The four follies of faith and finance | Business

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Is there a connection between your socioeconomic status and your spiritual maturity? For example, if you won the lottery tomorrow, would that make you a better person?

I used to believe money was evil and that rich people were, by definition, selfish. However, the paradoxical fact is that if you earn an income of $32,400 per year, then you are among the top 1 percent of income earners in the world, according to the Global Rich List.

So, congratulations, most of us are technically rich. It doesn’t feel like it with the money stress we all face, but it’s true.

I’ve also lived financial extremes: I was born into a wealthy family, ran away in disgust, then took a vow of poverty and became a Benedictine monk for 20 years. Our monastery also went bankrupt, and now I’m a financial adviser who manages millions of dollars. Along the way, I’ve met good and bad people at every stage of the journey.

It took me a long time to realize that there is no correlation between socioeconomic status and capacity for kindness.

While poverty is a humbling and often painful experience, it is not a precondition for humility. And just because some wealthy people are unethical, that doesn’t mean wealth creates unethical people. How you earn and spend your money affects your character, but having — or not having — money doesn’t predestine your soul.

However, we’ve gotten ourselves into trouble historically by assuming that wealth is correlated to either spiritual maturity or immorality, leading to a plethora of philosophical potholes and dead ends.

The four follies of faith and finance are:

  • The Prosperity Gospel: The idea that God loves the rich more than the poor.
  • Liberation Theology: The idea that God loves the poor more than the rich.
  • Ayn Rand’s philosophy: The idea that the rich are more virtuous than the poor.
  • Holy Poverty: The idea that the poor are more virtuous than the rich.

Each folly suffers from dualistic thinking about money: That good or bad, virtue or vice, is determined by your net worth.

The truth is more nuanced: It’s not the size of your portfolio that matters, but the quality of your compassion.

As I’ve said before, all personal finance can be summed up by the Holy Trinity of Finance, which I define as earning, saving and investing. The rest is just commentary. However, there is a parallel truth that sums up the spiritual adventure. I call it the Holy Trinity of Love: contemplation, compassion and action.

Financial success requires us to continually cycle through the process of earning, saving and investing. That process spirals upward toward greater financial security.

Ironically, some of my well-meaning friends who want to end poverty also decry wealth. And yet wealth is the only antidote to poverty. The Trinity of Love compels us to stand with the oppressed and marginalized, but bringing resources to the struggle helps — a lot.

However, money won’t solve all our problems. Worst of all is when we obsess over money but fail to love.

There is a middle way that balances our responsibility to both the material and the spiritual worlds. With mindfulness, we can joyfully journey in the generous space that upholds both the Trinity of Finance and the Trinity of Love.

Doug Lynam is a partner at LongView Asset Managemen in Santa Fe and a former monk. He is the author of From Monk to Money Manager: A Former Monk’s Financial Guide to Becoming A Little Bit Wealthy — And Why That’s Okay. Contact him at douglas@longviewasset.com

2020-03-02 19:30:00

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