How to acquire financial wisdom

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Wealth Mentor Diana Chambers explains why true wealth is finding joy and meaning in our lives, and has very little to do with our finances.

On Christmas mornings, as soon as we woke up, my two sisters and I would open the sacks left at the bottom of our beds by Father Christmas. While it was meant to be a happy moment, my memories revolve around which one of us received the largest and apparently most expensive gifts, and so who was the best-loved daughter. It smacked of competition.

Money is a master teacher. I am still, and always be, coming to terms with my relationship to it. Like almost everyone else, aspects of my relationship with money remain both unexamined and unresolved.

Financial IQ is an essential building block in the path to financial maturity. It ranges from knowing income sources and tracking expenditures to understanding the principles of asset management and tax planning. There are multiple avenues to acquire financial IQ skills, but far fewer to understanding our relationship to wealth, which I call financial EQ or emotional intelligence.

Yet financial wisdom requires financial EQ: understanding our own feelings, beliefs and expectations about wealth as well as communicating and interacting with others who may have different feelings, beliefs and expectations. It requires both self-knowledge and interpersonal skills. It’s an essential life skill and, without it, our wealth is at risk. If a family makes money its ultimate priority, the people concerned can be lost in the process or lose themselves when they become subservient to the money – they no longer own the money, it owns them.

Our human journey is mostly about asking the right questions rather than having the right answers. My list of big life questions includes:

  • Who and what do I love?
  • Who and in what do I trust?
  • What has ultimate meaning?
  • What is the purpose of my life?

Our behaviour with money reveals some of our answers to us – if we allow ourselves to look. Unfortunately, we too often pass on the opportunity to learn from our money challenges, which typically mask the truth-revealing questions that, in turn, direct us to a richly lived life.

Through a look in the money mirror, we can learn about ourselves. Many of us take only a cursory glance as we pass a mirror to confirm whether our appearance is generally good enough. Others scrutinise ourselves to make sure our clothing is perfect and we’re entirely satisfied with how we look. Observing our financial selves will tell us a great deal about who we are as we seek to answer the questions of life and we may choose to adjust some aspect of our financial behaviour.

Questions to explore are:

  • In what ways does money affect me and my relationships?
  • How do I use money?
  • How do I communicate about money with family, friends and colleagues?
  • How do I negotiate and resolve conflicts over money?

With new awareness comes the ability to make conscious, considered choices. When we act consciously we’re choosing the direction of our lives and are no longer driven by unseen forces and emotions. As one of my clients says, “I own the money, it does not own me”. And when we have the right relationship to wealth, it is a positive force in our lives.

My goal is for my clients to choose, from an informed position, how to save, invest, spend, and gift their resources. True Wealth moves from a focus on ourselves individually to a clear-sighted look at money, to directing our lives and legacies. It is an expression of my larger mission, which is to help whoever crosses my path to make sense of his or her life.

This is an edited extract from True Wealth: Letters on Money, Life, and Love by Diana Chambers (Altitude Press, £21)

Q&A with Diana

– Would it benefit people to talk more openly about money?

Absolutely. The ability to talk constructively about money is the first line of defence when there is a financial challenge. I encourage open and meaningful money conversations, and I teach workshops on talking about money because the skill can be learned and practised. It’s relevant across all ages. My goal is for people to chat easily about significant money topics – as they would about the latest news or sports results – over breakfast or morning coffee.

 

– Whats the most satisfying part of being a Wealth Mentor?

I love the relationships. Sometimes they’re long-term, as with my clients, when I have the opportunity over years of working together to know them, their family members, and the details of their lives. Sometimes they’re brief but deeply personal encounters.

 

– What is the most challenging part?

Financial IQ plays such a dominant role in our society that it can be difficult to communicate the importance of financial EQ – which is about our relationship to wealth and the impact it has on us and our relationships – but is significantly harder to explain and measure than financial IQ. It means clients have to be educated first about the necessity of developing financial EQ and encouraging it in their children before we go about building their skills.

 

– What does true wealth mean to you?

True wealth is finding joy and meaning in our lives and has very little to do with our financial resources – unless we are struggling to make ends meet. True wealth is knowing that we are embedded in a thoughtful, caring community on which we can rely, it’s finding our path and pursuing it, and knowing that our lives matter through how we contribute to our immediate families and communities and, through our leadership and/or philanthropy, to the larger society.

 

– What is the one thing you wish all people knew about wealth?

Financial resources come and go – sometimes in the flash of an eye – but true wealth in the form of committed friendships and relationships, and the freedom and motivation to follow our passions and contribute to society, gives lasting satisfaction and shapes a legacy of which we can be very proud.

 

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