Goals-based planning

How your money can make more…of you

Mar 21, 2023

Financial planning isn’t just about managing your assets. It’s the key to having a life of meaning, purpose and impact

In one way or another, most wealthy individuals eventually ask themselves: How can money, wealth and strategic financial decisions support my having a life of meaning, purpose and impact? Our next gen clients are no exception.

Finding the right answer is a process unique to the individual posing the question. As a starting point, we offer this blueprint, which is based both on our nearly two centuries of work with clients who have significant fortunes and the latest research on money and meaning.

Let’s start with the science. One of the best books from the field of behavioral science explains how the way we spend money has a more measurable impact on our happiness and contentment than how much money we have.1

Several key takeaways should be relevant to the next generation of wealth:

1. Buy experiences

This may be common knowledge, but it’s a deep truth worth repeating: We get more value from experiences than things. A trip with family, an intensive language course, contributing time and resources to benefit others.  

Why? In short: We get used to the things we have. We adapt to our surroundings and revert back to what we think of as normal. In this way, our new car quickly becomes our old car.

In sharp contrast, experiences add value to our lives in many stages:

  • First, we anticipate the experience
  • Then we engage in the experience
  • Afterward, we reflect upon, reminisce, retell and expand the experience into the future   

The story of that one touchdown you scored in high school eventually becomes your glorious struggle for a world championship… in the snow, uphill, both ways.

2. Make it a treat

Consider buying the things—and experiences—you love a little less often. 

When we consume all the time, whenever we want, we tend to appreciate it less. The infrequency of an indulgence makes it more special and gives us greater joy.

This is especially good advice if you’re wealthy. One Belgian study showed that people with more money were less likely to appreciate small but beautiful things in life, such as a walk on a mountain trail.

This guidance doesn’t mean you should deny or deprive yourself. Rather, noticing your patterns (a really fancy and delicious coffee every day? A monthly trip to Paris?) and adjusting the frequency can increase the pleasure they provide each time.

3. Buy time

Time may be our most precious resource. So one of the most important gifts your financial resources might buy you is time to focus on what matters most.

For example, you might outsource certain tasks, employ new technologies or reprioritize your commitments. There are countless ways to gift yourself more time. The key is to figure out how you really want to spend it.  

As behavioral science has shown, “When people focus on their time rather than their money, they act like scientists of happiness, choosing activities that promote their well-being.”2

4. Invest in others

Spending money on others provides more happiness than spending on ourselves. 

Surveys, field experiments and collected research all have found: “The amount of money [people] spent on themselves was unrelated to their overall happiness. What did predict happiness? The amount of money they gave away. The more they invested in others, the happier they were.”3

Investing in others might take the form of gifts to family, philanthropic donations, supporting entrepreneurs and artists, or simply buying someone’s coffee. Whatever the method, don’t discount the impact that thinking of others can have on yourself.

It is often said that wealth used strategically can provide “funded contentment.”4 It’s an interesting perspective to add to how we think about money and meaning, happiness and success.

There are many sources of contentment. It’s not just a comfy hammock, a cool drink and nice sunset… though that does sound lovely. Contentment is many things to many people. Security, opportunity, legacy, impact, philanthropy, influence. There is no right nor wrong answer. 

To help define it for yourself, consider self-determination theory. This is the concept that we get happiness, meaning, satisfaction (i.e., contentment) from three sources:

  • Community—We are social creatures and need to connect with others (to influence and/or be influenced by them) to feel that we belong
  • Competence—We need to feel like we know what we’re doing. That we’re masters of something, or are learning or teaching, or, in short, are using our minds
  • Control—We need to be in control—not over others, but over our own selves. To have autonomy, agency, influence on what we do and what we create

How can you spend your time, money and resources to satisfy these very fundamental needs?

For example, many next gen clients get value beyond their financial returns with sustainable investing.  We’ve seen them get a sense of community through investments in important projects that aim to address needs of the whole world. They experience competence through learning about and developing new and needed techniques and technologies. And they express control by taking on something of their own and supporting efforts—though sometimes far off and hard to measure—that are likely to be vast and deep. 

Finding wealth strategies that might do the same for you isn’t easy. But the search is worth the effort. And, of course, we’re here to help you discover how your wealth can support your deeper sense of purpose and meaning, and then build and execute a plan to bring those things to life.

What are your ambitions, values and goals? And how can you wisely use your wealth to support what we often call a life portfolio?

What methods have your peers, parents, colleagues, children and others you know found to be successful ways to use money to create deeper meaning?

We know from experience—and from what the science tells us, too—how impactful it can be to consider the intention of your wealth.

These articles can help you get started

 

Reach out to your J.P. Morgan team to discuss how we might deploy your money to build more meaning for you. 

For more next gen content, check out How do you make the most of your inherited wealth?

 

1Dunn, Elizabeth and Norton, Michael, Happy Money, The Science of Happier Spending, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

2Dunn and Norton, Happy Money, page xvii.

3Quoidbach, Jordi, Dunn, Elizabeth, Petrides, K.V. and Mikolajczak, Moira, “Money Giveth, Money Taketh Away: The Dual Effect of Wealth on Happiness,” Psychological Science, (XX(X) 1–5, 2020),  https://happylabubc.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/money_giveth_money_taketh_away_-_sept25.pdf.

4Portnoy, Brian, 2018, The Geometry of Wealth: How to shape a life of money and meaning, Petersfield, Hampshire, UK: Harriman House.

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