Meeting Money MaturityMidway in our life's journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.
--Dante AlighieriThe mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.
--Henry David Thoreau
"I understand what you're saying," he said, "even though I hate admitting it to myself. "
The statement took me by surprise. I had known this man in a passing way for years, and I both admired and disliked him. My admiration came from his success as a financial planner, the same profession I practice. He was known far and wide for creating one of the largest, most multifaceted planning firms in America. But I disliked him because he stood publicly for a point of view I reject--that making money, lots of money, is an end in itself. So I was taken aback when he came up after my presentation on Money Maturity to a national meeting of financial planners and asked me if I wanted to have coffee. I could tell there was something on his mind.
He came right to the point. "I know how to make money," he said. "I've poured all my savings into the stock market for years. Now I've got more than enough to live on for the rest of my life. My problem isn't making more money."
"Then what is it?" I asked.
"The money's not enough," he answered. His tone shifted from confident to plaintive. "I have wealth, but something is missing. I don't know what it is. All I know is I'm not happy. That's why I wanted to talk to you. After hearing what you had to say, I think you may be able to tell me what to do next."
I may be a financial advisor by profession, but I often find myself working more like a priest in the confessional than a money manager. His was an admission I had heard many times before.
During the morning I had spoken on integrating money goals with personal objectives, a topic I have been presenting to my colleagues for years now. Financial professionals have discovered that if they don't understand what their clients are truly seeking, all their good advice goes for nought. In my presentation that afternoon, I had gone back to basics. Money, I explained, can be seen as the place where our internal selves engage the external world. If either side--internal or external, self or money--is slighted, the whole of life suffers.
Now, talking to my colleague over the coffee cups, I picked up on that theme in his life. "That distress you feel inside, that pain--it's there to wake you up," I said.
His face screwed up quizzically. "What do you mean?" he asked.
"It's a signal, an alarm. It's telling you, in no uncertain terms, that it's time to find out who you really are in relation to money."
"But what's that got to do with anything?" he snapped. His expression changed from quizzical to protective, as if I were getting altogether too close for comfort.
"Look at it this way. You could put all your financial statements from the past few years in front of me, and I still wouldn't know what I really need to understand in order to even begin to help you decide what to do next," I answered. "How can I work with you if I don't know who you are? Think about it. It's your own discomfort with yourself that is keeping you from seeing your way ahead."
His defensiveness gave way to curiosity.
"You've been thinking all along there's only one question about money--'How much?'" I continued. "But the truly important question is 'What does money have to do with who I am?' You think you're a success, but your feelings tell you otherwise. They're telling you 'When it comes to money, you're a mess.' Finding Money Maturity means resolving your inner conflicts around money. It really comes down to discovering a sense of ease around money. Without ease, where's the success?"
For a second or two, he was silent, thinking. Then he said, "Tell me. How do I find that ease?"The Promise of Money Maturity
My colleague's search for ease in his relationship to money--even his difficulty in understanding that ease and freedom were what he was really seeking--is hardly unusual. The same drive for a deep-seated sense of peace on the financial side of life occupies center stage in the concerns of client after client I've worked with. And it's not just an issue for the well heeled, like my successful financial-planning colleague. The desire to achieve ease and freedom around money is as true for those who come from impoverished backgrounds and the middle class as it is for those who inherit wealth or make it big in the business world. Experiencing ease around dollars and cents is what I call Money Maturity.
When clients come to me to handle their money, or when I talk to participants in my seminars, I hear the desire for Money Maturity implicit in every statement they make about what they want their relationship to money to be. No doubt you yourself have said similar things. For example:
* "I want to be wealthy in life, not necessarily in money, but I know the two are related."
* "I want to be able to do whatever I want to do without thinking about the money."
* "I don't want to always be afraid around money."
* "I want to be free."
* "I want to feel balance between life and money. Too often money wins and life loses."
* "I don't want to worry about money."
* "I want to get what I need without feeling guilty about it."
* "I want to work and contribute in ways that are meaningful to me without having to worry about how much money I'll get from it."
* "I want to feel I can be myself without money tripping me up."
* "I want to know money won't get in the way of my doing what needs to be done."
* "I want to be able to focus on finding value in what I do rather than finding money in what I do."
* "I want to feel that I don't have to give up who I am or violate my deepest values just to get money."
Excerpted from The Seven Stages of Money Maturity by George Kinder. Copyright © 1999 by George Kinder. Excerpted by permission of Dell, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.