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Which path to choose ... ?


In 1982 I took my life in another direction.  I was in Social Services as a no-body working in a no-place job.  The need to go in a wholly other direction emerged when my mother became more persistently inquisitive about what to do with her meager wealth and interest rates were rising significantly.  Earlier, I was enrolled in an MBA program at Temple University doing well enough to consider a job in the private sector, since I was employed at the time by the Archdiocesan Office of Human Relations.  At Temple, I became interested in the way workers and managers were interacting on the production/shop floor in manufacturing and light industry.  The interface would later flower into the current rage for productivity in the workplace without crushing and alienating conditions of the past.  Despite this, by 1982, I saw the writing on the wall and the floor, big business was not for me.

Sloshing around in my mind was the fact that I had to make money, and fast.  As a 32 year old the question of what I wanted to be when I grew up was large.  The not-for-profit sector was not satisfying by then and I still has residual angst about, albeit unexamined, money issues left over from the 60’s when I was a leftist.  There were many things to try to understand and straighten out.  I also noticed that there was just enough of a competitive streak in me to try to better myself, come what may.

I took a look at financial services, really sales.  My former wife was ‘successfully’ employed by a local bank and I decided that if she could, so could I, in a different arena.  The attempts were a bit droll, and today called learning experiences.  Then they were interpreted more negatively.  In ended up working  for IDS Financial Services as much because that is where my mother lived, in St. Paul Minnesota, across from Minneapolis, IDS headquarters and they were hiring any reasonably trainable strays  .  In the training process they identified me as impatient, ever the optimists, they called that positive because I would always hope for more and sooner.  I agree.  Today, I have a greater repertoire of skills, talents, abilities and disciplines than then.

I dove into the money issues of others without even dealing or knowing mine.  (Healer, heal thyself!)  This was called financial planning then and still is offered by AMEX Financial Advisors.  I thank them for taking the risk; little did we know what really lurked in my mind and soul.  After 22 years, I can say “Money is in the details.”

In the second year at IDS/AMEX, I started noticing that there were successful planners and those that washed out.  WHY? It took ten years to figure some of the answers out.  Even today, after reflection and learning, I still have only incomplete answers.  The broader more inclusive issues, resolutions and partial answers are going to be in a book with a title close to this article’s.  In thinking about the last 20 years, I think, I almost washed out 3 times.  And it all hinged on the issues I’d like to share with you about money.  I keep qualifying this because there are no global answers, maybe some global questions.  These really big questions are even harder to frame and form.  They go or point to core, central, essential, challenges, not problems, we all face and can administer, not solve.

Money is in the details suggests a granularity or particularity.  It comes from the phrase “the devil is in the details”.  The details of money were made clear to me early.  I found that I needed and wanted it, and worked for it willingly.  Oh sure, I moaned a bit in the effort, yet every time I was glad to get it and have it, use it, spend it and get more of it.  Maybe, the subconscious impression of coming from a poor family of living from hand to mouth impelled me to care for my well-being with money.  With money sometimes it is a chicken and egg argument.  There may be no initial cause, merely effect, in this case.  The details evolved into a possibility of wealth at age 10.  The shining dollar pieces from a so called aunt were awaited and welcomed with joy for my birthdays.  The money added up to well-being.  Working my way through college was a necessity and a desire; it elevated me a bit above the rest to have had made more than they did for college.  Home team three, visitors two; dollars banked was a small way to keep track of progress.

Money details are numerous.  Money keeps track, asset minus liabilities equals net worth; the sum of a year’s efforts after all the allocation between fixed, variable and personal use expenses.  The conversion of income into wealth, really the process of investment planning and management, taps into the perils of human nature.  Right next to this is the possibility of wealth and income, what can be done with your, our, my money?  This has King Midas and legacy issues trailing from it.  The right use of money is a detailed choice, the heart of economic behavior.  Do I buy a car or rent it?  Do I rent an apartment or buy a home?  Do I go on vacation or build a home for the needy?  Do I tithe or teach people to fish?  Do I buy from China or buy American?  When you go through these questions, a host of threads hang and influence the answers.  And, do I want a final or temporary answer?  The possibilities of money are wide and deep.  There are enough investment techniques to accumulate wealth, we do not need more.  Financial planning is highly defined.

I know now that I am in a needed profession …..


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