Four of Pentacles
In the Four of Pentacles, we see a man tightly holding on to his pentacles. With a crown on his head and a well-developed city behind him, the impression is that he is a king, leader or other very wealthy individual in charge. He is dressed in rich stately clothing and a purple robe, used to denote royalty. He uses two hands to tightly hold, and show off, the pentacle on his lap, and he firmly holds two more pentacles under his feet. At this point, he is so busy focusing on tightly holding onto his possessions for himself, that he can't go anywhere or do anything else.
Conservation is a key concept to this card. Whatever it is you have, you are holding onto it very tightly and not letting go. You have worked hard to get where you are at so far, you are proud of what you have achieved and earned, and you are not letting anyone take it from you, nor are you giving it away freely or easily. You are holding onto your money and possessions. This is ok, as long as you are not being selfish or greedy with what you can and rightfully should share with others. Be careful you are not hoarding your money and possessions.
You must also be careful of having the Midas touch, where King Midas was so greedy he wanted everything he touched to turn to gold. The short version of this story is that it backfired on him the moment he hugged his daughter. Be careful you are not valuing material wealth over personal relationships or spiritual and emotional health.
Part of this comes from the idea that you want to maintain security and control over what you have. You feel fairly secure with what you have and where you have gotten at this point, but certainly don't want to risk anything. Fours are not about risk, they are about stability. This could be referring to the money you have in the bank, or any other type of material or physical possessions. This could refer to what you actually own, your physical property, even your home and mortgage. For example, if given the opportunity, this would not be a time that you would choose to remortgage your house to borrow some of its equity as cash.
This could refer to your job as well. This is not a time that you are slacking off or taking calculated risks at the office. You are doing what you are told. You aren't taking a leap of faith to go with a job offer from a flashy new company with big promises. You are maintaining the 'steady eddie' approach and going in for your stable and reliable 9-5 workweek with the matching paycheck consistently every Friday.
This card can be a little bit like the idea of 'keeping up with the Jones'. You have surrounded yourself with many luxury or high ticket items, or have established an expensive way of life that you not only identify yourself with, but you now need to keep up with. It could be that your lifestyle starts to control and stifle you. You feel the need to control everything around you so that you can keep it all on track. A problem with this card is that it can often lead to isolating yourself from others, either by your own choice because they are not living up to your standards, or by theirs, because they don't want to.
This is also a card of saving, and could also come up when you have been working very hard and diligently to save your money. It could be that you are saving for something in particular like a car, home or other big ticket item, or you could simply be socking it away for a rainy day. If that is the case, this card is an indication you are on the right track.
In the four, we have decisions to make. Fours can lead to stagnation if we do not make some changes and grow from them. While it is good to be practical and not act carelessly when this card appears, part of conservation includes knowing what to prune away and get rid of to promote future growth. In some areas, you may need to hand over some control, or take some small, well-calculated risks, in order to grow from where you are currently.
Fours always indicate strong foundations, just like the cube that the Emperor sits on. You have built yourself a very firm foundation, and if you wish to remain here, that is fine, but you have to give it thought, and not just fail to take any action. You have entered the next stage of the process when you get to the four, where you must reflect on what you have identified, proliferated and created in the first three cards. Here we are consolidating, we look at pruning and restructuring and whether or not we want to grow further or stay where we are comfortable. If you do choose to move forward cautiously, know that you have built a firm foundation for which you can further your plans.
If this card shows up in the advice position, it is advising right now that you hold on to, or protect what you have, money, possessions or resources. It would advise NOT making a loan to someone, or giving away your time and resources.
Four of Pentacles Reversed
In the four reversed, the conservatism seen in the upright card has turned to outright greed. You are very stubbornly and tightly holding on to every last dollar, the ultimate penny-pincher. Some may even call you a miser. You could be holding on to your money or resources so tightly that you value them over all else, including personal relationships. You may have worked so hard for what you have, or feel that others have not worked nearly as hard as you, and therefore are extremely resistant to sharing, spending or letting go in anyway. Your excessiveness consumes you and is beyond the limits of what is healthy and acceptable at this point.
In the four reversed, you are being asked to gently let go and start some sort of change, which is very difficult for this card. The typical reaction is fear, making you hold on even tighter, giving way to greed, defensiveness, and controlling behaviors. It suggests that you don't necessarily want to be this way, but it is very difficult to do things differently. This can lead to feeling blocked and stifled at every turn, nothing advances the way you would like, either at work or in your investments, and consequently, you may even see things depreciate.
You could find yourself wanting to control how every last dollar is spent, how money is managed, or how other materialistic concerns are handled, such as major purchasing decisions and household expenses. You could feel that this is your right to do so if you are the primary breadwinner. Be very careful with this approach, as everyone as something valuable to contribute to the family and it is not always financial. The reversed card is asking you to loosen your grip and return to the lesson of the three and be more of a team player.
You could be extremely frugal, because you have gone without for a long time, and now have a tendency to hold on to every little bit you have. You could feel that others are being selfish asking you to spend more than you feel is right, or spend wastefully.
Like all reversed cards, the other manifestation is that you find yourself at the opposite side of the spectrum, where you have become so careless and reckless with your spending, you are being extremely frivolous and wasteful, throwing your money after anything that suits you right now, effectively just throwing it away. Again, you could be coming into money after a time of going without, and you don't care about the value of saving or being conservative, you are on a spending and shopping spree after having gone so long with so little. You need to rein it in and get a hold of your finances before you find yourself with nothing left but a bunch of worthless possessions and regret.
On a more pleasant note, this card could indicate that you are giving up some of your materialistic views and possessions to focus more on your spirituality, and building a richer spiritual life, with less materialistic concerns. I would consider this meaning more significantly in a reading of personal development, rather than a reading concerning day to day activities or one concerning work and finances. It could also mean that you are learning to relax a little bit, both your tight grip on your possessions, and your viewpoint of the importance of money versus relationships, and your willingness to share.