Wealth and Well-being
Lois Cole and I founded Wealth Architects based on our belief that a wealthy life is defined more holistically than how much money we have. Our financial resources are important only because they give us the freedom and control to do what matters most to us in life. When our money helps us support and enhance our overall well-being, we have a truly wealthy life. The book articulates this philosophy extremely well. The authors describe the essential elements to our well-being as “the currency of a life that matters...all the things that are important to how we think about and experience our lives."
Rath and Harter identify the five essential elements to our overall well-being as: Career Well-being, Social Well-being, Financial Well-being, Physical Well-being and Community Well-being. Unfortunately, only seven percent of people are thriving in all five areas. To get the most out of our lives, we need to give attention to all five elements and how they interact with each other.
We agree with their conclusions. We believe that each person’s chosen balance of these five areas is integral to a more fulfilling and wealthier life. Financial security is certainly an important part of our well-being, but it doesn’t define how wealthy we feel in life. We can be rich in monetary terms, but if we sacrifice any of these vital parts of our lives it can wear on us on a daily basis. In their research of people across the world, Rath and Harter confirm that, once our basic needs are met, the amount of money we accumulate is not a reliable predictor of greater happiness.
Living in an affluent country like the United States, and especially an area like Silicon Valley, it’s easy to compare ourselves to others and forget that our money alone will not bring us fulfillment. Sometimes we focus on careers we don’t enjoy and the accumulation of financial resources to the detriment of other important areas of life which determine our overall well-being. This can lead to stress and anxiety because of things that are seemingly out of our control.
But the book reminds us that the critical elements of our life are within our control and that we have the ability to improve them. The daily choices we make about our relationships, careers, exercise, eating, and how we spend our time and money have a profound influence on our long-term well-being. With every action, we make a choice that can be a net positive to our well-being or a net negative. As Rath and Harter remind us: “[T]he single biggest threat to our own well-being tends to be ourselves.”
It’s easy to lose perspective on the long-term effect of our daily decisions because often our short-term choices are more attractive (think watching TV vs. getting up to exercise). With the speed of life today, we forget to reflect about the things that really matter, even though our individual well-being and the long-term welfare of our society depend on our ability to do so.
It’s important to maintain the perspective that we can have more energy today and live longer and healthier lives if we build better eating and exercise habits. We can have more purpose and satisfaction if we find vocations that we enjoy and play to our strengths. We can deepen our social relationships by investing more time in experiences with family and friends rather than simply sending a text message. We can contemplate having an active three- or four-decade retirement if we have the discipline to save more today and accept the daily volatility of assets that are necessary to grow our nest eggs. And we can build better communities for ourselves and the next generation if we give more of our time, talent and resources. These are the most important investments we can make for our future and to build wealthier lives.
We believe our job at Wealth Architects is to help you think about your life goals in these essential areas and how your money can help you achieve them. We hope having your finances effectively managed provides you with greater security, peace of mind and the freedom and control to focus on the other important elements of well-being: your physical health, meaningful experiences with family and friends, a career or calling you enjoy, and contributing to your community. In essence, we concentrate on your financial well-being so you can enjoy the rest of your life.
It is not easy to measure a wealthier life, but this book provides a useful start. I hope you’ll be inspired to build a wealthier life and that we will contribute in a meaningful way on your journey. We have each been given a gift of life and it is up to us to make sure we use it well.
Originally Published January 2012.