The Meaning of Money

A close friend of mine told me back in the mid 1980s that if he ever made $30,000, he’d be happy. At the time, he was earning $15,000 and he believed that doubling his money was all that was necessary for financial bliss. Today, he is making close to $175,000 and he is still yearning for a higher income. Financial happiness has eluded him.

I mention this because I thought that an appropriate way to start the first week of my blog is to get people to think about the ways in which they use money. It rarely occurs to many that money can be a powerful tool to change the way they live. And that often doesn’t require accumulating any more stuff.

George Kinder, a fee-only financial planner and the author of a book, entitled, Seven Stages of Money Maturity, Understanding the Spirit and Value of Money in Your Life, is one of the most articulate advocates of examining how money can be used in a more powerful way. He believes that we spend so much time chasing money and trying to make more, that we often lose sight of spiritual and psychological issues surrounding our bank balance.

In an interview in Financial Planning Magazine many years ago, Kinder, who is a Harvard-trained Certified Financial Planner and a Buddhist teacher — mentioned that clients would come to his office with the goal of amassing a certain amount of money:

I’ve had many clients who upon first blush say they would like a million dollars or $5 million or $10 million. But when I go through a process investigating what is most meaningful for them in their lives, they’re more likely to reveal issues of integrity, of family connectedness, of relationships, or even of spirit. My fiduciary responsibility then is to help them achieve these goals through an appropriate use of and relationship to money.

In that process, often they simultaneously reveal vulnerabilities around their own capacity to accomplish their dreams. These vulnerabilities stand in the way of effective financial action. So my additional fiduciary responsibility is to help them come to terms with their vulnerabilities in such a way that they don’t sabotage the financial planning process.

In his book, Kinder provides plenty of examples of how he has helped people redirect how they spend their money to align with their values. If a client wants to spend more time with his family, for instance, he’d explore how he or she could use money to accomplish that.

You can indulge in a lot of soul searching by reading Kinder’s book. In what is perhaps the most thought provoking part of the book, Kinder asks his readers three questions:

1) What would you do with your money and how would you live your life if you had an unlimited supply?

2) How would you live your life if you had just five to 10 years left?

3) You’ve got 24 hour left. What regrets, longings and other feelings are you experiencing?

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  1. In my wealth management practice I use a wonderful methodology called “Values-Based Financial Planning” which alllows me to facilitate a discussion by asking a series of questions which bring out my prospective client’s deeply held values about money and life. I’ve done hundreds of these meetings and everyone really appreciates the process. Couples in particular really enjoy the process because they get to hear their loved ones values. It takes a potentially dull subject and brings it alive because now it is through the filter of your deeply held values. I facilitate this meeting even if I know in advance that the person will not become a client because it is so important for your goals to be driven by your values. It’s my way of giving back. I will do this for any one of Lynn’s readers/bloggers with nothing expected in return. Go to our web site and contact me if you are interested. Identify yourself as one of Lynn’s readers and I’ll also give you one of my Values-Based Financial Planning books. (E-mail me Lynn and I’ll send you one.)
    Live your Values! John O’Reilly

  2. It does depend on exactly what you do with that money, and I would advise paying off accounts you have to pay interest on as that saps more of your money away where you have nothing to show for it. I remember my mother used to say “I hate to spend money where I don’t have anything to show for it!”

  3. Money is nice but for me family is what’s important. Adjusting to an unlimited supply of money would be a nice problem but I think it would cloud what’s really important. I wonder how many lottery winners have crashed and burned. With 24 hours left, money would be the last thing I’d be thinking about. Glad to see you on the web, Lynn.