personal finance

The Wrong Way to Achieve Wealth

For some down-to-earth, basic advice on money and life, I have a book to recommend: “Your Total Wealth: The Heart and Soul of Financial Literacy.”

“Mr. Beaver, I am finally starting to earn real money in my medical practice but don’t know the first thing about investing. I need concrete advice on handling money, building wealth, but don’t want to become a slave to money.

“I have met with financial advisers, but lack a grasp of the terms they use and, frankly, am afraid of looking stupid, so I don’t ask them to explain. Do you know of a book that is meant for people like me, who need a basic education in personal finance, but that has a ‘human’ touch as well? Thanks, Karl.”

I just finished reading the answer to what Karl is searching for.  It’s Your Total Wealth: The Heart and Soul of Financial Literacy, by former university business professors Lyle Sussman, Ph.D. and David Dubofsky, Ph.D., CFA.

For anyone starting out in life, Your Total Wealth is the ideal read. It is the most unique and accessible financial advice resource I’ve ever seen and goes well beyond how to make money.

The authors give us a window into what “total wealth” means, how to achieve it, and demonstrate that it is much more than mere numbers. Total wealth is greater than the “stuff” we own or the balance in an investment account.

I wish that I had this book years ago, or as I tell my friends, “When I had hair.”

Applying Financial Definitions to the Real World – An Emotional Annuity

Your Total Wealth has a feature that I’ve never seen before. Pages on the left provide definitions, such as, Margin, Short Selling, Dollar Cost Averaging, Leverage – terms that most people do not understand, with examples. Pages on the right give readers a life lesson connected to the term just defined.  Here’s an example from the book:

Annuity: A financial annuity is a predictable payment stream, such as a retirement annuity offered by insurance companies, designed to pay for as long as you live.

The Life Lesson: An emotional annuity is a predictable, human bond of caring, commitment and concern. It says, “I’m here for you.” The next time you see an elderly couple walking down the street with smiles on their faces, holding hands, you are witnessing an emotional annuity payment.

When adult children take care of aging parents, those children are making an emotional annuity payment.

Your Total Wealth is filled with insights like that, financial terms and life lessons that get you thinking about living a richer life.

The Search for Monetary Wealth Has Its Own Costs

I asked the authors to discuss some of the things people do in the pursuit of financial wealth that lead to disappointment and failure in life.

Sussman: Failure to understand the cost of obsessively focusing on monetary wealth.

Consequences: Think of the Midas touch parable. If you are consumed by making money and greed, realize the cost you’ll pay. You lose family, self-esteem, happiness. These things often become unintended consequences of acquiring financial wealth.

Yes, we need money to live comfortably, but studies show that when our basic needs are met, more income does not mean greater happiness. I have met millionaires who admit missing something despite their great monetary wealth.

Dubofsky: Failure to be happy in your job and constantly chasing higher-paying jobs.

Consequences: You will pray for Fridays and hate Mondays! People with total wealth understand they must actively earn money in a way that does not result in losing the things they enjoy, friends and family.  If you are madly working just to pay one bill, another will be due later in life. 

It is the one that asks, “Did you achieve a balance between acquiring financial wealth and personal fulfilment? Did you wake up every day happy to go to work”?

It is the fortunate person who realizes early in life what results from being dedicated to income alone. They have the wisdom to look into the future, when they are older. And they ask, “What will be my legacy?”  

Sussman: Using credit for the wrong purposes. Borrowing money to go on an expensive vacation. Buying something unnecessary that you can’t afford.

Consequences: You will forgo future financial security. Borrowing money for a house is a sound use of credit, but not for an unaffordable vacation.  Leasing a car is fine – but don’t go overboard and lease something well beyond your means just to look successful. There are lots of “successful” people in bankruptcy court.

After reading the book, I can see it has a lot of sound advice that can help many types of people. Your Total Wealth is about living and how to use money to improve our lives and the people we care about. Giving a copy to young, new clients, would be a great way for a financial adviser to begin a professional relationship.

About the Author

H. Dennis Beaver, Esq.

Attorney at Law, Author of "You and the Law"

After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California's Kern County District Attorney's Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, "You and the Law." Through his column he offers readers in need of down-to-earth advice his help free of charge. "I know it sounds corny, but I just love to be able to use my education and experience to help, simply to help. When a reader contacts me, it is a gift." 

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