How to Shape a Life of Money and Meaning

wealth

Happiness & Wealth

How does money figure into a happy life? Behavioral finance expert Brian Portnoy delivers an inspired answer based on the idea that wealth, truly defined, is funded contentment. It is the ability to underwrite a meaningful life.

His latest work, The Geometry of Wealth , bridges the philosophical and practical gap in managing money in our lives.

 

“Money does buy more happiness when spent wisely, especially when directed toward experiences, others, and time.” -Brian Portnoy

 

Millions are Not Ready for Retirement

You point out that millions of Americans have not saved a dime for retirement. Why is this? Will this eventually cause a crisis or is this typical and then people catch up?

The lack of retirement preparedness stems from a combination of opportunity and mindset. In the context of real wages for many Americans having not risen in more than a generation, many are barely able to make ends meet, let alone build a nest egg. Beyond that, financial illiteracy is a major problem. As a society we don’t take seriously the need to understand the many facets of saving, spending, and investing. Further, humans are generally wired with biases that undermine smart money decisions. This mix of factors is at the root of the looming retirement crisis in America. Far too many have saved far too little, and there are no obvious solutions that don’t involve quite painful decisions.

 

“Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” -Epictetus

 

The Importance of Purpose

Your model is in three parts: purpose to priorities to tactics. Part one is purpose, which is not a typical starting point in many financial books. Talk about the importance of purpose in this context.

Let’s step back and ask, “What are we all trying to accomplish here?” I think an answer that mostly everyone would get behind is that we want to be happy; we want to lead a good life. Okay, fine, but how do you do that? It’s obviously a massive question, with countless angles from philosophy and religion and other domains. Money, for better or worse, is an inescapable part of the discussion. There are certain unavoidable practicalities of what we can afford and how those help to underwrite the lives we want to lead. By putting purpose first, by being thoughtful – not just once, but over time – about where we find joy, then we are much better able to have our financial decisions support that quest. This is the opposite of what many unfortunately do, which is let the desire for and experience with money determine what we do in life.

 

“True wealth is the ability to underwrite a meaningful life.” -Brian Portnoy

 

How is fulfillment and happiness related to financial well-being? Talk about the intersection of money and happiness.

Engage Your Employees and Make the World A Better Place

make the world a better place

Change the World

Charitable giving programs are taking off as more and more organizations realize that social responsibility is important to customers, employees, and communities.

But how do you start one? And is it really possible to change the world one company at a time?

Alessandra Cavalluzzi is someone who has made an enormous impact creating these programs and encouraging others to start them. She currently oversees corporate giving and fundraising for a large company. Her new book, A Million Dollars in Change: How to Engage Your Employees, Attract Top Talent, and Make the World A Better Place.

I recently spoke with her about her passion for corporate giving.

 

“Great acts are made up of small deeds.” -Lao Tzu

 

Would you clarify the difference between charitable giving and a corporate social responsibility program?

Charitable giving and corporate social responsibility are often used interchangeably.  However, we’ll sometimes see articles and books describe them as being completely different animals.  The truth is, they are not exclusive of each other, but they are a little bit different. Charitable giving encompasses donations or grants made to a nonprofit organization.  If you’ve ever made a donation to fund cancer research, for instance, this is a form of charitable giving.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) can include philanthropy, but these programs have other functions, too. A company might design a CSR program, for instance, to improve the well-being of its employees, the environment, and the community around it. A company with a CSR program might partner with a nonprofit to keep at-risk teens in school by enrolling them in training and educational programs. Companies with CSR programs encourage volunteerism, their employees volunteer their time and talent to help a local nonprofit.   It’s not uncommon for a company with a CSR program to reduce its carbon footprint by making changes like installing solar panels or energy efficient lighting, or doing away with Styrofoam in its packaging. All of these are examples of CSR.

The main thing to remember is that both charitable giving and corporate social responsibility are important.  A company doesn’t need to adopt one over the other.  Which term you use to describe your program will depend on whether you decide to go strictly with philanthropy, create a full CSR plan, or maybe even develop a hybrid—donations plus action.  It’s really up to the company.  The bottom line is, there is no “wrong way” to give.

 

3 Myths of Corporate Giving and CSR Programs

100 Insider Rules for Beating the Startup Odds

startup secrets

Lessons for Entrepreneurs

Over the course of their careers, veteran venture capitalist Randy Komisar and finance executive Jantoon Reigersman continue to see startups crash and burn because they forget the timeless lessons of entrepreneurship. But, as Komisar and Reigersman show in their new book, Straight Talk for Startups: 100 Insider Rules for Beating the Odds, you can beat the odds if you quickly learn what insiders know about what it takes to build a healthy foundation for a thriving venture.

 

“Apprentices work furiously to learn the rules; journeymen proudly perfect the rules; but masters forget the rules.” -Randy Komisar

 

Randy Komisar recently shared his perspective:

 

How did this book come about? Have you been compiling these rules for years?

We wrote this book because we were distressed by the growing frequency of missteps by entrepreneurs, many of whom are notoriously splashed across business pages and websites. Jantoon Reigersman brought fresh eyes to the situation as the CFO of a Silicon Valley rocket ship gone awry. We had been having a dialogue for years about what was really going on in the Kabuki Theaters of startup boardrooms and venture capital firms. And we felt that entrepreneurs and investors, professors and students, and frankly anyone curious about the startup game could all benefit from our conversations regarding the time-proven best practices for building successful companies. I have been part of the scene since the mid-1980s, and Tom Perkins, founder of Kleiner Perkins, was one of the original Silicon Valley venture cowboys. I had been compiling and sharing these insights with entrepreneurs since I co-founded my first company. These are the insider rules that the random hero stories heralded by the press conveniently leave out. In Straight Talk for Startups we address the nuts and bolts of choosing investors, raising money, building boards, achieving liquidity, and mastering the fundamentals by distilling decades of frequently forgotten wisdom about how to beat the odds.

 

“Venture Capitalists have one of the greatest jobs in the world. They get to sit across the table from passionate strangers who hallucinate the future for them.” -Randy Komisar

 

Rule 1: Starting a venture has never been easier; succeeding has never been harder. You’ve had an extraordinary vantage point in your career, and I’d like your perspective on the why behind Rule 1. 

It’s all about capital. Privileged places like Silicon Valley are awash is excess capital. The recovery from the Great Recession has left interest rates at record lows. Investors have been looking for ways to juice their returns, and venture capital’s black swans are a siren song. Forget the low odds of winning; the size of the pot is mesmerizing. So investors have been ignoring risk and plowing money into long-shot bets.

This may seem great for entrepreneurs. And on its face it is. But there is a downside. Too much capital means that too many companies are being funded in any single market. With easy capital comes reckless spending on scaling—often times resulting in highly uneconomic growth, that is the acquisition of customers who pay less than the cost of providing the product or service and who have little loyalty to the business. This “all or nothing” mentality leads to wasted dollars, talent and effort. And when one competitor makes the leap to noneconomic growth, the rest are left with little choice but to follow.

The cornucopia of money and startups also affects the job market. Salaries are inflated. People are quick to move from perceived losers to winners. In the Bay Area, for instance, the price of housing, the suffering infrastructure and the breakdown of communities makes building businesses much harder, even if starting them is easier than ever.

 

Startup Rule: Starting a venture has never been easier; succeeding has never been harder.