Helping Your Clients Define the Meaning of “Wealth”

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In my work with clients, one of the most important services I provide, in addition to coaching on finance, estate planning, and investing, is facilitating cross-generational conversations about what it means to have wealth, and especially about what it means to use wealth wisely.

When I was a teenager, I desperately wanted a pair of Jordache jeans (please, no wisecracks about what this indicates about my age). But my family was on a tight budget, and it didn’t include designer jeans for the youngest kid in the house. So, I made a deal with my dad: I would clear out the blackberry thicket that covered a large part of the property on which our house stood. It was typically full of castoffs from my father’s carpentry work anyway, and I considered it an eyesore. My dad agreed to pay me a dollar an hour, and my parents said that as long as I put at least half the money I made into savings, I could use what was left to buy my jeans.

As I relate in my book, Wealthy by Design, I stuck to the task, and about 70 hours of work and a few blisters later, I went to the store and proudly purchased my first pair of Jordache jeans – brand new, not hand-me-downs from an older sister.

I wore those jeans like a badge of honor.

At that time in my young life, Jordache jeans represented the height of luxury and “cool.” All the popular girls in my class wore them, and my idea of wealth included being able to buy as many pairs of Jordache jeans in as many styles and colors as there were. My hardworking, blue-collar parents, on the other hand, likely had a different definition: being wealthy meant not having to worry about where next month’s groceries, mortgage payment, and gas money were coming from.