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August 24, 2023
In a world where financial aspirations and achievements hold a significant place in our lives, taking the time to explore our own beliefs and attitudes about wealth can be transformative. Recognizing the complex interplay of values, biases, and emotions we attach to money offers a unique opportunity for personal growth and introspection. Getting to your attitudes requires responding to questions about wealth.
In her book, We Need to Talk: A Memoir About Wealth, Jennifer Risher examines how her attitudes toward wealth and privilege changed after she became astronomically wealthy through her husband’s stock options. (He was an early employee at Microsoft.) Her personal reflections on wealth, privilege, and the emotional complexities that come with having substantial financial resources are a fascinating, provocative (and occasionally cringey) tale that really make you think about your own relationship with money.
There are a few examples that left me feeling that Risher was too out of touch – is flying your children first class rather than private really a way to keep them grounded? But, that probably says more about me than her. As a whole, I have to admire her searching for answers about money and am left really examining my own judgements and attitudes about wealth and how those values impact my big and small financial decisions.
Risher’s memoir is both a personal narrative as well as an exploration of the broader cultural and economic issues associated with wealth. She aims to initiate conversations about money and privilege that are often avoided, fostering a more open and honest dialogue about these topics.
In fact, the most interesting part of the book are actually the questions posed to the reader at the end of each chapter. These questions encourage readers to confront their own feelings and attitudes towards money, while also addressing the responsibility that comes with substantial wealth.
We’ve summarized those questions below.
Below are many of the questions posed in Risher’s book. As you go through these questions, it is easy to think that there is a “right” answer. There isn’t.
Your answers are meant to help you gain an understanding of how and why you make certain decisions about money and how and why you live your life the way you do. In fact, you may not have answers, only reflections and insights into yourself and your attitudes toward your relationships and society.
These questions are definitely worth exploring. As you go through them, consider the following:
What does wealth mean to you? Is it a certain bank account balance or something else? (Here are a few reader reflections on this topic: Are You Wealthy? 19 Definitions of Wealth.) What does your definition say about how you make decisions?
What do you believe about people who have a lot of money? Are these positive or negative emotions or both?
Do you have enough money? Is there a magic amount that would feel like enough? How would you know when you had enough?
Are you wealthy? Do you want to be?
Does money play a role in your friendships?
Do you judge people based on their financial decisions? Do you feel judged by others?
Do you talk about money or your salary with co-workers?
Do you think your relationships would change if people knew how much money you had?
How does money connect or disconnect you from other people?
What experiences have you had giving money to or receiving money from family members and how did it make you feel?
Have you run into money issues with your siblings? How do your siblings feel about your financial standing?
How has money impacted your relationships with your parents?
Have you ever made purchases or spent money to keep up with friends? Why?
Do you talk about money with friends and family? Why or why not? (Explore 10 Reasons Why Talking About Money Can Improve Your Future)
Does how much money you have affect how you see yourself? How others see you?
Do you act or try to look like you have more (or less) money than you actually do? Why?
Over your lifetime, have you undergone a socioeconomic status change? Has that change shifted the way you view yourself?
Does the way you spend money match your values?
Do you think your gender influences how you view money?
Is your self worth and identity linked to the amount of money you have?
Do you think wealth changes people or reveals who they are?
How can money cause you to act obnoxiously?
How has your personal background impacted your success?
Do you attribute your successes and failures – financial and otherwise – to circumstances, luck, choices, or talent?
Do you identify with your work? In addition to a paycheck, what else do you get out of your job? If you’re not working, how do you define yourself?
What role does money play in motivation?
What was your first money memory? What emotions were attached to it?
What assumptions, emotions, and thoughts about money were part of your childhood? What beliefs have you let go of? What have you held onto?
What is your biggest concern about money and your children?
What attitudes and actions about money do you hope your children adopt?
If you received an allowance as a child or if you give your children an allowance, what do you think can be learned from the experience? Are there pros and cons?
What is your experience with work and parenthood? Has one taken precedence over another? What role has money played in your decisions? How have you and your partner negotiated work, parenthood, and money?
What do you think spoils children?
If you are a parent, how did wealth play out among relationships with other parents? Were these positive or negative experiences?
If you have wealth, have you ever helped someone else with a significant gift? Why or why not?
If you have given, did you talk about what you did with other people? Why or why not?
What did you learn about giving as a child? Has your attitude toward giving changed? If so, how and why?
Do you give enough now? What does enough mean in this context? Do you think of yourself as generous?
Does peer pressure affect your giving?
What do you gain when you give? What keeps you giving or stops you from giving again?
In media, we are bombarded with examples of outrageous wealth. Have you ever tried to live up to these examples? Do you know people who do?
What are your attitudes toward income inequality? Do you think people would be happier as a whole if there were not such big differences in income levels across society? Or, even in your own community?
Do you have people who work for you at home (housecleaners or gardeners for example)? What is your relationship with them? Do you try to hide what you have?
If you can pay more for a service, should you?
How have your experiences with k-12 public or private education been influenced by wealth in good and bad ways?
What is the “right” level of wealth for the majority of people?
What problems has money fixed in your life?
What problems has having money caused in your life?
Has there ever been a time when you would have given all your money in exchange for a different outcome?
What does it mean to feel wealthy?
How has money improved your life?
Where has money failed to improve your life?
What would you do if you had all the money in the world? (Is there a way to do that now with what you have?)
Self-reflection about attitudes toward wealth empowers you to align your financial decisions with your core values, understand your biases, and navigate money matters with greater mindfulness and wisdom. It leads to a more holistic and fulfilling approach to managing your finances.
Take something you learned about yourself from the questions above and apply it to your financial plans with regards to:
Run a scenario in the NewRetirement Planner to see the impact of the change.
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