfort in that. I mean, of us sitting with these and then having to wrestle with them. And then is there peace on the other side? Can you guarantee that, uh, or… <laughs>

Neela (29:18):

Make a more peaceful journey? Do that. <laughs>a

Brent (29:22):

To me there’s a certain kind of integrity and authenticity on the other side. So, I don’t want to promise peace because I think there’s just an inevitable amount of suffering and malaise or sometimes emptiness to being human. And one of the tragedies of modern capitalism is we are trained to believe that if we’re suffering, we must be doing something wrong. That there’s some set of purchases or even personal growth practices that we could do that would take away the suffering. And yes, we can improve things and certainly in this case, if we’re operating very unconsciously around money from an old young part of ourselves, we can get off some of these habitual behaviors and life will be better and more spacious. And we have some choice in agency and in how we are behaving with our money. But I don’t want to oversell it. I don’t want to pretend that you get to this place where you’re like, “Hunky dory, just set it on cruise control,” and you don’t suffer anymore because now your archetypes are all in balance.

Mary Beth (30:32):

Is it happily ever after here? <laughs>

Neela (30:34):

Yeah. Right. I feel like we could talk about this all day and I’m eagerly awaiting ending this podcast so I can go take the quiz again. <laughs>

Mary Beth (30:43):

I was thinking that I remember, I think I know what mine are, but I don’t want to say because I cannot–

Neela (30:47):

I wonder if they’ve evolved? So I think let’s transition.

Mary Beth (30:51):

Brent already already knows us, by the way. Brent already can probably tell our listeners the top three for each of us, but we’ll just–

Neela (30:58):

Our therapy session’s gonna happen right after the podcast and that’s gonna be off the air. Just to set clear expectations <laughs>. So, Brent, we’re going to transition to those closing questions and are interested to hear what you have to say. So question one, what is the best financial advice you ever received?

Brent (31:17):

In my mid to late twenties, I knew I wanted to focus on money and psychology in some kind of combined way, but I didn’t know what that looked like. I didn’t know what that was called. And I interviewed a number of different business people and other folks. And one of them was George Kinder, who is a certified financial planner and an author of a book called The Seven Stages of Money Maturity that I had read and liked. And George said to me on a phone call, “Just go get your certified financial planner designation, do the academic coursework, and even if you never decide to do anything professionally with it, it’s an incredible body of knowledge.” And so I did that and that inadvertently led to Abacus coming into being. So I’d say that was a really big one. But I actually want to throw in a second one from my mentor back then, Rob, who I already alluded to at the beginning, who, when I was just starting out, I was just outta college and he said to me for my first job, he said, “Ask your boss if you can work 30 to 35 hours a week rather than 40 or 45.” And I was like, what are you talking about? Like, I’m brand new in my career, I need to prove myself, I need to overwork. And he said, “If you overwork now, you will never not overwork. You will set this groove in motion and you will always be trying to work harder than is healthy for you.” And so I did that and I agreed with that boss to work 35 hours. And I’d like to think that despite a lot of what I’ve said about addiction to building empires, that I’ve had a bit more balance than I would’ve otherwise had and prioritize parenting my kids and prioritize travel and other kinds of relaxing things alongside the empire building that had I not gotten that advice, I think my empire builder would’ve been more out of control.

Mary Beth (33:06):

What would you say is your favorite money mistake you’ve made and why?

Brent (33:10):

This one was fun to think about, and I wouldn’t have thought this would be my answer, but when I was 18, 19, something like that, I had raised some money for a homeless shelter and one of my parents had given me $500 in cash as part of the fundraising. And I had these two glossy tri-fold brochures from some charity or something, and I’d put the $500 bucks inside one of them. And then I vaguely recalled seeing the two lying around a room in my house and being like, “Why do I have two of these?: And I threw one out and turned out the one I threw out was the one with the $500 bucks in it. <laughs> And so you might be like, that doesn’t sound like a favorite money mistake. What made that favorite? Well, that parent said to me, “I’m like, really sorry, da da da. Totally innocent mistake. Really sorry.” And I expected him to just drop it. Well, he didn’t drop it. He said, “You go get $500 bucks out of your bank account or go earn it and you still need to donate that money.” So I’m like 19 years old, I’ve never given more than, I don’t know, $50 bucks to any charity, and now I’ve gotta go come up with $500 to give to this homeless shelter. And so I did it and it ended up feeling so good because I wanted to understand how many meals is this going to pay for and how many people will this benefit? And it created this linkage between what I felt was a sacrifice and a loss and benefiting other beings that has stayed with me to this day. And, you know, as part of why the Caretaker is emerging as the dominant archetype.

Neela (34:44):

Love that. Okay, final question. Fill in the blank. If money were easy…

Brent (34:50):

Uh, I’d say it would’ve kept up its end of the bargain. In my mind, money made a deal with me early in my life that if I worked this hard and accumulated this much, then everything would be smooth sailing. And like we’ve touched on several times, it’s been a lot better. I got an incredibly blessed life, a really fortunate life, and yet there is still suffering. And so I think if money were easy, it wouldn’t have made that promise to me or it would’ve been more overt with me like, “Hey, don’t put a crazy amount of pressure on yourself. Don’t sacrifice your emotional wellbeing. Don’t sacrifice some sense of restfulness, balance fun in the here and now for some elusive future promised land because I can’t deliver that to you. I’m not gonna give you that in the future in the way you think.”

Mary Beth (35:50):

That’s wonderful. Okay, Brent, tell our listeners how they can contact you and find your book. We’ll post a link to the quiz. It’s on the Abacus website, but where can people find you on the interwebs?

Brent (36:02):

Sure. Well, the quiz, I’ll just say real briefly, it’s very fast. It’s like five questions. It takes most people under five minutes. And then you do get a lot of, like your question earlier at Mary Beth about how do you know when the Caretaker’s out of balance? Once you take the quiz, you can see a two page PDF for each of your dominant archetypes that will help you sort of identify how to express it in a more high-functioning way. So that’s at abacuswealth.com/quiz. You can find me at abacuswealth.com/brent. If you’re interested in The Enough Project, that’s at abacuswealth.com/enough. And the book is titled It’s Not About the Money and it’s available pretty much wherever you buy books.

Mary Beth (36:50):

Awesome. Thank you so much.

Neela (36:52):

Thanks for joining us, Brent.

Mary Beth (36:52):

Yeah, thank you so much for joining us.

Brent (36:54):

Thank you guys for having me. It’s been really fun.

Mary Beth (36:57):

Thanks for tuning in to today’s episode of If Money Were Easy. If this is the year that you want to expand what’s possible with your money and you can use some professional guidance along the way, head over to abacuswealth.com/getstarted and schedule your free consultation.

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