Dec 04, 2023

Balancing Money and Love to Build a Wealthier Life

Dec 04, 2023
Mark T. Johnsen
Chief Wealth Architect, CEO & Founder
“Money” and “love” – simple words, but deep and complex topics that we often take for granted. They run through our daily lives like blood and water, keeping us going and our world turning.

As integral to the fabric of our lives as they are, we typically get no schooling on money or love as we grow up. Without education, we learn by experience. My earliest understanding of love came through the diverse teachers of religion, music and written masterpieces. I then experienced a broken heart before I probably ever felt a truly full one, when my father died of lung cancer while I was in high school.

The Game of Life

The values we pick up in our youth, through observation and communication (or lack thereof), often shape us when it comes to love and its intersection with money. I remember playing the board game, Life, as a kid. You’re faced with decisions about whether to go to college, get married, buy a home, how many kids to have, what career to choose, and so on. It seems from an early age we have been taught that moving through life is simply a series of these trade-offs of life and money decisions. We are given the impression that in order to win, we need to simply accumulate the most amount of money. There is no mention of this word “love.”

We figure out as we get older that our lives grow more complicated with more money and responsibility and that we often suffer the loss of the love that we desire most in our lives. If you are like me, don’t we want more than just the accumulation of the most money and responsibility at the end of the game of life? 

I think, at the end of the day, we all want to simply build joyful, balanced lives that are filled with the things we truly love and find most meaningful. This is what we, at Wealth Architects, call Building a Wealthier Life. 

So, how do we do that?

Balance & Alignment

I believe building a truly wealthy life is about seeking balance in our money and love decisions – and that is ultimately determined by how we live in alignment with our values and spend our time in pursuit of what we truly love. In my 30 years in this industry helping clients make money and love decisions, I’ve found that it’s difficult to keep our hearts and our heads in balance. The pendulum often swings in one direction we pursue, at the expense of the other.

How should we factor in love as we try to accumulate and manage our money? At Wealth Architects, we think a lot about how love applies to our work. Our goal is to help our clients align their time and money with what matters most in each of their lives. We believe wholeheartedly that this alignment is what leads to greater holistic well-being beyond just financial security. We are committed to providing our clients with the latest tools and frameworks around money and love – the education most of us never received in our early years – to help them navigate their journey to a wealthier life. 

We recently explored this topic in depth at our 10th annual Wealth Architects University event, “Money & Love,” with Myra Strober (pioneering labor economist and Stanford professor emerita) and Abby Davisson (social innovation leader) – authors of Money and Love: An Intelligent Roadmap for Life’s Biggest Decisions.

What is Love?

I realized I didn’t know the origins of this word “love” like I did for “wealth,” so I started getting curious about it and researching. I have certainly become no expert, but here is some of what I found. 

This idea of love has probably been around since the beginning of human life, but it was the ancient Greeks who really expounded upon the concept. Love comes to us in a wide range of types and sources, from deep affection for a partner, to love of our community and mankind. I think it’s important for us to understand these concepts as we design and build our lives to seek the balance we so desire and help guide us with our money decisions. 




This is a basic necessity, but can often be construed as vanity or selfishness. The more positive spin, though, is self-help and self-awareness of our own mental, physical and spiritual health needs. It’s the self-respect and pride we have in who we authentically are. This is the first fundamental building block to creating a strong foundation for our wealthy lives. It all starts with believing I am enough and I have enough. And that directly applies to our money, too – figuring out what is truly “enough.”

STORGE (Familial Love)

Storge refers to our natural or instinctive affection, such as the love of a parent towards their children and vice versa. This can be wide-ranging between our family members, companions and pets. It’s why we rescue a dog in an act of love and then spend $10,000 taking care of it over the course of its life. Familial love is a commitment to care compassionately for one another.

EROS (Romantic Love) 

The type of love that probably gets the most attention, Eros centers around that strong attraction and connection we have with another person and the “crazy in love” courtship behaviors we undertake to express those feelings and emotions. 

PHILIA (Friendly Love)

Philia love is platonic. It is a form of love in which there isn’t a sexual or romantic desire, but it’s also more than a nice connection with an acquaintance. It is rising through levels of closeness to an attraction to another person’s soul. This is why we have fraternities and sororities and we tell our closest friends we love them.

PHILIPONIA (Love of Work) 

A concept associated with Stoic philosophy, philiponia means a lot more than toil. It refers to the industriousness of someone who has found their calling, their life’s work challenging the best within them. It is a love of doing something, not for mere money alone, but because it makes the world a better place and, in the process of that journey, we grow and develop as well. This is often a centerpiece of our well-being because it’s where we spend the majority of our lives.

AGAPE (Unconditional – Community Love) 

This is the most powerful kind of love, meaning the love one feels for humanity, for a higher being and for the ultimate human connection. It is unconditional and selfless. One Greek philosopher beautifully described this as “the great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity.” The heartbreak we feel when we grapple with terrible conflicts and human tragedies around the world comes from a great love for humanity. 

It’s also what ignites our desire to build community – giving our time, money, and spirit to something bigger than ourselves. The research on our well-being shows that this type of love is often the difference between a good life and a great life, as it gives our lives deep meaning and fulfillment. 

I was excited to find that these concepts of love that the Greeks identified are in perfect harmony with what we see as the foundation for a life of wealth and well-being. Love is perhaps what gives all of our money purpose in the end. If we are missing any of these categories of love in our lives – and we often are – we may feel rich in money, but empty and not truly wealthy.

Foundations of Love

So, love is fundamental and essential to our existence. It is the “why” of our lives. Without this strong connection of love fortifying our foundations, we are susceptible to life’s inevitable tremors; but with it, we have the stability and strength to endure and accomplish almost anything. 

The heart is the first organ in our bodies to form at birth and it regulates us, it detects stress and it helps us feel deep emotions. Our brains are the rational supercomputers helping us process all of the decisions we need to make based on those emotions that we feel. We use phrases like “listen to your heart” and “follow your heart” on one hand, but also “don’t get emotional, use your head” on the other. It can be very confusing. The key is that we must use both our hearts and heads to find alignment with love and money life decisions.

This alignment is where our core values come into play. Our core values are our compass. They help guide us toward true north; to our authentic selves, authentic relationships and the love outcomes we desire. Our values advise our decisions about how we spend our time and money and what goals we have in life, from family planning to career planning. 

3 Essential Elements: Intention, Devotion, Courage

We can be more successful with love and money when we combine three essential things that I have observed in working with our clients over the years.

The first is intention. Balancing all of the elements that we love can be challenging at times. I know this has personally been true for me. Men often learn, as I did from my father, that the way we show our love is to provide money for our families; to work long hours to bring home the proverbial “bacon” and provide greater comforts and security. 

But unfortunately, too much focus on providing can come at the expense of being present, patient and attentive to our loved ones, to foster the familial love we truly desire. So, reflecting on our priorities and making sure we show up every day with intentionality is essential to our success. 

Secondly, devotion is vital. It’s the enthusiasm we put toward the loved ones, activities and causes we care about most. Love is a discipline; it’s not always easy. For me, this word brings up thoughts of those raising children with special needs, or caring for a spouse dealing with dementia or those selflessly volunteering to make our communities stronger. I think of our incredible A-team at Wealth Architects who devotedly believe in our purpose of helping our clients build wealthier lives. 

We can only be devoted to all aspects of our well-being when we have love, loyalty and enthusiasm for them, because devotion gives us purpose and inspiration for spending our time, making our money and dealing with heartbreaks for those we love. It brings us meaning and wholeness.  

Finally, love, like most great things in life, is hard and requires courage. Courage to be vulnerable, to take risks, to communicate openly, and to truly see the other person’s perspective and values when we make money and love decisions. It takes courage to really understand if we are thinking with our heads or our hearts and where we can find the appropriate intersection between those to make us more successful in the ways of money and love. 

Your Blueprint

I believe love is the greatest force we can experience while we’re here on Earth. It is the only emotion that has the power to be eternal and it applies to all the elements of our well-being. You may have the means to buy nice things, travel anywhere and wield power but you can never buy true love. We must give it away to keep it for ourselves. 

So, if you have made some mistakes in the spirit of finding and expressing love, particularly with your money – welcome to the club! We all face struggles, disappointment, fear in our relationships with ourselves and others. The journey to a wealthier life is full of these twists and turns where we face new money and love decisions every day. 

Aligning our head and our heart takes practice. Our team has been committed to learning from experts about the frameworks that lead to more synchronous decision-making and, ultimately, a holistic happiness and well-being that transcends financial wealth alone. When we have roadmaps for making good choices about money and love based on our core values, I am certain we will have better outcomes and fewer regrets.

I hope you feel inspired to ask yourself what your personal financial-life blueprint looks like as you build a wealthier life, wealthier family and wealthier community around you and those you love.

If you would like to hear more on this topic, please watch my opening remarks from our recent Wealth Architects University symposium, “Money and Love.” To learn more about Wealth Architects University, take a look at our 2023 executive summary video.

“Money is good, love is wealth.”

— Douglas Horton

Copyright © 2023 Wealth Architects, LLC

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