Financial Archetypes: The Caretaker

Posted February 1, 2013 by Kelley Long in Life After Five

We’re nearing the end of my review of the financial archetypes introduced in the book It’s Not About the Money, by author and financial advisor Brent Kessel. This time we’re covering the Caretaker.

Caretakers are actually one of the archetypes that are better at managing their money. They are the ones who have their financial stuff together, if you know what I mean. The issue is, they are often the ONLY person in their immediate circle to have it together, and because of their caring nature, they often find themselves unable to get ahead for helping everyone else out of their binds.

Like Idealists, Caretakers are not interested in money for money’s sake, instead believing that its best use is sharing with others. Where they run into trouble is when they feel as though those they care for could not survive without them. They see themselves as generous, but often give away more than others would consider prudent and have a really hard time spending money on themselves, reasoning that others need it more than they do.

If you’re a Caretaker, you probably find that the people who are financially dependent on you don’t offer some exchange that’s reciprocal like childcare, homemaking, repaying the money or other favors. Instead, they might thank you profusely for “saving the day,” but then come back later for more. Or they may not have a way to “repay” you, as would be the case with a special-needs child. The problem isn’t in the giving – it’s in the mindset from whence you give.

Where Caretakers go wrong is when they believe that the person they are caring for couldn’t make it without them. By bailing your kids out of repeated trouble or financing your brother’s unemployment without him doing his part, you’re actually enabling an unhealthy dependency and the only reward you receive is playing the part of the martyr. Who is going to take care of you if you don’t help those you care for take care of themselves?

Don’t get me wrong, giving is a good thing. In fact, I believe that in order to receive good things back from the world, we must first put good things into it. But I know better than to give beyond what is healthy for me. In times of financial prosperity, I will give of my money. In leaner times, I give of my time by organizing fundraisers and volunteering.

You’re no good to anyone if you don’t take care of yourself
Caretakers usually find it impossible to budget for expenses because other people’s needs are so unpredictable. Just when they think they have everyone where they need to be and can start planning their financial picture, Suzy’s car breaks down or Joey is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.

If possible, put those who are dependent on you on an “allowance.” Make them take some financial responsibility by transferring a set amount to their accounts, then stick to your guns if they are unable to cover a shortfall.

Remember, you’re not a curmudgeonly Scrooge if you decide to take care of yourself AND those you care for. As long as you are certain what you’re providing should be enough, you can sleep in peace knowing that they will figure out a way to care for themselves too. In fact, you’ll be doing them a favor.

About the Author

Kelley Long

Kelley Long is a CPA/PFS and CFP® who believes that the true meaning of financial security means having choices in life. She uses her 15 years of experience in various financial services industry jobs to inform her work as a Resident Financial Planner for Financial Finesse, providing unbiased financial guidance through workplace financial wellness programs. She’s also a volunteer and media ambassador for Feed the Pig and 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy. In Kelley’s perfect world, everyone would feel great talking about their money concerns, fears, questions and problems, because then everyone would see that we ALL have those concerns, fears, questions and problems. Kelley lives in Chicago with her husband and their Himalayan cat Miles, where she also teaches BODYPUMP group fitness classes at the Chicago Athletic Clubs.