I lived as a Benedictine monk for 20 years, hoping I would love the world and the people in it more freely by renouncing all material goods and worldly ambitions. Monks are supposed to be “free agents” of mercy and kindness, serving the divine all day, in all things — without ulterior motives.
However, after surviving the bankruptcy of our community and watching my fellow monks not be able to afford essential health care for many years, I’ve learned there is another way forward.
What if, instead, we each had a little bit of wealth? Wouldn’t that allow you to achieve the same objective of being a “free agent” of love and kindness, beholden to no one? With no strings attached.
You don’t need any money to make that happen, but having a robust financial plan and adequate savings makes this life much more manageable. Otherwise, you’ll live a precarious existence.
Wealth, wisely and sustainably invested, allows you to live your values more fully rather than be stuck working paycheck to paycheck, a grind that leaves many of us frustrated and exhausted. Too much of that and you LOSE at life — you Live Only Sad Experiences.
A life where your most profound spiritual values shape each day is what I call a LOVE life — Live Only Value-based Experiences.
Buying stuff will not make you happy. However, meaningful, value-based experiences do make us happy. They also make the world a better place, and the more wealth you have, the more valuable experiences you can pack into your life.
Wealth can help make life LOVE-ly.
Is a LOVE life always pleasant and happy? Nope. Not at all.
For example, someone who needs cancer treatment will value that treatment highly, even though it is devastating. They need to focus on their health and quality time with family instead of wasting that precious energy paying medical bills, earning an income or even cleaning the house.
Money can remove the unvaluable experiences from your life, allowing you to focus on what brings deeper meaning. The list of value-based experiences is endless. You may value working in an animal shelter, raising foster children, running aid missions around the world or training service dogs for veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.
This list could also include, in moderation, spending time on a tropical beach sipping fruity cocktails with your friends and family. Why? Because such experiences add value to your life, strengthen social and family bonds, and bring joy into the world.
One of my favorite LOVE stories is when a group of students at Santa Fe Preparatory School, where I once worked, chose to bake a cake and throw a party for a 7-year-old girl whose family moved into a homeless shelter on her birthday. That was LOVE-ly, and I value every moment of that day.
I still get teary-eyed every time I think about that little girl’s surprise and the joy it gave to every guest in the shelter that night. What had been a tragically dreary day felt like a celebration.
And if you don’t think that was a real moment of happiness — just ask the child’s mother.
That LOVE story required a little money but mostly time and energy. And it’s hard to find the time or money when all your energy is devoted to making ends meet. With a little bit of wealth, your entire day can be filled with LOVE stories rather than merely clocking hours at a job you don’t enjoy. We all are required to do unpleasant tasks each day, but money used wisely can drastically reduce our suffering and provide us with the time and resources to help others more effectively.
I believe that we are all the hands of the divine. In the monastic tradition, the divine loves us, and we are responsible for transmitting the divine love that eternally surrounds us.
With time, resources and compassion in our hearts, we can make our money a force for good and be a powerful tool for change in the world. And God knows, our world certainly needs it.
Doug Lynam is a partner at LongView Asset Management and a former monk. He is the author of From Monk to Money Manager: A Former Monk’s Financial Guide to Becoming A Little Bit Wealthy — And Why That’s Okay. Contact him at email@example.com.