Saver or Sensualist, Innocent or Vigilant: What's Your Money Type?

John Robbins
John Robbins

John Robbins has lived an unusual life. Son of the founder of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream chain, John made a decision early in his adulthood to walk away from the chance to prosper in his father's business. After living with his wife and son on a remote Canadian island for 10 years, he returned to a more mainstream life.

Over time, Robbins did exceptionally well for himself as a speaker and author. But his financial security was pulled out from under him after a trusted friend invested Robbins' money with Bernie Madoff. Forced to start over financially, Robbins learned to view money with new eyes.

In his recent book, The New Good Life, Robbins offers readers six archetypes to explain how people approach money matters. No one "money type" is necessarily better or worse than the rest. Each has its unique strengths and weaknesses. And they all reveal deeper truths about the way people approach their finances.

Take a look at the six different types below:

The Saver

Key trait
: A Saver does just that: saves. Savers aren't concerned with keeping up appearances -- just keeping a solid safety net in place at all times.

Strengths: When the personal-savings rate in the U.S. dipped below 0% just before the Great Recession, we were in dire need of Savers. These individuals tend to be financially responsible and reliable, and live well below their means.

Weaknesses: Scrooge would be an excellent example of the Saver's biggest weakness: a penny-pinching obsession with money that makes it hard to see what else matters in the world.

The Innocent

Key trait: Often children of well-to-do parents who took care of all their financial matters, Innocents can have a difficult time adjusting to the real-world of money when they get out on their own.

Strengths: These individuals usually have a high level of creativity and sense of freedom, possibly because they were shielded from the cruel realities that might have jaded their counterparts over the years.

Weaknesses: Innocents are often confused as to where their money is going and how to track it. They blame outside forces for this, and have trouble accepting responsibility for the difficult financial situations they find themselves in.

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The Performer

Key trait: Money is a tool for Performers to obtain the kind of attention they wish to have.

Strengths: Performers have an innate sense of how appearances will affect others' opinion of them. Though this is sometimes viewed negatively in our society, it can be important for creating the right image in a public setting -- which can be a powerful thing.

Weaknesses: Performers' self-worth is closely tied to having the latest and greatest gadgets and fashions. The vicious cycle of buy, discard and replace that this compulsion for trendiness creates can easily consume Performers' earnings and prevent them from saving, making them slaves to debt.

The Sensualist

Key trait: Money is a means to joy and pleasure in whatever form it may take.

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Strengths: Too many of us are stuck dwelling on past regrets or planning for the future. But not the Sensualist, who is firmly planted in the present and attempts to live every day to the fullest.

Weaknesses: Continual self-indulgence can be both a drain on one's pocketbook and a convenient escape from more serious long-term problems -- whether those problems are monetary in nature or otherwise.

The Vigilant

Key trait: Ask Vigilants how much they paid for a piece of furniture, how much is in their bank account now, and when they'll be able to retire, and they'll spout out three precise answers.

Strengths: Robbins writes, "Practical and down-to-earth, [Vigilants] are the bed-rock of society. If there's a job to be done, you can count on them to apply themselves fully and see it through."

Weaknesses: When those traits are taken to extremes, they can cause Vigilants to become obsessed with tracking their financial data, squeezing the joy from their lives in their constant analysis.

The Giver

Key trait: A Giver is generous to a fault, often deriving pleasure from being able to provide for another.

Strength: Such pro-social behavior is important for society. During down times especially, Givers often are the glue that holds together communities or families in need.

Weaknesses: Givers can often take on the martyr role -- and all of the trappings thereof. Forsaking their own hopes and dreams in the name of helping others, they can find themselves frustrated that their own financial needs aren't being met and that they can't reach their own goals.

Which of these categories best represents your approach to money? (More than one can apply to you.) Ask yourself how can that information empower your future decisions. The answers could not only help you understand your finances better, but also put your whole life in perspective.

Read how being robbed by Bernie Madoff led another duped investor to a happier life.

Motley Fool contributor Brian Stoffel considers himself one part Sensualist and one part Vigilant. You can follow him on Twitter, where he goes by TMFStoffel.