The holiday season is upon us, and 2020 has given us plenty to reflect on. It’s been a year of extreme ups and downs, but there have been some silver linings hiding beneath it all. What I’ve learned in my own life is something I continue to see reflected back to me in our clients—what matters most is family, relationships and humility. In fact, these are the things that drive effective financial planning.
These values come to life in one of my most favorite holiday classics, A Christmas Carol. Scrooge, a curmudgeon who cherishes his money above all else, is visited by three ghosts who make him realize that love, companionship and empathy are more important than all the riches in the world. At its core, it’s a message about being good to each other. It’s also about facing difficult aspects of ourselves. Scrooge had to accept that he wasn’t the man he thought he was. It’s a reckoning about the way we’re actually perceived in the world.
At JJ Burns & Company, we believe that wealth can be used as a tool to live these values every day while leaving a legacy of joy for our loved ones—and maybe gaining some sort of humility along the way, like Scrooge did.
What Ebenezer Scrooge Learns on Christmas Eve
The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future deliver profound messages that change the course of Scrooge’s life. He goes from being a cold, calculating businessperson to someone who finds his heart, compassion, empathy, and his own humility. This growth happens when he sees firsthand the consequences of his decisions. He lost the love of his life because he honored his wealth more than her. He was too selfish to take care of his employees and their families—and missed out on building meaningful relationships.
His Christmas Eve journey helps him finally understand the value of generosity and what it means to find your purpose in part by helping others. And when the Ghost of Christmas Future provides Scrooge with a glimpse of his own funeral, he is struck with the knowledge that he never left a legacy of joy. He also recognizes how disconnected he is from humanity. Thankfully, he gets a “do-over” and the chance to make things right; a powerful message for the rest of us.
The Most Profound Lesson I Learned
The three ghosts also highlight the fact that Scrooge had been living completely out of balance. It’s a wake-up call for many of us, including myself. On one hand was his business drive and financial success; on the other, his relationships and own self-growth. Scrooge loved and hoarded his wealth to his own detriment, ultimately pushing others away and living a life of loneliness and isolation. One of the biggest lessons for me is that a life well lived is one that balances both brain and heart—logic and emotion. Each supports the other and can lead to deeper fulfillment all around when they are integrated together. I’ve certainly seen many of my clients (and myself) struggle with this.
Scrooge prioritized his own wealth and success above empathy and his personal relationships. The bright spot was that he learned the error of his ways before it was too late and was given a second chance to redeem himself and make things right. In these times of deep division, we can all learn a thing or two from his story. Living a balanced, compassionate life is what helps unify people and heal our differences. It doesn’t have to be one over the other—it’s possible to amass wealth and succeed professionally while spreading joy and supporting others. In my personal journey, one of the most humbling things I’ve ever seen was watching someone give a tremendous part of their wealth anonymously. Their generosity of giving was solely from their heart, instead of a need to be acknowledged or accepted.
Letting These Values Shape Our Financial Planning
Scrooge’s story of healing and redemption directly applies to our financial health. This is because smart financial planning is shaped by our personal values and goals. No one ever wants to come to the end of their life only to look back with regret. Our wealth can be something that we use to do good in the world while also growing as individuals. This goes beyond charitable giving—what we’re talking about is leaving a true legacy of joy.
This looks different for every person. For some, it may be having the ability to pay for a portion of their children’s education. For others, it might be retiring early so that they can have more time to pursue their passions and activities that bring them real happiness. No matter your values, the thing they all have in common is that they require intentional financial planning to get there.
We can also live our values in our day-to-day lives. The way we spend our money and exemplify generosity is a direct reflection of what matters most to us. Whether it’s donating to a special non-profit or supporting small businesses by shopping local, money can be a tool for living an authentic life that spreads joy throughout our families, communities and beyond. For those who may not have enough this holiday season, focusing on relationships, love and friends can also trigger deep feelings of abundance.
As the year comes to a close, now is as good a time as any to reflect on what you want your legacy to look like. At JJ Burns & Company, we feel blessed to be able to help our clients turn their visions into reality. From our family to yours, we’re wishing each and every one of you a blessed and happy holiday season!