Dreams of Wealth

When I was a student of Leadership at the Booth School (University of Chicago), I had a wonderful professor, Howard Haas, who asked us all to reflect on what we wanted out of life. Our assignment was to write down where we saw ourselves in five years, ten years. And to outline the steps that would take us there.

Now I wouldn’t have thought of this as a “dream of wealth” at the time. I was just envisioning my best life. But “wealth” is such a relative term. It’s not just about money. It’s about everything we want out of life.

So before we start to think about the building blocks of personal finance, let’s take a moment, just like I did in graduate school, to think about what you want.

Start by thinking about who you are in this moment. A man or woman who can see possibilities. Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses. What do you have to offer to the world? What do you still need to learn? What are you passionate about? How can you harness those dreams in the service of others? Because serving others is how we all move forward.

This thought exercise can happen when you’re just starting out in life, or if you are reassessing your direction in mid-life or even later in life when you know yourself better and can see new ways you can contribute and grow. I’ve gone back to that visioning exercise from graduate school multiple times since I first did it. I’m always surprised to see the truth in that seemingly simple exercise of self-reflection.

Second, who do you see on this journey with you? Wealth is reflected in our relationships. Seeing life through another’s eyes is a dimension we all can learn from and harness to expand our dreams. Over a lifetime, dreams will shift and extend into new realms that we can’t always see clearly at the beginning. But the intention behind them tends to remain steadfast. How can we make a difference in a way that inspires us?

Third, there is a practical element to building dreams of wealth. When I founded Morningstar’s personal finance newsletter, I called it Practical Finance. I wanted it to be widely used by anybody and not full of jargon from an ivory tower. So you’ll find that continues today as I talk about understanding how to get organized. Or how to play defense with your finances. Or how important it is to understand the basics about investments and financial independence so you can make the best choices for you.

But I also want to show you what it looks like when you succeed beyond your wildest dreams. What types of issues do you now need to consider? What new problems emerge to be solved? You never know where you’ll go next. It helps to have the tools or at least an awareness of what may come up at some point in your life or in the life of someone important to you.

I’ll warn you: sometimes personal finance is tedious and boring. Yes, I just said that. Because even I feel that way at times. Do I enjoy thinking about insurance? Not really. Do I like writing about death during a pandemic? Not one bit. So your eyes may glaze over at times and I won’t be offended.

But that doesn’t mean these topics aren’t important. And they can move you closer to your dreams of wealth. Wealth is all the good stuff you imagine and also all the hard work that goes into implementing your strategic plan of building and protecting your wealth.

Remember one of our goals is literacy. What do you need to know to make those dreams a reality? And the best way to teach you about financial literacy is to tell you a story about yourself. I’ve been listening to people’s financial dreams for about thirty years now. If you look past the spreadsheets and algorithms, you’ll see love and family and caring about others is what’s at the heart of these dreams.

So think about your own situation, or your family’s situation. Put some thought into where your money goes each month. I’ve written this series of Dreams of WealthTM so that you can read different books depending on what you’re trying to focus on. Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is introduces investment, retirement and estate planning concepts within a philosophical framework.  Financial Planning Diagnostics helps you know what questions to ask. Financial Planning Literacy, covers much of the terminology and concepts you need to understand to take your planning to the next level. And in the fourth book, The Financial Bridge, we look more closely at end-of-life decisions including estate planning and philanthropy.

Let’s start this journey of possibilities. Your life is what you envision it to be—given all the constraints and roadblocks you’ll have to contend with. Take baby steps. Move forward or regroup when you go backwards. Get up every day and try again. It’s amazing how perspective can change from day to day.

Look for the joy along the way. It doesn’t have to be in grand gestures. It can be in little simple moments that you don’t want to overlook. I’ll be cheering you on and hoping you find inspiration through compassion, humility and serving others.

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

~ C.S. Lewis

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