More Than Money
Issue #29

Money Changes Everything

Table of Contents

“Will Money Change Your Life”

By Christopher Mogil and Anne Slepian
It changed ours, from top to bottom. If we hadn't inherited that money in our twenties, we wouldn't have spent the next decade exploring money and values, wouldn't have written a book about generous givers, and wouldn't have created More Than Money. Everything would have been different--our home, our friends, our calling.

Why is it that sudden fortune is like a tidal wave in some lives and a ripple in others? Why do some people seem to handle these changes more easily than others? We've observed three factors that tend to influence the changes wealth creates:

1) Amount of Money
How grand the wealth--both in absolute terms and compared to your means before--makes a difference. (anonymous author's) lottery winnings allowed his whole family to feel more financially secure, while Lynnaea Lumbard's very large inheritance "swept away" her old life, despite her wish to be unchanged. When the two of us inherited, while the sum was not vast in absolute terms, to us it was awesome, given our then modest means and living expenses.

2) Stage of Life
How your life will change is likely to be affected by your chronological age, but even more by your stage of life. Even if Vaughn and Lynnaea's "before" and "after" wealth had been identical, we predict life stage would have shaped their different responses: he won the lottery in his sixties, not far from retirement; she was in early middle age and not truly fulfilled by her pre-wealth life (even if she was attached to it). When our unexpected inheritance came at twenty-four, our lives were still quite unformed. Had we been engulfed in careers and children, as are many of the same age, a different story would have unfolded.

3) Strength of Character and Purpose
How solid and healthy are your values, your sense of direction and purpose, your integrity, and your relationships? As family wealth counselor Jay Link advises parents, "Wealth does not build character; it only reveals it." Wealth tends to amplify both strengths and we a knesses. If you think of yourself as the container through which wealth pours, with a small flow of money, cracks in the vessel might barely show; but if money is a torrent, those cracks become painfully obvious and may even burst. When we inherited, our values and self-esteem were reasonably strong; even so, we were young and, for a time, became lost in the quagmire of having too many choices.

Many who become suddenly wealthy are ambivalent about money changing their lives: while thrilled to be relieved of financial worry and excited about greater freedom and options, they are often worried about how their relationships and identity may change. Whether the changes are small or large depend, in part, on the amount of money and stage of life they're in. But how well they cope with whatever change comes will depend most on nurturing healthy inner strength and a strong sense of guiding purpose.

Christopher Mogil and Anne Slepian are the founders of More Than Money. They are award-winning writers, presenters, and organizers on issues of wealth stewardship. Their books include Taking Charge of Our Money, Our Values, and Our Lives; Welcome to Philanthropy; and We Gave Away a Fortune.

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