This book will teach you about people who are financially successful and what they did to attain wealth, happiness, and fulfillment.
As the cofounders of the Money, Meaning & Choices Institute, we are well acquainted with the issues of wealth and happiness. In 1999 we coined the phrase "Sudden Wealth Syndrome" to describe the challenges and opportunities faced by people of new wealth, and to our surprise, practically overnight we were overwhelmed by attention from the media, being interviewed on radio and television, and in newspapers and magazines around the world. This was the era when, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Bay Area alone was minting sixty-four new millionaires a day. Yes, this was a moment in American history of what today we might call "radical hubris," and what others have called "irrational exuberance."
We got attention because we were telling a counterintuitive story: Coming into money did not solve people's problems or make them happy in an enduring way. In interviews with the media, we were repeatedly confronted with sarcasm and disbelief on the one hand, and real curiosity and excitement on the other.
Most people are convinced that if they have tons of money, they'd be happy. While it is easy to assume that people who have money are happy, the truth about their lives is far more complicated than the size of their bank accounts. In general, the more people make, the more they want—and the more they have, the less joy it brings them. Dan Gilbert, a psychology professor at Harvard University and the author of Stumbling on Happiness, asserts that once you have enough money to meet your basic needs, a lot more money won't actually make you much happier. The reasons behind this are simple, but defy conventional wisdom. First, people tend to overestimate how much pleasure they will get from material objects—although, despite this, they continue to return to the mall or car dealership in search of more—a dynamic that economists call "the hedonic treadmill." Also, money tends to create problems of its own, such as increased stress.
Think of Howard Hughes, who died with a fortune, but paranoid and alone. Or the late Diana, Princess of Wales. She married into one of the wealthiest families in Europe, lived in a castle, and had any material thing she wanted, but by her own admission she was totally miserable. Then there are the people who have that special something, who enjoy a quality of life that we would all love to have. What makes them different from the rest of us is something we call Affluence Intelligence, and this book will show you how to get the peace, satisfaction, and happiness that they have.
The surprising truth is that we all reach a saturation point when it comes to money. Having $10 million does not give you more happiness than having, say, $8 million. In fact, a recent Princeton University study discovered that the numbers for happiness and money are far more modest. In fact, the researchers found that people were generally unhappy due to a lack of money up until about $75,000 a year. The lower a person's annual income fell below that benchmark, the unhappier he or she felt. But the more surprising thing researchers discovered was that no matter how much more than $75,000 people made, they didn't report any greater degree of happiness. This is due to something called the law of diminishing returns, where you put out more and more effort but at some point you start to get less and less back.
We spent almost two years as the focus of a media frenzy, perhaps because at the very heart of our work is the formula for the twenty-first-century version of the American Dream. While wealth creates problems for some, we have also had the privilege of being on the fascinating journey with those who achieved "the Dream"—who through ingenuity, optimism, timing, smarts, people skills, and sheer persistence obtained what most of us want: money and fulfillment. As we spent more time with the affluent, getting to know who they are and what makes them tick, we arrived at an astonishing discovery: They are made up of the same chemistry and capacities as the rest of us. They are you, and you can be them!
So here we are again telling a story that most people will not believe: true affluence can be obtained by anyone; all you need is the courage to honestly face your strengths and vulnerabilities, to be open to change, and to be willing to make use of the Affluence Intelligence strategies found in this book.
Our program is a way for you to become rich that not only brings together the best of your head, heart, and spirit, but also includes personal satisfaction and emotional connection. Is it about more than just money? You bet. Following this program will enable you to have more money, but it will also show you how financial success ultimately rides on something bigger than just your net worth.
We have written this book during a time of financial upheaval and when many institutions—banks and financial organizations—seem broken. In the wake of the Great Recession, many of us are thinking about how we can reinvent our lives, as well as questioning our expectations about money—how much we should spend, save, and share? What role should money have in our lives? How much should it shape our destiny? It is during times of crisis that windows of opportunity open but are often hard to see. There is no better time than now to rethink your relationship to success and fulfillment. By reading this book, you will come to understand what it takes to develop Affluence Intelligence, and see that attaining the affluence that others seem to have is within your power. You will learn, as we have learned from the lives of our clients, how money is an important aspect—but not the whole—of affluence. The personal work you do can change the direction of your life, bringing to light what truly matters to you. No one else can do it for you. Our unique three-month, step-by-step plan can help you get there.
Chances are that you intuitively understand that tapping into this intelligence is something that could help you. But how can you know for sure? It's a clear sign that you need to harness Affluence Intelligence if you feel any of the following:
I feel that there is never enough.
I've lost a sense of where I want to go.
I don't have enough time to do what I like to do.
There is never enough time to spend with loved ones.
People want more from me than I can give them.
I'm not living up to my potential.
This is not supposed to be my life—what happened?
No matter how hard I try, I just can't get where I want to be.
What used to make me happy no longer makes me happy.
I fear for the future.
There's a disparity between how I spend my time and what I really want to do.
Life is passing me by.
I just don't feel satisfied. There has got to be something more.
If any of these statements resonate with you, then you will likely benefit from learning about Affluence Intelligence and finding out how you can increase your own.
Tackling psychological issues and challenges such as tapping into a new way of thinking can be daunting at the best of times. And in the wake of a major recession, the stress of financial difficulty combined with the uncertainty of the future can send a person into a full-fledged crisis. At the Money, Meaning & Choices Institute we believe that a crisis is a time of rich opportunity for personal change, because we have seen it happen time and time again in the lives of our clients. Generally speaking, people don't usually shake things up when life is going comfortably as planned. Instead, it often takes real discomfort to motivate someone to make true change.
But in this book, we will help you make those changes in the easiest and most effective way possible. In Chapter 1, we will give you a better understanding of what Affluence Intelligence is and what it can do for you. Chapters 2 and 3 outline the lifestyle priorities you will be asked to investigate for yourself. We suggest you read each of these chapters carefully, even if you think that they don't pertain to you. (Resistance can be a powerful signal that, on an unconscious level, you are reacting to something that is actually essential to your development.)
In Chapters 4 and 5, you will learn about the key attitudes and behaviors of Affluence Intelligence and take a quiz to figure out where you stand. Armed with this new knowledge, in Chapters 6 and 7 you will learn about, and assess for yourself, the role of Financial Effectiveness. Granted, this is hard work, but it can transform your life.
Having come this far, you will now delve more deeply into the process and start to create real change for yourself. In Chapter 8, you will learn how to set the "thermostat" of your Affluence Intelligence, and how you may be getting in your own way. In Chapter 9, you will determine your total AIQ (Affluence Intelligence Quotient).
Then, toward the end of the book, you will start to put your new life plan into motion. In Chapter 10 you will create a plan to raise your AI thermostat to where you want it to be. In Chapter 11 you will follow strategies step-by-step for three months, thereby unlocking your Affluence Intelligence and starting to live, perhaps for the first time, according to your full potential. Finally, Chapter 12 will show you how your newly gained skills and mindset can transform your life.
Having Affluence Intelligence means having (and achieving) ambitious goals, living your priorities, and enjoying a greater sense of possibility. It also means enjoying the ride toward financial and personal success.
MONEY, MEANING, AND CHOICES
Happy and successful people know something that their equally smart, well-educated, but poorer and discontented peers don't. Our client Brenda, a San Francisco attorney, put it bluntly: "I have a degree from an Ivy League college, and my husband and I work our butts off. We're smart people, and we're doing what we believe are all the right things, but we're always worried and struggling. It's even more frustrating when I look at Sally, my supervisor, who didn't go to a top school. She seems to start and end her day happy, has the time to go to daily yoga classes, takes six-week vacations, and makes way more than I do. Somehow she got the prize—and to top it all off she doesn't seem to have the continuing anxiety that Tom and I have."
For over a decade at the Money, Meaning & Choices Institute, we have used our senior-level expertise in business and psychology to help people to change their lives—and often those changes include having more money. We have worked to discover the secret ingredients of the twenty-first-century success story. We're sure you have puzzled over other people's rise to the top despite resumes and experience that are no better than yours, who may, in fact, have less education and who don't put in a 24/7 workweek. Despite appearances, they are doing something different from what you are doing. The good news is that you can learn to do it, too.
Prior to establishing the Institute, as psychologists we each worked in social services, private practice, and in the business world. Joan worked for a program that helped people with schizophrenia and manic depression; Stephen was a codirector of a public health program for severely disturbed adults. We have experience working with a wide range of people. On one end of the spectrum, we have helped with people in social services trying to find a job to support themselves, single parents who are struggling to make ends meet, hardworking and educated people who cannot seem to stay out of debt or break habits of underearning, and penniless drug addicts. On the other end are the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, heirs to massive family fortunes, and the highest earners who simply cannot stop spending. In other words, we have worked with some of the richest and some of the poorest people in this country. As a result, we have developed an effective program to help people gain real financial and personal satisfaction and fulfillment. By unlocking your Affluence Intelligence, you will have the opportunity to reorganize and upgrade your life, to live a life more closely aligned with what is most important to you, and to make money your ally rather than your adversary.
Our unique understanding of affluence, and the program we built to help people get it, was born out of our direct experience with clients. Two, in particular, may give you insight into what makes some people thrive financially and achieve life satisfaction while others struggle.
David was an architect at a prestigious Bay Area firm. He was competent but not brilliant—we suspected he would never make senior partner at his firm, although he had a degree from an Ivy League school and earned an admirable salary. However, he and his wife, Ellie, had cultivated a sumptuous lifestyle that, now that she was no longer working, was just a little out of their reach. They were starting to get into debt. Ellie's father had always provided for her, and David knew he was expected by both his wife and himself to do the same. David had come to see us about his high level of anxiety, for which his doctor had recently prescribed Xanax. "I lie awake at night imagining that something's going to happen that will derail me financially," he told us. Not only anxious, David was adrift. He needed to change something—to find a new direction for both his work and his life.
Howard came from a very different background. He had dropped out of college to work at his father's business, a home appliance /electronics store. By the time he was thirty, Howard had expanded the business from one store into three and, by starring in a series of low-budget but popular TV ads, had become a local celebrity. Over the next decade Howard built a chain of popular stores and earned a high income that allowed him and his family to live in comfort—even luxury. Howard had come to see us because he wanted to make sure he provided for his children, but he did not want to spoil them or make them think they did not have to work to support themselves when they reached adulthood.
Having spent time working with both David and Howard, we realized that they had both been dealt similar hands. Both were ambitious, hardworking, and had the chance at a good education (although Howard had chosen not to see his through). Each earned an income that most people would envy. But while David was clearly unhappy and struggling, Howard appeared content. He was by no means a financial genius, but he had a belief in his vision and fire in his belly, and he was willing to take several big risks that had paid off very well financially. In contrast, David had achieved some big accomplishments (a degree from a good school, a job with a respected firm), but somehow, as he told us, "I feel that I have gotten stuck and am no longer enjoying my life." Being stuck meant he wasn't doing the kind of work that would lead to a promotion and a bigger salary, or at least that is what he feared.
What did Howard have that David didn't? We felt that the answer to this question held a precious secret just waiting to be discovered and shared. After we discussed the many people we had counseled over the years, we agreed that Howard (and others like him) had something that we decided to call Affluence Intelligence: that seemingly mysterious quality that made some people—often not the smartest, best educated, or most hardworking—able to create rich and fulfilling lives for themselves, to have money, and to be deeply satisfied.
THE ELEMENTS OF AFFLUENCE
To most people, the word "affluence" is synonymous with "wealth" and means having lots of money. However, affluence, as we define it and as our wealthy clients have demonstrated over and over again, includes the following seven elements:
1. Having enough money to meet not only your needs but also your desires.
Obviously, we all need enough money for the necessities—to eat, to have proper medical care, and to keep a roof over our heads—and it's relatively easy to calculate exactly how much money that is. But it's more difficult to calculate how much we need for non-necessities—the things that we desire and that would make us feel rich (or at least that we are living richly). Being affluent means being able to afford what you really want—whether it is a vacation home, a collection of vintage motorcycles, the freedom to take a sabbatical from work, visiting family abroad, or whatever else would thrill your heart.
Of course, how much we need for our desires varies greatly depending on what we want. One person might be dying for a Porsche 911. Another person might yearn instead for an experience, such as the ability to take off from work and hike in the mountains for a week. Each can be equally valid choices. When you think about what you want, the point is not to judge your desires as good or bad, but to determine how much money you need, not just to get by but to be affluent. Howard was not much of a spender, but he had the comforting knowledge that if he or his wife wanted something, he could probably afford to go ahead and buy it.
Those with Affluence Intelligence have found their unique financial balance point between needs and wants. There isn't a dollar amount that answers the question, How much is enough? (If I had $X million I'd be satisfied.) They use what they have to develop a financial strategy for saving, spending, and sharing, and the transferring of their money that is based on their core values, and is sustainable over the long term.
By unlocking your Affluence Intelligence, this book will help you determine your unique balance point, and what you need to do to reach it.
2. Doing work you like so much that you lose track of time.
Affluence means doing work you like so much that you'd do it even if you weren't being paid, because it engages and satisfies you on a very deep level. You may sometimes get so caught up in your work that you lose track of time and may have moments of great insight and creativity. Psychologists call this "flow." You don't have to be doing paid work to be in the flow. For example, volunteer work is something many affluent people find deeply satisfying. You might also be performing activities you enjoy such as gardening, dancing, or amateur race-car driving—anything that engages you deeply.
Many people have jobs that do not interest them, or that they find boring. Architecture had once been David's passion, but it no longer was—yet he had made no lifestyle changes to reflect his change of heart. Instead, he had fallen into a "gerbil on the wheel" existence, doing the same thing day after day in an effort to stay ahead. Living like this is not living in affluence. No matter how high your salary, you are not affluent until you spend time doing something that you truly love.
3. Having relationships that bring you joy.
Affluence means having relationships that work well and that make you happy and satisfied—whether at home or at work, and whether you have many relationships, or simply a few. Some people are introverts: spending time with others depletes their batteries, and they need lots of alone time to recharge. Other people are extroverts: being alone depletes them, and being with others recharges them. There is no right or wrong choice about how you spend your time, but it is important to be clear about what works best for you.
Affluence does not mean having as many relationships as possible, although it is great to be rich in friends. We're not talking about your friend count on Facebook (do you really need 700 friends?). Instead, we are talking about the people with whom you are really connected, who provide real comfort and satisfaction.
Some of our clients have an incredibly strong family bond, which they say is essential to their happiness and success. The Morrows are a four-generation ranching family that we see twice a year. In these multigeneration family meetings, family members take the opportunity to share very personal concerns, using the larger (more than twenty members) family group as a sounding board. There are always moments of joy and tears: a family member might ask for forgiveness for not having followed through with something they said they would do, or a college-bound young man may ask for feedback on his choice of a major. The Morrows have a priceless capacity to provide their family members with helpful and honest feedback.
Finding joy in relationships can be fraught with hardship, particularly when money becomes an issue. Finances were causing so much tension between David and his wife that they had started talking about divorce. This level of discord in a major relationship does not have a place in an affluent life. Although their income was in excess of $300,000 per year, they felt as if they were struggling to get by. While it is true that money issues are the number one problem in love relationships in the United States, those who have Affluence Intelligence know how to keep their money problems in perspective and out of the bedroom. The Beatles were right. Money doesn't buy love—or a life rich in closeness, emotional connection, or sexual satisfaction.
4. Being safe in body and mind.
Feeling comfortably safe and secure is a crucial element of having a rich life. Being affluent means achieving sufficient peace of mind so that you can sleep well at night and not be kept awake, anxiously worrying about what might happen in the future or ruminating regretfully about how you have dealt with money in the past. It also means being able to truly enjoy what you have, and not to feel guilty about money, or to feel you do not deserve what you have. David had another form of guilt, reflecting his own internal pressure. He felt he was not living up to his financial responsibilities, which included his perception of his wife's expectations, and was experiencing so much anxiety that he needed to use tranquilizers.
Being affluent also means having a sense of personal safety. It means living in a neighborhood where you do not feel physically threatened, and being able to afford physical protections—such as a safe car, a secure home, and comprehensive insurance in case of disaster—so that you can feel confident in your ability to protect and care for yourself and your loved ones.
5. Having power.
Those with Affluence Intelligence have personal power, and use it to attain their needs and wants. They come from all walks of life: people like Bill and Melinda Gates, Oprah Winfrey, or Warren Buffett. Their power is a product of their personal certainty, tenacity, clarity of vision, integrity, and money. They are conscious of how they exercise their power, and its impact, using care to foster positive and constructive outcomes for both themselves and others. Importantly, they respect the rights of others, and will not use power in service of "any means to an end."
In the United States, and other Western societies, money is power. This is not true in all cultures. In India, wisdom is power; in many traditional Jewish cultures, education is power. But in this country, when you have money, people listen to you. You control the purse strings, you call the shots. Having money puts you in a different place when it comes to having a sense of authority and influence in the world. However, having this kind of power does not necessarily mean that you have good self-esteem or are getting the love you want. And money is only power if you know how to harness that power and use it in the world.
Having power offers you a freedom of choice and a sense of autonomy and potency in the world. It puts you at the table when choices are being made; it gives you the opportunity to be in a position of being a decision maker and a leader. You have a say in the things that matter to you. A person who has power gains the recognition and respect of the community, whether that person is a corporate captain, a community organizer, teacher, or spiritual leader. By unlocking your Affluence Intelligence, you can have a significant impact and influence on matters that are important to you.
Howard, the electronics dealer who was a local celebrity, was recognized wherever he went in his hometown, and people were eager to hear what he had to say. The way he exercised his power was to offer leadership at local events that brought the community together for the underserved. Whether or not he chose to exercise his power, he took pleasure and security in just knowing that he had it.
6. Living a life that has meaning and purpose.
It may surprise you to learn that many wealthy people feel adrift in the world. This is a classic problem for people who inherit the family fortune. Born Rich is a 2003 documentary created by an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune about the experience of growing up in one of the world's richest families. It reveals the struggles of these young adults to define themselves, and to find purpose and motivation when everything they will ever need has already been provided.
Numerous studies have shown a worldwide three-generation phenomenon: Created wealth will be gone within three generations more than 80 percent of the time! Howard, for example, was concerned about the impact of the family wealth on his children and grandchildren—he did not want them to go adrift, with no sense of self or purpose.
But even people like David, who have earned their money, can feel that they are living fractured lives because they have become disconnected from what they know to be important and true.
You are not affluent if you are financially rich but feel, at the end of the day, that all the money you have amassed means nothing because some core part of your life is missing or has been forgotten. Instead, having Affluence Intelligence means knowing what is important to you, living in alignment with your core values, and having a sense of meaning and purpose. An indicator of what you value can be the amount of time you devote to those activities, people, or institutions that have meaning for you and give purpose to your life.
Time is its own kind of wealth. Managing your time effectively creates a rich and balanced life that goes far beyond simply making, saving, and spending money. More than just "having time," affluence means having a sense of agency, being in command of your time, and leading a life that is aligned with what you value most. How we spend our time in order to have a life rich in meaning and satisfaction changes as we age and as our core values evolve. In her twenties, Julie spent 80 percent of her free time in dance classes. She told us at that stage of her life, "I lived to dance." Her devotion to dance shifted when she was in her forties and was a mother of two young daughters, whom she adored and was passionate about parenting. She didn't stop loving dance, but now she gave it only 10 percent of her time.