When my son Charlie came home from the NICU in February and was going to doctors appointments with some frequency, one of the things that came up was that he, like many newborns, had a case of torticollis. Torticollis is basically the tendency for a baby’s head to lean one way and an associated difficulty for them to lean it the other way on their own. It’s not serious if you do some pretty straightforward physical therapy, which simply involves stretching the baby’s neck muscles and retraining them to work in a more symmetrical way.
On the other hand, if you don’t start early and stay on top of it with the physical therapy, then even a slight asymmetry in their neck muscles will gradually get worse and more difficult to correct.
For the last week this tweet by Brent Beshore has been rattling around my brain:
The only people who think money is a commodity are those who haven’t raised money, been in a partnership, or done a deal.
Good money is thoughtful, patient, and helpful. Bad money is a living nightmare.
— Brent Beshore (@BrentBeshore) October 11, 2018
Brent runs a thoughtful, extremely atypical private equity firm out in Missouri called adventur.es, so this tweet comes from his context of investing in family-owned companies. But I see so many parallels to the world of personal finance. It’s like I replied back to Brent: the context, circumstances, and intent surrounding money will always be more interesting than the money itself, not to mention supremely important to outcomes.
What’s really interesting to me about personal finance is that it seems everyone has a case of torticollis. No one is walking around with their money in Neutral: everyone is either tilting toward, as Brent put it, the “thoughtful, patient, and helpful” of Good money, or the “living nightmare” of Bad money. Obviously the analogy breaks down at some point because for Charlie’s health, Neutral is exactly where he needed to be, and I’m suggesting no such thing exists with money. But I still think this can be a useful picture for us.
What I mean is this: the more we lean toward financial decisions that are thoughtful, patient, and helpful, toward habits of generosity and contentment, toward intentional choices to use our resources in just ways–every slight lean in that direction will beget an even stronger lean in that direction, like the muscles in Charlie’s neck when left to their own devices. But conversely, the more we lean toward financial decisions that are careless, hurried, and harmful, toward habits of greed and discontentment, toward intentional choices to use our resources in meaningless ways–every slight lean in that direction will do likewise.
I don’t mean to overdramatize this, or to instill in you an existential fear of purchasing the pack of gum in the checkout aisle in Target. After all, one of the primary reasons we do what we do at Beacon is to help people toward freedom.
But here’s the thing: all of us still have to decide what to use that freedom for. There will be some tug of war going on between Good money and Bad money throughout our lives, and we may need some financial therapy from time to time, but Neutral is not an option.
One of the most rewarding parts of our work is getting to see clients leaning firmly toward “thoughtful, patient, and helpful.” It challenges us personally and professionally to do likewise. If you have questions about how we might help you do the same, please reach out and let us know!