Watch Out for the Tricks of Wealth

We suffer from financial sleight of hand.

Sleights of hand can make us question our own reality because we know instinctively that they don't square, even though they constantly get repeated.

For example, we may have been told that lowering tax rates raises tax receipts or massive stimulus won't affect the deficit. But, depending on amounts, these claims don't hold up under scrutiny. We may have other reasons for wanting each, but our justifications don't match the reality.

This got me thinking about some of the most famous words of Rev. Forrest Church, the late Unitarian theologian: "Want what you have. Do what you can. Be who you are."

One of the biggest sleights of hand in wealth management is tacitly encouraging people to want what they don't have. Most days, we are helping at least some client get into a bigger home, plan a nicer trip, or buy something that they think will bring them lasting satisfaction.

None of this is wrong, but too often we move onto what's next without appreciating what's now. Here's a tip as you think about New Year's resolutions: Before you decide what you want to happen next year, decide to review the things for which you are grateful from this year.

The second sleight of hand is clients either putting pressure on themselves to keep doing more or making excuses as to why they can't do more. Doing what you can starts with an honest assessment of how you are currently spending your time or money and relaxing if you are doing the things that are important to you or changing direction if you are not.

Bill Burnett's and Dave Evans' book "Designing Your Life" suggests creating a dashboard with work, play, love and health on it and determining on a scale from empty to full where you are in each category. Then make the adjustments you want to make.

Our last sleight of hand is that we have to be different than who we are. We try to manage impressions of ourselves by buying things we don't need, giving to things we don't truly care about or groveling for approval from those we hardly know.

This is exhausting. The challenge of being who you are is that some people may not like who you are. But we don't have much control over that anyway. Being who you are means that you are internally and authentically directed.

Disregard sleights of hand by living in a way that is affirming of the things that are most important to you and not believing the messages that pull you away from that.

Spend your life wisely.

Related: How Much Should You Give to Charity?