Building Wealth With a Higher Purpose

This former monk found out the hard way that money is not the root of all evil.

(Image credit: © Gabriella Marks)

Doug Lynam is a partner at LongView Asset Management, a chartered retirement plans specialist and the author of From Monk to Money Manager.

You were in a monastery for 20 years, where you took a vow of poverty. Now you help people build wealth. How did that happen? I grew up in a rich family where money was used as a tool to manipulate and wound others. The environment was toxic. From that, I thought money was the root of all evil, so I joined the monastery to rebel against materialism. However, once I took over the monastery’s finances and saw we were deep in the red, I learned the other extreme, poverty, was equally toxic. We thought because we were living a life of service that things would work out for the best. Avoiding money came back to bite us.

What else did you learn while handling the monastery’s finances? None of us, including me, wanted to accept responsibility for our collective decisions that put us in a bad financial spot. I saw the same pattern in monastery visitors, and I see it in my clients. It’s not the math that’s the issue, but the emotions. You can lie in a confessional, to yourself, and even to God, but you can’t lie to your financial adviser. Numbers don’t lie.

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Your philosophy on building wealth relies heavily on hiring a planner who is a fiduciary and recommends investments that fall under the environmental, social and corporate governance umbrella. Why do you believe this is best for clients? We know that sustainable investing isn’t just a feel-good issue—it’s a smarter way to invest. Firms that operate with strong ethical principles are often better run. At LongView, we believe it’s our fiduciary duty to help clients build wealth while also protecting the future we are investing for. As in yoga, which I practice daily, it’s about mindful balance.

Does your spirituality influence your philosophy on charitable giving? Yes. Money without compassion is irresponsible and abusive, and compassion without money is sentimental and feeble. We give as an expression of love; however, we can’t be charitable if we have nothing to give. Building wealth ethically isn’t about being selfish. It’s discovering the joy of using money to make the world a better place without compromising your financial future.

Rivan V. Stinson
Ex-staff writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Rivan joined Kiplinger on Leap Day 2016 as a reporter for Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. A Michigan native, she graduated from the University of Michigan in 2014 and from there freelanced as a local copy editor and proofreader, and served as a research assistant to a local Detroit journalist. Her work has been featured in the Ann Arbor Observer and Sage Business Researcher. She is currently assistant editor, personal finance at The Washington Post.