Archive for the ‘ Wealth ’ Category

To Pay or Not to Pay

One of the more challenging aspects of wealth is how to share it. This time I don’t mean charity, but instead with friends and family. Life is a great journey and we are lucky when our loved ones have our backs in bad times, but just as important when we can share the good parts.

While generosity is a noble quality, there can be a thing as too much. Throwing money around can allow people to take advantage, fuel other’s misperceptions of you or themselves, and cause imbalances in relationships. On the other side, most wealthy people I know want to share some of the cool things wealth offers, help others when able, and just have a good time with those they love.

So how do people find that balance? One friend of mine plans and throws destination weekends, often footing the bill for many aspects, while requiring others to “do their part” by arranging and paying for their own transportation and incidentals. Another takes a different approach and just pays for everyone, forcing him and his friends to get over any weirdness. Some I know spend their money less on parties or travel, but things that are more acceptable to share, like vacation homes.

It’s something I constantly struggle with. I do have a few rules that I try to follow:

  • I never fight over a bill. If someone wants to pay or really doesn’t want me to, I don’t force it
  • I will often try to pick up the tab, but not always, and almost never with people who I don’t know
  • I try to pay for little things (like a round of drinks after dinner), in non-obvious ways
  • A gift, once given, is no longer mine and comes with no unspoken obligations
  • I always graciously accept other people’s gifts in return
  • I work hard at being inviting and open to everyone equally
Most importantly:
  • I try to focus my friendships around time and energy – money and things are secondary

I’m not perfect at it. I’m sure there are some in my life who feel embittered about my paying for something, and those who feel I don’t do my part. While I don’t necessarily worry what other people think about me, I would prefer those around me to know the authentic John, and would like my interactions to be based on authenticity and intimacy, not money or power.

 

Wealth of Thirds

Met with a rather wealthy killionaire today. I inquired about his strategies for dealing with his success. He had put a lot of contemplative thought into the subject and had good insight to share. He tries to divide his time and energy into thirds. One third of his time he spends on generating more wealth (starting or investing in companies), one third on public / civic service (politics, charity), and the final third on contemplative activities (things that keep his mind flowin’).

I really appreciated the way he balanced things in a way that worked for him. My balance would be a bit different as I feel my job at PopCap is more than just a paycheck, and requires contemplative thought to be successful (even though on rare days it feels like civic duty). He also gave some very great advice, that marks some of the best I’ve heard. Paraphrased here:

Be wary of the path of least resistance. Everyone will want you to spend your time, wealth and energy to merely generate more wealth. The easiest thing to do with success is create more success. Though not bad necessarily, it may not lead you to the life you want to live.

It’s true. So many people have assumed that I’m going to become a VC, or asked me when the “golden handcuffs” expire before I start another company. No one believes me when I explain that I love making games, I love PopCap and if I’m making games I’m going to do so for EA / PopCap. Candidly, there would be a lot easier ways to spend my days, but few would bring more long term satisfaction.

Route to Joy

A last minute breakfast meeting at Game Developers Conference allowed me to make a new acquaintance while hearing an interesting theory to wealth.

His theory was there are five things you can do with money.

  1. Earn it
  2. Save it
  3. Invest it
  4. Spend it
  5. Give it

His theory says that only giving will help one experience true joy. That the other acts will bring fleeting happiness at best. I’ve thought about this a lot.

It is true that when I’ve earned money, I feel satisfaction, but the satisfaction is merely from having a yardstick to a truly satisfying action (aka, creating a great company). I’ve personally never been a skilled at saving. Investing money begets more money, which doesn’t solve the problem of what to do with money. Spending it can buy a lot of nice things. Can things buy joy?

And then there’s the final part of the theory. Giving it. Does that provide any joy more fleeting than the others? Or is giving it just as fleeting and temporary?

Since hearing this theory I’ve been trying to formulate an experiment. Assuming I’ve already earned it, I would then take $1,000×4 and find great ways to save, invest, spend and give it. And then track the joy received each from each action. Would one learn from that experiment? What’s the best way to set up and track it?

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