A Money Coach in Canada

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Love and wealth Photo credit: Selva

A story.
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There was an executive who was financially set – he was textbook Financial Planning 101. His employer provided a great pension (defined benefits, even), his financial advisor had multiplied his RRSP investments, and he owned his penthouse condo in Coal Harbour outright. Then the company wanted to replace him with someone younger who was more in touch with the online market, so they gave him a kick-ass buy-out plan. The golden handshake. As in $1M if he signed the Non Disclosure Agreement and would go away quietly anywhere but to a direct competitor.

After the initial shock passed, and some C-suite-level outplacement appointments, it was time to deal with reality. He thought to himself, “What shall I do with the $1M? My RRSPs are maxed out. I have my pension. What to do now with my life, and what to do with this $1M, what to do…” Finally he came up with a plan. “I know. I’ll buy the condo on the floor below and renovate so I have double the space, and I’ll finally buy that place in Bali I’ve been dreaming about.” Plus, his financial advisor helped him find some legitimate off-shore investments so he could save on taxes.

This made him happy. He said to himself, “Look at how well I’ve done for myself. I put myself through university, I’ve worked hard, I was disciplined with my savings and investing since day 1, and now it’s time to enjoy the good life. I sooooo deserve it after such a stressful career. I won’t return to work; I’m set for life at this point. Now, it’s time to eat, drink and have a great time.” And immediately he went out to buy the best golf clubs he could find and headed for the greens.

But just as he reached the 9th hole God said to him: You Fool!!!! Tonight you’re going to die of an aneurism and then who is going to get all that you have (so thoroughly) prepared for yourself?
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So much for the protestant work ethic, eh?

You may recall I’ve started a series, somewhat lite and somewhat maybe not, about the “7 deadly sins” and the “7 virtues”. The story above was originally told by Jesus (who had a lot to say about folks and their money) and my hunch is that it gets at the deadliness of pride. Not as in healthy pride over a job well done, or an appropriate inner sense of confidence, but this kind of pride:

As I mulled over the story above, here’s what I noticed. The man’s not being condemned for having been successful. The investments and the condo are not the issue. He’s being called a fool because he focused solely on his own good life without acknowledging that he’s part of a larger context. In fact, nobody else at all factors into his thinking.

  • It doesn’t occur to him that he was wealthy because he was born in Canada instead of Rwanda.
  • It doesn’t occur to him that his shrewd intelligence was a sheer gift, further enhanced by an affordable (in his day!) university education.
  • It doesn’t occur to him that his inner drive to work hard and succeed was due in part to a whole set of experiences in his youth which led him to believe, deeply, that success was achievable.

And ultimately, it doesn’t occur to him that he and his money had and should have any kind of connection to anyone besides himself. His pride led ultimately to a fundamental isolation. Scrooge, redux (or vice versa more accurately).

What a contrast to the joyful and life-giving generosity of the likes of Warren Buffet who is giving his fortune to charity as he himself lives on a salary of $100,000.

The point for you and me is: We too are also in the process of building up our wealth. To get quite personal, as I’m in the highest earning bracket I’ve ever been in, and as my own portfolio has plumped rather nicely, I’ve noticed just the subtlest creep of pride, as if somehow I deserve my current (operative word) blessings, rather than, well, happened to seize a few good opportunities that presented themselves. So the question is, will I, will you and I, take care to tilt in the direction of integration with our larger contexts, perhaps even a Higher Power, in happy generosity? or will we congratulate ourselves as our nest eggs grow even as we imperceptibly detach from the global, human, world we inhabit?

About the Author


Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com

9 Comments

  1. Nicely said Nancy. (I used to be in that tax bracket, and I too remember the pride.)

    [Reply]

    Aug 23, 2010
  2. Warren

    Interesting story. And I think your analysis nailed it beautifully, especially the acknowledgment that this is all he had (where are the other connections that make life meaningful). And then there is the underlying theme that you can’t buy your way out of the date with your maker.

    [Reply]

    Aug 23, 2010
  3. brad

    I think it revolves around the crucial moment when your goals are met, or close to being met, and then you start thinking about what’s next. It can even happen after each paycheque: I had a little more than usual left over this month and was trying to decide whether to apply it toward my RRSP or my mortgage, but then I realized the best use for it would be to help the flood victims in Pakistan so it went there.

    [Reply]

    Aug 24, 2010
  4. Wendy

    A hard story. Hard to hear. Hard to swallow. The truth gets so easily caught between my teeth. As the French Philosopher, Blaise Pascal, once said, “We like to be deceived.” Afterall, what return can we expect from investing as you said in the hidden realities of our larger context? Or is this where I find the prize?

    [Reply]

    Aug 24, 2010
  5. Gregg

    Thank you Nancy – great insights. As I am working on shifting my business focus I am not currently in my ‘target’ income bracket. So, of course I can’t help feel impatient and long for ‘richer’ days. This conversation helps keep it all in perspective – that money itself does not bring happiness. Instead, am I wise, content and generous with what I have now? Seems like this is an issue as old as civilization, as ancient wisdom from the Good Book also says…. “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.” In my more ‘grounded’ moments I see connection, community and contribution (to work, life, world) as the more likely sources in my pursuit of happiness.

    [Reply]

    Aug 25, 2010
  6. Nancy, Nicely put. Pride is at the core of our self centered life. It’s easy to forget where are you coming from, when you arrive to your destination. It is often noticeable this attitude when people reach some kind of financial stability. When we reach a certain level, we have to remember that everything we have is God’s grace. You can be smart, but if you are sick your intelligence is worthless, you can have health, but if doors don’t get open you can be a healthy unemployed. When you live a balanced life, your wealth becomes an instrument to connect with others. If pride sets in your wealth could just simply isolate from others. Love your points Nancy.
    Personal Finance´s last [type] ..Pay Your Credit Card Balance in Full

    [Reply]

    Aug 26, 2010
  7. Poor guy:
    – He plays golf
    – He hears voices
    Both clear signs of insanity. All the money and pride in the world won’t be of much help once you’ve lost your mind.
    Jan Karlsbjerg´s last [type] ..Quote of the Day

    [Reply]

    nancyzimmerman Reply:

    @Jan classic you! NIcely played sir, nicely played!

    [Reply]

    Aug 31, 2010

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