By Libby Wildman
Imagine, if you would, you’re an oenophile sitting in a wine cellar full of some of the most spectacular wines in the world and the very grapes you love. You have inherited these wines, and, along with them, the responsibility to carry on this wealth, this love of wine and to make sure it is there for generations to come. Your instructions are to only open and drink those wines that you may think have gone off; the rest you are to save as they go up in value and must be there to preserve your family’s good name, stature and, of course, value.
You smile. Ridiculous? Not so. In our years of helping guide families to what they truly value, it is so often clouded and even shrouded in intergenerational pressure to keep things “as they are.” This is the way we have always done it. There is not enough for everyone, so please do make sure we maintain our share and even increase it, for our family, our tribe. We must protect our future and the future of generations to come.
Scarcity versus sufficiency. The vicious cycle of poverty has been clearly articulated and is widely known. There is no recognition of the trap that wealth so often creates, or conversation around the suffering of the wealthy — the loneliness, the isolation, the hardening of the heart and the family discourse that can come with the burden of wealth. Often, great wealth can amplify a distorted relationship with money and deprive family members from discovering their purpose in life, their gifts, their calling.
Money itself is neither bad nor good, nor does it have power or not have power. It is our interaction with money — our human interpretation of money — that causes the divide between us finding our purpose in life and knowing we have a reason to be here and a gift to share. In The Soul of Money by Lynn Twiste, she writes about this and how a change in our perspective on how we earn money, how we spend it, how we save it and how we share it, can be a release on the grip that money often holds over us.
Begin by looking for the money thread in your own story and how you would like this to play out. If you are fortunate, you may be able to broach this subject with your parents and discover together how they inherited money stories, biases and perhaps shame around the money stories they grew up with. “Marry for money, honey; you can learn to love” is an adage I have heard often. Households with plenty and households with not quite enough all pass on fears and the mighty quest for more, lived out because of society’s ever-increasing dependence on money as the way of judging human value and worth.
The trick is to approach all of this with curiosity, an open mind and the desire to learn. Often, great wealth comes after the generation that grew up with nothing; the fear and the shame of scarcity driving their focus to be on making and accumulating wealth. The thought is “my children will never have to go without, like I did.” This is not a one-off conversation. I would even suggest, if family members are open, to engage with various types of professionals who can help navigate this fascinating journey. At Davis Rea, we have approached this in various ways: John O’Connell, our CEO, has his Family Enterprise Adviser (FEA) designation; I hold retreats on self-connection for families and individuals; and our staff find fulfillment in giving back and volunteering in their local communities.
This is not a one-off conversation. I would even suggest, if family members are open, to engage with various types of professionals who can help navigate this fascinating journey. At Davis Rea, we have approached this in various ways: John O’Connell, our CEO, has his Family Enterprise Adviser (FEA) designation; I hold retreats on self-connection for families and individuals; and our staff find fulfillment in giving back and volunteering in their local communities. That which you focus upon expands. Where the feeling of lack lives, there is a sense of loss of control. If we believe we do not have enough and can never have enough, then those feelings become our focus and begin to take over our consciousness. How do we learn that even in adversity we can grow to appreciate our ability as humans, to thrive and feel the joy of sharing? How do we expand our perspective on the meaning and use of money in our lives? When we create a practice of deliberate attention on what we do have, the value and appreciation of what is already before us and in our current experience expands.
“WHEN WE CREATE A PRACTICE OF DELIBERATE ATTENTION ON WHAT WE DO HAVE, THE VALUE AND APPRECIATION OF WHAT IS ALREADY BEFORE US AND IN OUR CURRENT EXPERIENCE EXPANDS.”
It is helpful to find an adviser who will aid you in understanding your dynamic of how you spend, how you save and the options to grow your money. Philanthropy is another important pillar in our money life; whether you are a millionaire, or a “dollarheir,” as Lynn Twiste says, giving, in any amount, opens our minds and our hearts. In lieu of money, you may give of your time, your skills or your resources. These actions bond us to the greater good and let us know we are all connected.
What exactly is money if it is not coveted, hoarded or envied? Money is but a commodity accepted by general consent as a medium of economic exchange. It circulates from person to person and country to country, facilitating trade. It functions only because there is a general acceptance of its value. In the thesaurus and the dictionary, nowhere does it define money with characteristics, such as coy or brave or stupid or brilliant. It is only in our novels and movies that money becomes a live and powerful “being” where its force can be dangerous, benevolent or powerful enough to make some above the law.
In my mind, money is something that we should treat with care, respect, generosity and only so much attention. In fact, my latest experiment is to only give money so much time on a weekly basis. I allocate money an hour once a week, noted in my calendar, to deal with bills, review my investments and check on various projects and goals that require money to bring them to fruition. This may lead to appointments with lawyers or bankers or our investment team, but money no longer occupies my mind at 3 a.m. I encourage all of you to focus more on the prosperity and generosity that already exists in you and your life. Let the flow of money align with your truth and represent your values, your soulful wishes and your commitment in your own way to all of humanity.
If you have a desire to explore this more deeply, I invite you to reach out; this is truly a conversation I look forward to.
Libby Wildman is Head of Wealth Advisory at the Toronto-based investment firm Davis Rea and the founder of Liminal Escapes creative curated retreats.