What does it mean to be wealthy? Easy right? Being wealthy means you are rich, you have lots of cash, go on vacations and you can buy what you want when you want. Or is it?
I had a fascinating conversation with Felicia Robinson Joly. She is the co-author of The ABC’s of Wealth: Big Ideas for Little Children. A book I mentioned in a previous post on when is the right time to start talking about money with kids. Her book takes a different approach to start the conversation about financial literacy by discussing the vocabulary of financial literacy.
I’ll admit when I read “ABC..” I thought it was a bit simple. Felicia, to my surprise, echoed that observation, and then doubled down on it. She told me it is simple by design. We both agree that there has been far too little time spent teaching financial literacy in the past, but we also acknowledge that becoming financially literate can be a daunting task. She consciously created her book to be approachable, so that there would be “no excuses” to avoid the conversations. The easy to read verses get stuck in your head like a pop song. By creating rhymes and memorable text her hope is that you and your child will easily absorb the vocabulary of financial literacy.
But back to wealth. During our conversation, Felicia brought up the question “What is wealth?” again and again, and for good reason. Felicia’s objective with the book is to get people financially literate, but more importantly, her mission is to have people define what wealth means to them.
“Over the last 200 years, we have lost focus on what our intrinsic value is”. “Money has become the master” and “we’ve devalued ourselves” Felicia explains. She went on to say that she wants to shift the “underlying mindset” with our relationship to money to be “based on our own definition of what wealth and value is”. Right now she believes those definitions “are being shaped by external ideas”.
Put another way Felicia says she wants people to “define wealth within” and to “look at yourself as your ultimate asset…your mind, abilities and craft”. Rather than seeing a doctor, a lawyer, or a ‘YouTube star’ and thinking that is what wealth is, I am going to get that.
The idea that we have devalued ourselves reminded me of The Icarus Deception, by Seth Godin. I wrote in a review of his book how he empathized that we are all artists. The industrialized economy of the past forced us to be a part of a larger system. In that system, we only had value as a cog in the larger system. In our new economy, we need to remember that we all have an individual value that we need to offer the world. It is only through the creation of our ‘art’ that we can then engage in the exchange of value. My ideas, my art, for your connection, your attention and your money.
Felicia notes that this is what the billionaires have done. She referenced the billionaires who started with the questions of how am I going to create value, what idea do I have that I can then share with the world. What connections can I make to exchange value? She noted how Oprah created value with the exchange of ideas, Richard Branson with the exchange of music, and Bill Gates with the idea that there could be a better way to interact with hardware. They created value by first having ideas to share.
People have it upside down; they think ‘let me get the money and then I’ll be important’ or, ‘I want to be wealthy so I will work for that wealthy person’, instead of creating their own idea and exchanging it with the world.
That shift in mindset made me think of those people in our lives who do a 180 in their career. They put the brakes on hard, after spending years climbing the ladder, only to realize years in that they don’t want to be doing what they are doing. Or worse, they came to that realization but kept going even though work brought them no joy, only income. It happens. We get on a path, and follow it, never asking if is this the right path for me? This is what happens when we do not define what wealth is for us. When we assume that wealth is solely the collection of money. And then we go down the path we define that will allow us to accumulate the most money we can.
Felicia is hoping to make that shift more conscious, not a result of burnout or happenstance, but a conscious decision to say this is what wealth means to me. Time to be with my family, or time to see the world, or just time to sit peacefully with myself. And once you define wealth, then you use your abilities to create value to reach that goal.
I’ve written about target setting for savings, but this is target setting for living. Defining what success is, what wealth is are things that should be done before your career. You can adjust and iterate if needed. And they should be based off your objectives and goals, not based on what we see on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube.
How do you define wealth and success? Have you conveyed your thoughts on wealth to your children? Who is helping them to define their wealth? If it’s not you, then who, DJ Kalid, Labron, the Kardashians?
I commend Felicia on her mission to shift mindsets because I agree that wealth should be defined within. You can find Felicia and her financial literacy program at Power@Play and you can find the ABC’s of Wealth here.