This book has been long overdue because of (1) the challenges of engaging in candid conversations around wealth, family, success and struggles; and (2) obtaining a genuine first-person perspective that includes anecdotes of other contemporaries to sketch a broader picture and illustrate “there is no one way.” It’s a fun, easy read that takes you on a trip through one person’s journey with wealth.
The narrative of this book highlights the story arch of the Risher’s—Jennifer and her husband, David. We follow their progress into the land of wealth and its language and culture. We witness them navigate how to talk about wealth, what to do with it, how to teach their children and, finally, how to give meaningfully.
Despite this book being an engaging and rather short read, it is packed with perspective and anecdotes for anyone who has ever wondered about how money impacts relationships. Another unique feature of this book is that at the end of each chapter there are questions/conversational prompts that enable readers to engage with the material in their own lives—not just as it relates to the Risher family. This book is a virtual treasure trove, and if I had any criticism, it would be that it did not dive deep enough into each aspect of this family’s life. That could have provided additional insight into how you start your journey and how you can dig deeper into your own personal relationship with wealth.
Allow me to go over a few complexities that this book demonstrates from a first person perspective, thereby illustrating that there is no one way to think about these subjects:
- Money Models – Each one of us grows up in a family of origin that has its own language and beliefs around money and wealth. Some of the money messages we see are overt, while others are more covert. These become our framing for money models or beliefs. Jennifer talks about her models from a middle-class family where there was anxiety and a decision to not discuss money. She explores navigating her curiosity around money through work alongside her boyfriend and as the wealth in her life grows. She decides to evaluate those past messages and starts to author new models for herself and her family that involve a practice and view that is more her own, a part of her marriage, and how she talks to her friends and family about wealth, notably with less guilt.
- Where Do I Fit in the World of Wealth? – As Jennifer and David move from comfortable to affluent, she navigates the world of where she was to where she never believed she would be. At first she does this with some of her own judgement and guesses about peer judgment, although the latter is not confirmed. She hires a housekeeper, a nanny and even a personal shopper. Not all of these trapping of affluence are for the Risher family, and the way in which the book discusses the exploration and adoption or removal of some practices shows that there is not just one way to navigate the world, despite what perceptions or precedents may exist around financial levels.
- Giving – Jay Hughes used an analogy of wealth being a meteor. The potential of wealth changes lives and geographies. It could create something wonderful like Crater Lake or destroy a town. The wealth/meteor does not change, however, its impact may differ. Jennifer draws on her past to explain some of her beliefs about giving and generosity and takes us on a journey of some of the methods she tries, some successful and some not. She shares stories of how gifting without conversation made her feel as though people were not receiving her generosity as she intended, and how she vacillates being waiting to be acknowledged and not. She draws a clear line about money being a facilitator for relationships versus an equalizer, and she would be willing to pay more for the opportunity to spend time with friends or family on trips. In many cases, these conversations were uncomfortable at first. Yet after getting through these discussions, the relationships had more depth and reciprocity, even though it may not be equal, they were amenable to all involved.
- Wealth Lifecycle – Dr. Dennis Jaffe and Dr. James Grubman coined a paradigm of wealth cultures and origins where are native to wealth (i.e., those who are born into and understand the world, and then there are immigrants who are new to that culture and have to learn the ins and outs and the language). Jennifer and David were immigrants to wealth, and during their journey they started to look more and more like native. They started to act and behave in that culture so seamlessly. We’ve seen so many families of wealth lose some of their previous cultural experience over their lifetimes. Jennifer tells a story at the beginning of the book where she and David flew into San Diego extremely early in the morning in order to save $50 per ticket. Contrast that toward the end of her book where the couple decide to give $1,000 in $100 increments and was surprised how each person they gave it to was so grateful and so changed by $100. This seems to demonstrate the lifecycle of wealth may not just be immigrant to native, it can be a dynamic process throughout our lives.
There are so many other concepts to extract from this book, and I encourage you to explore them based on your current and past experience to create this dialogue and the relationship that you want with wealth. “’Wealth” comes from the old English ‘weal,’ which means ‘wealth, welfare, and wellbeing’.” This term may be out of vogue at the moment, however, the idea of having a relationship with wealth as in our resources, relationship and well-being could not be more timely given the state of current affairs. And the single most important way to have a relationship is as the tile indicates: We need to talk to ourselves and others about the relationship we need to have, in all the aspects you see a single theme … starting a conversation and finding your community.