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We are tested by Wealth, as gold is tested by fire.
We spend years learning how to make money, but we never expect that spending it—in particular, spending it wisely—will be so challenging… or so frustrating.
Yet sometimes it’s almost impossible to decide which of the countless good things that money can do we ought to be trying to do, and when we should begin devoting our wealth to those tasks: now or later.
It’s not that we don’t have plenty of people ready to tell us how and when to part with our money.
We do, and many of them want some of it.
Then there are all those other people who figure out for us how we should use it: economists, sociologists, psychologists, financial planners, and various academics and experts, almost all of whom are folks who haven’t worked to accumulate wealth, and who don’t really understand what it’s like, day-to-day, to carry its burdens.
It’s a late afternoon at the office and the phone rings. It’s my friend asking me to give to a charity he favors.
“Sure! I’ll be happy to help. I’ll send a check tomorrow.”
A week later the phone rings again. This time it’s another friend, and he’s also got a reasonable request. I don’t hesitate to promise to send money to the cause he wants me to help.
I hang up and remember F. A. Harper’s remark: “Giving in many instances is really little more than the cost of peacefully evicting a well-intentioned trespasser.”
Did I make that last donation just to get someone off my back? Did I give enough? Was I properly motivated?
I think my motives are good.
Like you, I’m willing to share my money. You and I really do want to help the needy, and, while providing what we should for our own families, we do want to contribute to others as much as we ought to give. Some of us may even donate a great amount of money to charity.
But the casual ways we do so—a contribution here, work with a charity there—bother me more with every passing day. I didn’t grow wealthy handling money haphazardly; I ought not to be giving it away haphazardly.
You and I have strict standards by which to judge the kinds of business projects we invest in; we’re careful to determine whether we should get involved in those projects and how much we should invest now and later.
Shouldn’t we approach the challenge of charity in the same way?
I know there are many good causes out there and that my contributions can make a significant difference for many of them. But it’s just not always clear what my obligations are to charity and what those obligations mean for my wealth and the way I should spend it.
As far as that goes, it’s not even clear how much money is enough for me and my family. I do have more than one family can use on itself, but should I give the rest away?
If so, how much?
And how can I be sure?
Would giving substantial amounts today be good for my family, for my businesses, or even, ultimately, for the needy?
You see, I’ve got a knack for making money, and in twenty years I might quadruple the value of what I could give today. Should I give my wealth away today—or twenty years from now?
Maybe you and I should just stay put: devote the rest of our lives to making money—which might be what we do well—and then give it away once our earning ability ceases or we pass away. That
guarantees charities the largest contribution.
Most of us have families and others who depend on us—employees, stockholders, or co-workers who expect us to sustain the business from which they derive their salaries or income. Would it be morally permissible for us to walk away from them in order to serve others? Might it even be wrong for us to cease creating wealth now that could later be used to serve others?
Then there’s that more radical response that some established men and women have given. With twenty or thirty good working years still ahead of them, they’ve stepped away from the enterprises that brought them their money and power. Are you and I called to take such a radical step? Should we stop making money today and devote the rest of our lives to using what we have now to support good causes?
Are there reasonable criteria by which we can make such judgments?
Questions, questions, questions.
“Are we spending our money as we should?”
“Are we living our lives as we should?”
For a number of years I’ve grappled with these questions; and I’ve talked to enough people like you to know that you grapple with them too! Knowing the great good that my money could do—if only I knew better how and when I should employ it—and confident that these questions can be answered with as much certainty as I answer questions of business strategy, I decided a few years ago to tackle directly this problem of wealth and its obligations, and to do so with the same rigor that I approach business deals. I wanted to figure out—once and for all, for myself and for people like you—just what it means for us to have money, and what we should be doing with it.
Although these pages answer questions for people who’ve inherited “Old Money,” they’re primarily aimed at hard-working men and women who are still deeply engaged in intense efforts to generate wealth: folks who have strong wills, quick minds, and a sure grasp of what it takes, day-by-day, to make money now.
If, like me, you value the virtues of capitalism and moral virtue but have too often been stymied when you’ve tried to figure out just what you should be doing with your money, then this book is for you.
Here I’ll offer you a lean, no-nonsense explanation of the meaning of your money, and provide a guide for dealing with it constructively. Some of what I conclude won’t surprise you: sometimes you’ll find me formulating things that you’ve figured out already. (That’s not a weakness. If my conclusions were contrary to your experience—you’d have reason to distrust them.) Other times you’ll think my conclusions are novel.
In some respects they are, but they’re not original. For when I began considering these topics seriously, I discovered an understanding of wealth that developed almost 2,500 years ago with the great philosopher Aristotle and was subsequently embraced by Cicero, St. Thomas Aquinas, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Andrew Carnegie, and a wide assortment of wise souls in other times and cultures—an understanding rooted not in religion or mysticism, but in ordinary virtue, common sense, and the pragmatism that allows societies to flourish.
In this long tradition I found clear, simple criteria you and I can use to determine how much money is enough for us, now, and in the future, too. I’m going to explain these criteria to you so that by the time you finish reading you’ll have in hand a number of simple rules of thumb that will enable you to judge whether you’re using your money as you ought, and will empower you to respond as carefully and as confidently to your wealth, to its demands, and to your charitable impulses as you do to business proposals.
These guidelines will provide easy ways for you to determine how much of your money you should devote to the common good, and when you should do so—now, later, or when you die. Best of all, they’ll show you how to use what you keep as an instrument to strengthen your family and your relations to your loved ones, while making each of you wiser and the world a better place.
Before we move on, a personal note is appropriate: when I finally decided to try to address these questions that have nagged at me for so long, I resolved to follow the evidence where it leads and not to draw back from conclusions that might leave me uncomfortable or looking bad.
In my businesses and in my private life, I’ve always believed that if I’m going to handle things the way they ought to be handled, I’ve got to do four things:
1. Find out the truth about how things are now.
2. Discover the truth about how they’re supposed to be.
3. Figure out how to change things from how they are now to
how they’re supposed to be.
4. Make myself want to change them enough that I’ll do
what’s necessary to bring about that change.
In my businesses and in these pages, discovering what’s true is my first task. That’s how this book came about; and I hope that, regarding wealth and its meaning, the ideas, principles, and guidelines I present here will help you to see the truth of how things are now and how they’re supposed to be.
I’ve generally found that once I’ve accomplished the first two steps (discovering the truth of how things are and how they are supposed to be), the hard work begins. That’s when I’ve got to figure out how to get from how they are to how they’re supposed to be, and—the hardest thing of all—I’ve got to make myself want to make that change.
I mention these four steps because although by researching and writing this book I’ve largely accomplished for myself steps one and two; I’m still working on steps three and four. It’s not easy for folks like you and me, accustomed as we are to a certain way of life, to examine our attitudes and habits. It’s even harder to want to change them.
So although the book is done, my own life is still a work in progress.
For a number of years, as they grew clearer in my mind, I’ve slowly been embracing the principles enunciated in these pages and shifting the way I live so that I’m abiding more closely by these guidelines… but I’m not there yet.
That’s why you’ll sometimes find me explaining and defending standards that I don’t yet live by. That’s because either I see they’re true but haven’t yet gathered enough interior strength to make myself live by them or I’m in the process of changing from my old ways to the better ones I explain here, and I just haven’t completed the transformation.
So let’s make a pact—about this book and about our lives. Together we’ll inquire into the truth, regardless of where it leads us. Then, having seen the truth, we’ll each try to live in accordance with what we’ve learned.
But we’ll always understand that we each are works in progress, and we’ll never judge each other, but rather will support each other as we try to learn the meaning of our wealth and to discover the uses that each of us, uniquely, are called to make of it.
Money demands answers. The more it grows, the more difficult the questions become. Chief among those questions is, “Am I using my money as I ought?”
Once you finish reading the following chapters, you’ll be closer to answering that question, able to say (as do I): “No, not yet. But now I see more clearly what I need to do and how to go about doing it. I’ve got some changes to make and it’s gonna take time. Come back next year. Ask me then, ‘Are you spending your money as you should?’” and I’ll be able to say to you with confidence, “Yes. Yes, I am. I’m healthy and wealthy; and, about money, I’m becoming wise: I’m well on the road to using it as I should.”
by Frank J. Hanna
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What does it mean for us to have money? What should we be doing with our money?
We all ask ourselves these questions, but the pressures of business and daily life seem to always keep us from finding sure answers. After years of living that way himself, wealthy entrepreneur Frank Hanna resolved simply to seize the time necessary to get good answers. Confident that these questions could be answered with as much certainty as questions of business strategy, Hanna directly tackled the problem of wealth and its obligations, and did so with the same rigor that he approaches business deals. He resolved to figure out—once and for all—just what it means for us to have money, and what we should be doing with it.
Expecting to have to solve these problems himself, Hanna found that these questions have been considered by wise folks and wealthy people for centuries, with answers that are as applicable today as they were in the time of Plato and Socrates.
From this rich tradition, from his own experience, and from his friendships with some of the wealthiest people around, Hanna has drawn forth clear, simple criteria you can use to determine how much money is enough for you, now and in the future. He’s developed simple rules of thumb you can use to judge whether you’re using your money as you ought—rules that empower you to respond as carefully and as confidently to your wealth, to its demands, and to your charitable obligations as you do to other challenges in your life.
Back to What Your Money Means (Hardcover)
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Product Type Media Books
Author Frank J. Hanna
Book Format Hardcover
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