Financial Archetypes: The Empire Builder

Posted February 6, 2013 by Kelley Long in Life After Five

We wrap it up my review of the financial archetypes introduced in the book It’s Not About the Money with the Empire Builder. Empire Builders, like their name suggests, are people who have created successful business ventures, although they don’t necessarily have to be CEOs of large for-profit companies. They may also be well-known musicians, social activists, politicians or philanthropists.

In general, Empire Builders are visionaries who think they’ll be happy once they’ve created a legacy and have made a lasting impact on the world. But no matter what, it’s never enough. The trouble is that American society idolizes people who are Empire Builders, which can make them feel really good. But that doesn’t satiate the need to keep building and building.

The number they said they’d be happy once they had is constantly moved up. (“Did I say I’d be happy when I was worth $5 million? That would never be enough. I need $20 million!”) Their business takes up more than 75 percent of their time and they tend to live in a constant state of fear of losing control, being powerless or losing it all.

If you’re an Empire Builder, you probably want to feel free, powerful and significant. And by setting and achieving these temporary external goals, you think that some day you will actually feel truly happy. But the trouble is you’re not satisfying the right need. Empire Builders are usually the people who either never retire or if they do, find themselves lost since they identified themselves so closely with their job or their role. Their financial pattern is more about the building and not the having.

Your empire is inside of you

Empire Builders need to spend some time exploring what is missing inside that they are trying to fix with their work. It could be a sense of worthlessness, vulnerability, loneliness or insecurity. It’s important to realize that at some point it will have to be enough. And that the only place you can truly be happy is right now, in this very moment.

The major financial risk for Empire Builders is that they put all of their eggs into one basket by investing all their time, energy and money in their business. As long as the business remains successful, that is fine. But one sour deal or bad business cycle and you risk losing it all.

Mitigate that risk by paying yourself a salary as soon as is fiscally possible when starting a new venture, and put that money aside to support yourself should your empire crumble. It’s no different than making sure your employer-sponsored 401k isn’t too heavily invested in your company’s stock, putting you at double risk should the business go bad – you’d be out a job AND your savings.

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.