WHAT IS WEALTH?
- by Gillian Stovel Rivers, MA, CFP®, CEA
- April 29, 2021
At Surround, why do we do what we do? What is our core purpose, in other words?
It is: To enrich lives by showing people that wealth is more than money.
We fundamentally believe that true wealth cannot be counted in dollars and cents. Our core purpose is our why, our raison d’être and our dealbreaker: either our clients already believe that wealth is more than money, or we can demonstrate to them that it is.
Or, in some cases, there may not be a fit.
It is, without question, our job to grow our clients’ money. It is something we have been very successful at, and something we are immensely proud to do.
It is also table stakes: it’s expected of every advisor. And we see great risk in focusing just on the money and just on the returns. If we do not think of our money in the context of our overall lives – of what we want to accomplish with that money – we will never feel fulfilled. No amount of money, no rate of return, will ever be enough, because we are only looking for fulfillment from that one place.
A pure money-and-returns approach lacks all of the other things that provide joy and connection in life. Money is a tool, but it is not an end in itself – at least not in our business model. Our “why” needed to be bigger than that, so the results we achieve could be more profound for the clients we work with.
WHAT IS WEALTH?
If wealth is more than money, what exactly is it?
We believe that wealth is anything you can create as a result of a desire to make something bigger and better and deeper. To create, you will need good habits. If wealth to us is our relationship with our children, we will need to ask: “What must I do to make the relationship better? What are the habits that will get me there?” And then work on them consistently, because What we do equals what we get. No matter what wealth is to us – if it is, say, our ability to support a charitable cause – we must follow the same process.
At Surround, we believe that the ultimate purpose of money is to use it. It is the moving of it and connecting of it with other people and things that gives us joy. And if we don’t talk with our clients about the things that give them joy – if we only focus on the money – well, for my money, we are missing out on most of the wonderful things in life.
The pandemic has given many of us an opportunity to realize that, in terms of financial and physical health, people with more money are doing better than those with less. How does this square with us claiming that wealth is about more than money?
There is no question that money provides opportunity and options. But as we like to say at Surround, There’s more than one way to wealth™. Consider the example of a couple I will call John and Jane. They both work in blue collar occupations, and they have three kids. They put all of their effort into helping each child become as good as they possibly could in a given sport. Now all three kids are in Ivy League schools on scholarships.
That is wealth! Investing what money they had – and their time and love and commitment – in those children, driving them around morning and night for 10 to 15 years. And out the other end will come three Ivy League-educated kids. John and Jane didn’t just focus on their money or lack thereof. They focused on their other forms of capital to build wealth that has the opportunity to be dynastic, cascading down through the generations.
How cool is that?
Our job is to help people see where their wealth truly lies. Is someone who makes a million dollars a year necessarily in a better position than someone making fifty thousand? Not if the million-dollar-maker is overleveraged and spending more than they have, which is all too common. It will be the person making 50K who can get out of debt faster. The truth is that no matter how little or how much you have – of any form of wealth – it will take the formation and sticking-to of good habits to improve your situation. Because again, what we do equals what we get.
WALKING THE TALK
If wealth was just money for Adil, Andrew and I, all we’d do is work. And we, and our clients, would be poorer for it. We would be missing out on the things that feed our motivation and inspiration and knowledge to do this job well.
Andrew, for example, coaches some of the sports teams his kids are on, volunteer work that I know makes Andrew an even better advisor. Because he is constantly honing his ability to recognize others’ skills and develop them. If all Andrew did was work, he would miss out on developing that professional talent, and the whole cycle of helping clients modify their habits by building on their innate abilities would not exist. Coaching is wealth.
Adil has a fire for taking courses and attaining designations. If all he did was work, and not build his foundation of knowledge and skills, our team would be missing out, and so would our clients on some opportunities to build their capital, in whatever form it may be. Knowledge is wealth.
Every morning, I show up at my CrossFit gym, or the gym in my basement, and I attempt something that is very difficult to do. Maybe I have never even attempted it before. And I problem solve and teach myself something. And the process of doing that wires me to believe that anything is possible in any area of my life, including for my clients. Fitness is wealth.
Everything the three of us do, at work and outside of it, contributes to the larger plan we have for every client. The things we do every day, month and year are part of dynastic thinking about where this can all lead. It’s not about what we can do this year or the year after that. Instead, the big question is this: “What total scope of wealth can we help build for our clients – built on their desires, habits and returns – compounded over the course of a lifetime?”
What’s wealth to you? We’re here to listen. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1 905 815 2704.