What does money actually mean to you?
How does money impact you on a daily basis?
How can you use money for good instead of bad?
How can money bring joy instead of stress and anxiety?
These are questions any normal person asks, and happen to also be questions I walk through with many clients on a daily basis. These are also questions I have struggled with personally. As the managing partner of a financial planning firm that works with over 600 clients ranging from age 22 to 95, I come across people with varying degrees of financial happiness...and spoiler alert, overall income isn’t what determines those who are happy from those who are not.
Recently, I read the book When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with cancer and authors a book as he is slowly dying from the horrible disease. While on his deathbed, Kalanithi’s wife gives birth to their first child. Shortly after, Kalanithi passed away. He stated at the end of his book that one of the motivations to finish it before his death was that he wanted to leave something for his daughter to remember him by. Someway to impart his wisdom and life experiences to her, even though she would never know him. The end of the book, along with the epilogue (written by Kalnithi’s wife after his death) is gut wrenching, emotional, but also impactful.
While I do not have terminal cancer and have not been given just a few months to live, it got me thinking. Many do not have warning about impending death. Instead, death, severe illness, or a loss of a loved one comes suddenly.
At the time of this writing, I have a six year old and a four year old daughter, and a one year old son. They mean the world to me, and after reading When Breath Becomes Air, I began to think about the legacy and wisdom I want to ensure I impart to them. If I did suddenly die tomorrow, what would I want them to know and what would I want to teach them? It’s dark to think about, but also a thought process that leads to prioritization, motivation, and a deep appreciation of the blessings I currently have.
Money has been my passion for years, but not in the self destructive, obsessive way so often associated with money. Instead it's been the study of money, with the intention of helping people live more fulfilling lives.
And so this following series of essays was born from that thought process. A combination of my personal learning experiences, professional experience and research, along with timeless teachings from the Bible about money. These together form the important lessons I want to impart to my children.
What to Expect
Financial Planners and the curriculum we are taught in undergrad and CFP (Certified Financial Planner) certification courses concentrate on the raw numbers and maximizing the economic value of every cent. But in the past few years, focus has shifted towards the emotional side of money.
Currently, research on the “emotions of money” concentrates on behavioral finance and the study of the behavioral "mistakes" people make. But we still miss the realization that money is a deeper emotional issue, and that simply helping the world recognize that maximizing return and wealth may not always be the "best" choice.
Additionally, the true, best choice for one person may differ greatly from the best choice for another, even if numerical circumstances are nearly identical. The deciding factor may be as unacademic as what allows that person to sleep better at night or be more confident in their financial future.
As soon as we realize that money is more than just numbers, and start seeing it as something that deeply impacts many other areas of our lives, both positively and negatively, we will develop a healthier view of money and live happier lives
My firm’s motto is "Plan Better, Invest Better, Live Better." This isn't meant to blissfully imply that a better investment strategy equals more happiness in life. Instead, it means that by evaluating and making wise decisions in a more comprehensive way, by planning well (taking into account your individual priorities), by investing well (not just in the stock market) and by executing those decisions better, money can truly lead to a better life.
And so each of the following essays tackle one key truth about money. Some are more numerical and follow tried and true financial principles. Some try to simply apply common sense and reason to a topic that is often treated as academic, but is then acted upon with great emotion.
And while I hope and pray I can personally walk my three children through each of these lessons for decades to come, I can rest assured these lessons will live on far longer than me.