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Credit crises and the meaning of money

There is nothing like a crisis to make people reassess their goals and ambitions. Recent events in the global banking sector have caused this to happen on a huge scale but, as an advisor to high net worth individuals and their families, I see a version of it every week – more often than not prompted by serious health issues.

It is a real shame but it seems that a reminder of a person's own mortality, or that of those close to them, is often the most effective catalyst for a reassessment of what life is really all about. More than anything else, health issues seem to provide the necessary impetus for someone to re-evaluate what they really want out of life and how they can go about achieving it.

Helping someone through this re-evaluation process can be a truly fascinating and rewarding experience. One of the most revealing things to come out of it is the fact that what people really want out of life very rarely has anything to do with money, other than at the very basic level of being able to feed and clothe themselves and their families.

Of course, this begs the question: why are we so obsessed with money? Perhaps it is simply a legacy of the not-too-distant past when money was scarcer. Even now, we are guided and influenced from a very early age by a wide range of trusted sources – family, friends, teachers and even the media – towards money-orientated goals.  

We have no reason to question this guidance and, apart from a spell of rebellion usually in our teens and 20s, tend to accept it as the way things are. By the time we are old enough and wise enough to start questioning the logic of such goals and ambitions, most of us are fully paid-up members of the business world and can't see a way out until that crisis catalyst appears in one form or another.

The point I want to make is that a crisis doesn't have to be the catalyst. By asking the right questions of ourselves it is possible to work out what we really want out of life and to set new goals based on one's true values and beliefs. I appreciate that to some people, talk of beliefs can sound a bit too spiritual but again this is a symptom of the society we live in. Those that are able to recognise this and do something about it tend to only regret not having done it earlier.

I am not going to pretend for one second that it is an easy process and I would suggest that it is best tackled with the help of an experienced advisor – preferably one who has also been through the process themselves.

For anyone interested in looking at this seriously there is no better place to start than reading a book by legendary life planner and coach George Kinder of the Kinder Institute. Entitled The Seven Stages of Money Maturity, the book examines where our attitudes to money come from and how they influence our lives, crucially showing how we can change our existences emotionally and financially by achieving "money maturity". I urge you to read it.

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