More Than Money
Issue #13

Provocative Dialogues

Table of Contents

“Dialogue #2: Making Money”

Facilitator: Kathy Dupler-King.
Participants: Dick and Kathy.
Questions posed by Kathy

What draws you to the discussion topic of making money?

Dick: I have an ardent interest, both personal and professional, in money from the psychological and spiritual perspectives. My father died young, leaving a financially illiterate widow and financially sensitive offspring. We did not suffer, but life was tight and a little bit raw.

In college, I was a religion major who would have entered the ministry but for a distinct sense of non-call and an abiding frustration with what I perceived were unfortunate implications of Christianity for living a real life, including financial. I could not grasp how to be both a Christian and an actor within the world. Instead I went to law school. My early 30's career crisis resolved with a switch into financial planning. A couple of years later, I started my own financial planning firm with a partner.

I am also an "inheritor-in-law" who has been around an entrepreneurial family that created a successful small business and then was forced by death to engage in the generational transition and inheritance process. This has affected everyone in the family in a variety of ways, some good, some bad. For me, part of the bad was allowing financial security to sap essential vocational vigor. The good was that it gave me venture capital and a personal safety net. Although I have worked hard to create a business that is successful in its own right, I much appreciate that I have had fewer financial pressures and temptations than many entrepreneurs.

Kathy: Outwardly, I am living the American Dream in California's San Francisco Bay Area. I live in a 1920's colonial house (complete with a swimming pool, studio apartment and children's play house) enclosed by a white picket fence with my husband and two children, golden retriever, 4 cats, assorted saltwater fish and hamster. My Volvo station wagon has plenty of room to heft around our bicycles, kayaks and miscellaneous other toys.

The success of my husband's business makes it possible for me to devote myself to nurturing my children's unfolding, including schooling them at home, rather than work for wages. We are out of debt and are accumulating significant savings that should leave us financially independent (according to the requirements of our current lifestyle) in five to ten years.

Inwardly, I feel both liberated and imprisoned by my husband's money. I am grateful to live free of financial pressures, and yet I suffer and wrestle with the incongruities in my life. In the heat of certain situations, it becomes clear that my husband considers the money primarily "his" and feels that I place an unfair burden on him by not being a wage-earner myself. Sometimes, I don't feel I have a free voice in how the money runs our life.

Does making money provide you the lifestyle you really prefer?

Dick: No, but it is part of a lifestyle I have chosen. I have accepted that "making money" is part of the deal and have reconciled the compromises that necessitates. All lifestyle choices have compromises, and fortunately I have been fairly successful at combining work with my sense of mission.

Actually, the harder questions come with the shackles built in the context of success; namely, I have created something of value that requires ongoing energy. I might sometimes prefer to put that energy elsewhere-yet stewardship of the business demands otherwise.

Kathy: I am grateful for the comforts of our lifestyle... but does it trap us or free us? The "American Dream" I'm living isn't my truest desire: I dream of living with others rurally, where people are more conscious about their values and choices, and where bartering is the norm so people are freed from the arbitrary valuing of one person's work over another's. Given the financial track our family is on, I don't see how to make that dream a reality. y

Is making money synonymous with your sense of self-worth?

Dick: Hardly. However, I believe that my profitability reflects the fact that others see value in what I do and are willing to pay for it. I like that.

Kathy: No. But at times I feel that others use the fact that I don't make money to diminish my worth. I resent it.

Dick: Life on unearned income presents some significant and genuine issues, ones that can sap your life force if you let them. No one empathizes with people living on unearned income. People repeat as litany that "money doesn't solve all problems" but then refuse to believe that people with money have any! If we all are to live with money in a healthful manner, we must understand that money is neither evil incarnate nor an unmixed blessing.

Kathy: Inwardly, I have a lot of mixed feelings about money. While I no longer believe that money is the root of all evil (I now award that prize to unexplored and suppressed pain in the individual and collective human heart), I do believe that those fortunate enough to have money in their lives have the responsibility to explore what that means to themselves and to others. It seems to me that a person's ability to be of service in the world is directly related to the degree they've uncovered their authentic self and have begun to walk their life's path. Wealth can either assist a person in that life path, or mask it.

Is making money synonymous with your sense of security?

Dick: Money is one form of security. Given current demographics and anticipated life spans, it's one form that I wish more people would take seriously. I'm afraid there will be significant rippling effects of bad savings habits multiplying over the next fifty years. However, I recognize money's limitations in providing security. "Money" is a belief system. Within this system, it is to be taken seriously; if the belief system crumbles, "Money" is not worth much at all.

Kathy: I definitely feel more secure having money. However, in the wider scheme of things, I suspect that much of the energy spent in the activity of making money serves to dilute and distract people from more important and primal types of security. For me, "wealth" is not what I have, but what I am and what I do. It is measured not in money, but in the richness of my relationship to myself and others.

Is how you make money congruent with the deeper meanings in your life?

Kathy: I find my work deeply fulfilling. I believe that accepting responsibility for the nurture and education of children is crucial for the health of society-yet, to my great frustration, there is a pervasive and pernicious attitude in society that says work not exchanged for money is of lesser value. I sense the same attitude in my other non-paid work; assisting a local nonprofit organization, and training in an inspiring counseling approach I can offer to families. For me, the way I support myself must be integrated with the deeper meanings in my life. If we lost my husband's income tomorrow, I would do all I could to continue meaningful work.

Dick: I try to be realistic. As much as I like what I do, I fully recognize that I am not in a constant state of bliss and that substantial pieces of my work are just plain dull. Much of what brings satisfaction does not necessarily bring either financial reward and vice versa. I feel fortunate that I can live productively and profitably, with both integrity and spiritual fulfillment. Blessings come in a variety of forms, with money as only one of them, and most of us are considerably blessed within our lives. We are all responsible for treating our blessings with respect: determining their best uses and making it so.  

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