I admit it.
I was channel flipping.
Suddenly, there was Suze Orman, finger pointing toward me and head thrust forward like Uncle Sam or Lord Kitchener in one of those “Your Country Needs YOU” recruitment posters.
“. . . and remember,” Suze was concluding, “People first! Then money! Then things!”
That brief glimpse is all I know of Suze’s ideas on this topic but – like any good consultant, academic, or journalist – I’m going to seize hold of her idea and gratefully make it my own
Gifted adults and the meaning of money
I’m fortunate in that I have the kind of practice that literally covers the financial universe.
This is because my focus is on psychographics rather than demographics and because working over the telephone means I can work with a much larger client pool than most.
The common factor between the richest and the poorest, the highly energized and the stuck, the tightly-focused and the confused, is their giftedness.
They share the same basic qualities – intuition, awareness, creativity – and are equally fierce in their insistence on maintaining autonomy, asserting their right to their unique vision, and holding on to their sense of identity and integrity.
Yet the financial manifestations of their giftedness vary hugely.
Gifted doesn’t mean gilded
To one gifted person a dollar is something to give to a charity. While to another it is something to add to their personal fortune.
These different actions appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum but I’d suggest they both have a common source: the need for insurance – or reassurance.
The giver protects himself from a fate worse than death by maintaining multiple layers between himself and the less-fortunate. The keeper protects himself by building a rampart of gold.
The under-performing gifted
Sadly, I think I have to say that the gifted community as a whole tends to underperform financially. This judgement is purely anecdotal and may just be a projection of my personal self-assessment.
However . . . how many times have we looked at someone and thought: “With all they have to offer, how come they aren’t doing better?”
So can Suze help?
Even the most motivated advisor cannot force their mentees to take action.
However, Suze can at least help make something conscious that might otherwise remain unconscious. And she can encourage us to think about our personal balance of money, people and things.
Gifted we may be, but blind spots and asynchronous development can certainly impede our path to greater riches in any one of those categories.
Where’s your emphasis?
What kind of gifted adult money-manager are you?
Let’s take a look at three different prioritizations for some clues:
This is a popular hierarchy with all groups of people, gifted or not.
Why? I think it’s because a ‘money-first’ strategy simplifies decision-making. Also, the emphasis on tangible wealth is very acceptable – even highly admired – within society.
Some people condemn this prioritization as actually being anti-social or just plain ‘wrong’ . But it’s really a perfectly legitimate way to play life.
After all, possessions – things – are just toys and/or fetish objects. And we all have a need both to play and to feel secure. Acquiring them can be a lot of fun, too.
The risk for gifted individuals pursing this path is that they play fiercely when they play at all.
So their intensity and passion for capitalizing on every financial opportunity can drive away people whose commitment to the game is not so great.
This can result in the gifted-and-successful being denied access to the emotional and other resources that might help them live more richly than they can achieve on their own.
It was hard for me to see how this prioritization might play out.
But then an image came to me of a collector. It was two images, actually. One was a collector at an art auction, spending millions, while the other was of a vast hall full of enthusiasts exchanging Star Trek memorabilia.
In both cases, their passion for collecting was paramount in their lives and led them to gather with groups of people. In neither case was the accumulation of money privileged over the things or the people: they just had very different amounts of it.
Someone else who puts things before people and before the accumulation of money is the impulsive thief that takes jewels and other objects rather than cash.
A more altruistic version would be the kind of charity that accepts donations in kind and distributes them among the poor.
The truly gifted TPM person must be the artist, the creator of things. Unfortunately, the creative preoccupation is often to the detriment of their relationships with people and frequently with a total disregard for making money.
I suspect that many gifted individuals fit that picture . . .
This, as Ms Orman suggests, is the most balanced ordering available to us.
To start from the bottom, if we take care of our money by being cautious in our acquisition of things, we’ll have it available for people when they – including ourselves – really need it.
And we won’t hold back from making any necessary expenditure: our stash will be ample and comfortably protected.
It’s surprising how far you can travel in the face of misfortune if you adopt this prioritization.
Which is a comforting thought, given that this order should be fairly easy for gifted individuals to sustain. Despite our fiercely maintained independence, we are often very people-oriented.
However, there is a risk that if your distribution of the three categories is, say, 90-6-4, then your over-emphasis on people is going to be damaging for you and ultimately for everyone else.
So make sure you have plenty in the pot before you give some away – whether to others or even to indulge some expensive need of your own.
And I’m not just talking about money here, but love and compassion, too.
The gifted cash box
I think that for most gifted individuals money is not something to be pursued, hoarded, collected, counted, and managed for its own sake.
Indeed, most of the wealthy gifted that I know find it irritating to have to deal with the money that’s come to them.
Whether this cash is a by-product of their joy and success at work or something they’ve inherited, its management – not the cash itself – is seen as an obstacle to getting on and doing more interesting, more valuable things.
Gifted people, I suspect, are not typically succesful investors. Their vision tends to be tied to their personal value system and therefore doesn’t resonate with the consumer tastes on which so much wealth depends.
And what about me?
Do I fit Suze Orman’s preferred profile?
Sadly, probably not. I do put people first, certainly, but I also have a tendency to buy things – especially books and boats – before I have my 12 months’ safety fund built up.
So this leaves my prioritization as:
But it’s a pretty close thing. Sort of 60-21-19.
I’ve done many motivational tests over the years and they all report that my interest in money is substantially below average. By that, they typically mean that money is not much of a driver for me.
This is true. But it’s not the same as saying I wouldn’t be happy to make loads of it doing something that was motivated by things closer to my heart.
For example, this country (the USA) spends $700 billion a year on ‘defence’.
I don’t want any of it if its goal is to bend others to our will.
However, I’ll be happy to take just one percent if its intent is to help others discover their own true will.
I think that would be a much more effective defence, as well.
And I would be gloriously rich.
So bring it on . . . .