The Investment Coach

CBS News Sunday Morning, on July 29, featured a “Money Show” theme. One segment asked, “Can money buy happiness?” They related a story of a young man turned investment banker out of college, traveling the world with a healthy six figure income. Trouble was, he was totally empty and unhappy. Today he is a husband, father, and career firefighter. He makes far less money, but he’s happy!

The same Sunday the AJC published a Washington Post piece, “Find your passion? Bad advice, experts say.” Psychobabble aside, the article suggested that rather a narrow focus, go wider. “In a world that is becoming more interdisciplinary, the future will belong to those who cultivate passions in a variety of areas, such as science and the humanities.” Suggesting that one should be more “well-rounded,” isn’t good advice, either.

In my library is a yellowed paperback book, a true classic, Soar With Your Strengths, by Donald O. Clifton & Paula Nelson (Dell Trade, 1992). The authors note that in attempts to make us well-rounded, “parents and teachers focus on students’ lowest grades rather than on their highest. Business managers [and owners] spend most of their time working with the weakest performers and zeroing in on mistakes.” And in this time of polarized government and deficits, a timeworn observation: “Almost all of our country’s social work is focused on problems instead of helping people to become self-sufficient.”

We still suffer from “the power of positive thinking” bromide that success merely is a matter of hard work. Yes, you can work hard, but if you hate what you do, you will not be happy, successful, healthy, passionate, or engaged.

Here’s the thing about money. Everyone has a safety threshold. They want to feel secure and confident about their future. Once you reach a certain level of income and net worth (assets-liabilities=net worth), at which point you have security and have met obligations to family and others, additional income and net worth is a bonus. We may ask, “How much is enough?” What you do with your income and asset surplus is up to you and those you care about.

Some find happiness by earning more to give more away. They use their talents and resources to benefit others. The key word is talents. Donald Clifton, PhD, 1924-2003, was cited by the American Psychological Association as the Father of Strengths Psychology. He developed the Clifton StrengthsFinder, now Gallup’s famous online strengths assessment and coaching program as featured in the best seller, Strengths Finder 2.0, by Tom Rath.

The reality is that you were not born to be well-rounded. God endowed you with very specific talents. Clifton identified 34 different talent themes, and we all use our top talents in very different ways. Can you recall getting so involved in something that you completely lost track of time? You were absorbed in what you were doing, you were engaged! You looked forward to doing it again. “Engaged,” a powerful word, a better way of saying you are passionate about a subject, activity, pursuit, goal.

Per Gallup, on average only about 27 percent of the employees in a company are truly engaged in their work. The rest may be doing just okay, putting in time, can’t wait until Friday, and/or actively looking for another job. Scary, especially if you’re an employer.

Because dedicated employees are a treasure, more employers are using assessments to find those who are right for a position. Many assessments measure affective criteria, personality traits. Others may measure how one thinks. What often is missing is an understanding of how one is hard-wired, their internal M.O., how they respond to challenge, what they do instinctively. See

The Gallup StrengthsFinder pinpoints innate talents, recognizing that when one understands their top talent themes, they build on talents, adding skill and knowledge to develop strengths. When you are in the right role and using your strengths, you are happy. You are effective, engaged, better able to meet or exceed financial goals. It isn’t about the “right job.” It’s about the right role...a role suited to your top talents and strengths.

You don’t build effective teams by combining people working from weakness. You build teams by blending people with complementary strengths in sync with the overall objective. That’s the key to successful sports teams, business teams, spiritual and stewardship teams, and family teams.

Engagement. Go for it and happiness and passion follow. Think about that as you plan for your next 10 years and the decade to follow “retirement,” whatever that is. Boredom is toxic.

Lewis Walker, CFP®, is a financial life planning strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-2603. Securities and advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of SFA which otherwise is unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. He is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and a Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA®).

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