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The 4 Tendencies And Finance

by Phia @ Freedom 101

*This post was originally published on May 8, 2018.

When you’re pursuing Financial Freedom, having a strong understanding of financial principles and strategies is a major asset. But it’s arguably even more important to have a solid understanding of yourself. Only then can you assess how your own personal tendencies will interact with the principles and strategies you intend to employ.

It’s part of why there really is no one size fits all model when it comes to HOW to go about implementing your financial plans.

Though the underlying principles may often remain the same (earn more, save more, spend less), the approach that works for Person A may be exactly the wrong method for Person B.

So in order to identify what will work best for your financial goals, you need to first understand your own traits and biases. Doing so will allow you to tailor your strategies in a manner that capitalizes on your strengths. While simultaneously creating buffers that mitigate areas of weakness.

How The 4 Tendencies Come Into Play

A few years ago I spent a ton of time reading introspective books and reflecting on my personality. I invested some pretty significant time into evaluating who I was, what made me happy, and what made me content. Most importantly, I wanted to get really specific about what I wanted from life.

In the end it was undoubtedly time well spent. It helped me identify areas where I was investing time with little or even negative returns. Highlighted that I was working for an organization that frustrated my personality on every level. And also helped me to recognize how I could use my personal strengths to better achieve our goals of Financial Freedom.

Just a few of fabulous authors I read along the way were Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project”, “Better than Before“, and “The 4 Tendencies”; Brene Brown, the now well known researcher on human connection at the University of Houston and author of a number of incredibly insightful books all of which were worth the time invested in reading; and Daniel Goleman, author of “Emotional Intelligence”.

All books that prompt you to evaluate your life and personal tendencies both with an external and internal lens.

While the insights obtained from those books were incredibly helpful in a number of areas in my life, they also directly applied to my approach towards Financial Freedom.

In particular I took an interest in a framework created by Gretchen Rubin titled “The 4 Tendencies”. In her research into happiness Rubin developed this framework as a way of categorizing people in terms of how each of us react to inner and outer expectations.

Rubin’s framework is designed to help people identify their individual tendency to assist in employing daily strategies to improve happiness and productivity. There’s a ton of great happiness hacks peppered throughout her books. Ones that can be easily and quickly implemented to achieve almost immediate ROI.

But notably, I found her framework to be an incredibly useful tool in identifying tendency specific financial planning.

So What Are The 4 Tendencies?

Her framework consists of 4 different categories, being the “Upholder”, the “Obliger”, the “Rebel”, and the “Questioner”.

The Upholder


Someone who can easily meet both inner and outer expectations. This type of person can generally appear very self-motivated and requires no outside influence to meet their goals.

As you can imagine, if you are an upholder, you don’t need to spend a lot of time worrying about building in external measures of accountability in your financial strategies because you are the measure of accountability.

Generally speaking, for an Upholder, it’s all about setting the intention. And if it’s your spouse who want’s to pursue Financial Freedom, just have them be specific about their expectations.

The Obliger


Here’s the category where the vast majority of the population falls. The Obliger is excellent at meeting outer expectations, but struggles with inner expectations.

In order to succeed the Obliger must be creative at developing ways to create outer accountability for internal expectations. Given that so many people fall into this category, it’s easy to see why the vast majority of the population struggles with maintaining their finances or meeting financial goals, budgeting etc.

Finance has historically been a topic that isn’t openly discussed. Generations past considered it rude to openly talk about money. And yet, keeping it hidden and not being externally accountable to anyone about money is probably the worst thing an Obliger can do when developing their financial strategies.

As an obliger, setting goals and telling others about them will help provide a layer of external expectation. One that you will then feel obligated to meet. So if you’re an Obliger, be loud, proud and specific about your plans to reach Financial Freedom.

The Rebel


Yikes. The Rebel can be in for a tough ride when it comes to finance. The title is pretty self explanatory, the rebel bucks both inner and outer expectations and doesn’t like to feel painted into a corner.

As an upholder, I fall in the completely opposite plane as a rebel and so I really struggle to relate to this train of though. Which also means I struggle to come up with suggestions as to how you can overcome this tendency from a financial perspective.

Budgeting, savings, everything finance related seems to go exactly against the grain of what a rebel’s tendancy is all about. My best suggestion is to ensure that the goals you are setting are things you genuinely want to achieve, and you don’t feel as though you are being forced. Otherwise, you are destined for failure.

Another area to focus is on the true freedom that comes with achieving your financial goals. You won’t be beholden to any job, any location, really….. anything. Hard to have more freedom than that.

As an aside, if you are the spouse of a rebel and trying to get them on board with a financial plan, understanding their tendency and how they will react to your expectations will be a crucial consideration in how you introduce your plans.

Allowing freedom of spending to a set amount is likely the best approach when it comes to a rebel, it will allow them the sense of freedom of choice within a reasonable amount that works with the overall plan. (Yes, that basically means an allowance, but don’t call it that, your Rebel spouse won’t appreciate it!)

The Questioner


Such an interesting category. And the one Mike falls squarely under.

The questioner resists outer expectations, but easily meets their own inner expectations. UNLESS they can evaluate and come to understand the outer expectation by questioning the purpose and value. Subsequently turning it into an inner expectation.

As a questioner you are likely to be very successful at implementing your own financial plan, but if you are the spouse of a questioner and trying to get them on board with what you have in mind, come prepared with an arsenal of information about why this will bring you both value.

Also, give them time to absorb and digest the information before they are ready to jump on the bandwagon.

I recently employed this exact strategy with Mike. I spent about 3 years slowly introducing the idea of getting a hot tub. He bucked, resisted, put up all sorts of road blocks. Until suddenly one day, he took the idea, spent an absurd amount of time researching it (like any good questioner would), and then purchased the hot tub he thought would work best for our family.

If I didn’t know any better, I could have sworn it was his idea in the first place.

The Bottom Line

Understanding your tendency and how you will respond to both inner and outer expectations should be a huge consideration in developing your financial plan. Doing so could be the defining difference between success and failure.

Equally as important is understanding which category your spouse falls under. You need a plan that works for both of you. What will work for an Obliger will likely not work for a Rebel. Failing to recognize this is almost certain to generate conflict.

If you want to find out where you fall on the 4 tendencies spectrum, try taking Rubin’s free quiz here.

It only takes a few minutes and can help you get started improving your understanding of yourself, so that you can truly understand what financial strategies will work best to get you to your goals.

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The Ideal Banking Framework – FREEDOM 101 : The most valuable currency is time – choose how you spend yours November 12, 2018 - 9:08 pm

[…] of your personality type, when it comes to our spending and saving habits, even the “rebels” among us must learn […]

Michael Baker August 27, 2020 - 2:38 am

Awesome post. Very interesting, thanks. I will share with colleagues!


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