An Introduction to Life with Money

Tom Levinson Life with Money

Among the building blocks of our work as an investment and financial advisory firm, one is a prerequisite: an interest in money.

Now, what we’re calling this “interest in money” isn’t actually about accumulation. There’s nothing wrong in a prosperous life – indeed, there can be much good.

And the subject of wealth accumulation – for example, the question, “How much is enough?” and the more personal, “How much is enough for me?” – is fascinating and certainly worthy of exploration.

But when we write here about having a necessary “interest in money” to do this work, what we really mean is:

  • having a deep curiosity in how people live with and use money
  • how we talk about it – and avoid talking about it
  • how we think about, feel about, dream and dread the essential, unavoidable, complex topic of money

• • •

There’s an essay about money we recently came across.

It’s called “Money Off the Shelf” and, interestingly enough, it’s written by a minister. In this essay, Rev. Lillian Daniel describes her deep ambivalence about money, dating back to her childhood.

“In some ways,” she writes, “I came to this bipolar ministry of money naturally, for I was behaving as I had been taught as a child. When it came to money, you did not tell the truth” (our italics).

As a child, she had been directed by her mother never to tell her father what things cost, because the information – that is, the truth – would upset him.

But as a young minister, struggling to make ends meet with student loan payments and full-time child care, Rev. Daniel opted, quite deliberately, to break her pattern of silence.

“I decided it was time to start telling the truth about money.”

As Rev. Daniel begins to speak openly about her relationship with money in what she calls “stewardship sermons,” she makes a confession to her assembled congregation.

Just as she feels called to donate time and money to worthy causes, so too, she admits to loving cars, clothes, dining out, and travel.

“But in telling the truth,” she continues, “I got a strong response. We started talking together about money.”

“I did not need to be a perfect, altruistic role model for God to use me in a ministry of money. We were all there to work on each other, and telling the truth, being authentic, was just the beginning.”

• • •

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Park Piedmont Advisors’ “Life with Money” newsletter.

Every Friday we’ll share some of our original thinking about the multi-faceted world of money, work, and wealth.

We’ll also share other sources – articles, podcasts, art, history, and culture – that illuminate something helpful, or valuable, or intriguing about our topic.

Let us say: we recognize money conversations are, for many, a no-fly zone.

Our goal at PPA – as a team that works with and explores the ins and outs of money all day long – is to create a space that’s comfortable for you, regardless of your background or experience with financial topics.

It’s a similar goal, perhaps surprisingly so, to Rev. Daniel’s work.

We hope you come to consider this a place where we can openly talk together about money and its role in our lives, communities, and society.

To that end: if you have topics you’d like us to explore – or if you want to weigh in – please do! We would love to hear what you’re thinking.

• • •

Back to Rev. Daniel.

Eventually, after something approaching a religious epiphany in a traffic jam on a Hartford, Connecticut, highway, Rev. Daniel and her husband meet with a financial advisor.

They talk about their jobs, their salaries, and their spending. Together, they come up with a roadmap for their financial lives moving forward.

Her advisor’s practical guidance, she comes to feel, is a gift.

In the process, what she describes as her ministry around money stands out as some of “the most important work clergy do.”

As she puts it, “We talk about money not because it shouldn’t mean anything to us, but because it obviously means so much.”

• • •

“Money Off the Shelf” is one of several essays found in This Odd and Wondrous Calling: The Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers by Rev. Lillian Daniel and Rev. Martin B. Copenhaver.


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