What does it mean to be wealthy? Easy right? Being wealthy means you are rich, you have lots of cash, you 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 ABCs 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 financial literacy vocabulary.
I’ll admit when I read “The ABC’s of Wealth.” 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 far too little time has been spent teaching financial literacy in the past. Still, 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. She hopes that you and your child will easily absorb financial literacy vocabulary by creating rhymes and memorable text.
But back to wealth. During our conversation, Felicia brought up the question, “What is wealth?” repeatedly, and for a 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”. So rather than seeing a doctor, a lawyer, or a ‘YouTube star’ and thinking that is what wealth is, I will get that.
The idea that we have devalued ourselves reminded me of The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin. The industrialized economy of the past forced us to be a part of a larger system. We only had value as a cog in the larger system in that system. In our new economy, we need to remember that we all have an individual values that we need to offer the world. It is only through creating our ‘art’ that we can then engage in the exchange of value—my ideas, my art, for your connection, attention, and money.
Felicia notes that this is what the billionaires have done. She referenced the billionaires who started with the questions of how I will create value and what idea 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 careers. 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 this is the right path for me? This 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 hopes 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 me. And once you define wealth, 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 and what wealth should be done before your career. Then, you can adjust and iterate if needed. And they should be based on your objectives and goals, not 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. You can find Felicia and her financial literacy program at Power@Play, and you can find the ABCs of Wealth here.
If you are looking for financial literacy resources for children of all ages, please check our my resources page.