By Brent Kessel
Reviewed by Jon Ford, CFP®
This book is packed with adventure; it heightens readers' sensitivities to their own money motivations. My expectation was that the book would simply extend well-established financial planning and psychological principles. Instead, it was a wonderful synthesis of psychological constructs with eastern and western spiritual thought, all within the context of a person's relationship to money.
Brent Kessel wrote this book, he says, to help readers access and increase both outer and inner wealth. By "inner wealth" he means freedom from the feeling of never having enough and a sense of financial choices instead of constraint. In addition, says Kessel, inner wealth is the sensation of abundance that inspires us to use money for the greater good, and the knowledge that we are connected-that our individual well-being is related to the well-being of our fellow humans.
It's Not About the Money will serve readers well who are likewise inclined. Kessel writes with extreme clarity, using illustrations, sequencing and activities to hit home runs in every chapter. He describes eight financial "archetypes," their childhood psychological antecedents, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Further, each archetype has a distinct "core story" with its own set of feelings, fears, problems and resulting behavior (often unconscious).
Kessel provides methods to clearly help assess one's predilection to one or a combination of archetypes. To illustrate, one archetype is the "caretaker." To the extent that a person tends to this archetype, he will likely be the responsible financial party in a relationship. He uses his time, money and energy to aid family and friends and can take pride in the loving attention he provides to others. It becomes a problem if his generosity results from uncontrolled feelings of obligation, guilt or codependency.
If constriction, imbalance and pain exist for the caretaker, the author expertly describes how to help develop alternative habits to show concern for loved ones that still express affection and sensitivity but no longer potentiate him toward feelings of anger and resentment.
In Kessel's view, it is balance that restores flexibility of thought and strips off the mask associated with guilt, anger and superiority that caretakers often experience. He teaches how important it is for the caretaker to first take good care of himself. Balance can be restored by taking an innocent and simplistic view, seeking pleasure for oneself, and by saving for self-sufficiency and abundance.
The author tackles very weighty money issues. One is the "10 percent of your income," or "tithe" rule espoused by many religions which often makes no sense. To illustrate, my aunt receives $12,000 monthly rent from the $6 million in inherited Iowa farmland she owns, and a $1,000 monthly Social Security check. A friend of mine has no savings or other assets but earns $13,000 each month as a new physician with a load of student loans and three small children. Who should be giving what?
For an answer, some would simply modify the rule: Give away the greater of 1 percent of our net worth or 10 percent of our income. Kessel takes the issue to a higher plane, suggesting that it is the motivation for generosity that is the touchstone. Moving away from rule-bound giving and toward the needs of others benefits all.
This book manages to develop a concise yet very adequate explanation of each of eight archetypes and the healthy consequences of successfully coming to grips with them. It is a self-help book, but it can also be an excellent resource for exploring financial predispositions with our clients. I recommend it to anyone who has money or wishes to have money.
Jon Ford, CFP®, of CF Financial Planning Solutions Inc., writes a regular "Financial Fundamentals" column for the Cedar Falls Times.
Harper Collins Publishers (2008)