I have for long argued that good financial management concerns more than building wealth – by which I mean those comforting nest eggs that provide us with a good income in our old age and allow us to pass something on to our loved ones when we die – and protecting it.
A balance needs to be struck between the accumulation of wealth and the enjoyment of it: a balance between enjoying the good things in life and maintaining a psychologically healthy outlook.
Get the balance right and a strong bank balance equates to security and happiness. Get it wrong and misery may well ensue.
While not about money as such, a recent case heard in the Family Division of the High Court does, I believe, exemplify my belief in the need to get the wealth/health equation evenly balanced.
The case concerned a businessman with a fortune of some £13.6 million who took the seemingly extraordinary step of asking his divorced wife to remain as his housekeeper when he took installed another woman in his home.
The aggrieved ex-wife responded by suing the man, who was not named, for half his fortune.
An usual feature of the case was that the woman carried on living in the marital home after she and her husband were divorced. Presumably, she would still be there if her husband had not taken another woman and her daughter under his roof.
She found the suggestion that she stay on as housekeeper “very demeaning and upsetting” (naturally) and sparked what must have been a costly action in the High Court to get a bigger share of her ex’s fortune.
The judge agreed she had been badly treated and awarded her half her former husband’s fortune.
It is, however, the man’s response to all this that shows the importance of keeping money in proportion in our interactions with other people.
As reported in the press, he could not understand his former wife’s “aggressive” response to his proposed new living arrangements.
More tellingly, he reportedly told her he would “commit suicide or go on hunger strike” if she went to court “regarding financial matters”.
Now, this man seems to have displayed an almost autistic lack of understanding of the emotional needs of his ex-wife, and it may well be the case that he would not be a good person to be around were he wealthy or not.
As it stands though, I believe this case is symptomatic of what happens when money is allowed to poison the souls of those who possess it and pursue it at the expense of human relationships and decency.
In such cases prosperity becomes pointless; toxic, even.
It is a point that the psychologist Oliver James makes in books such as Affluenza and The Selfish Capitalist in which he argues that rising levels of wealth in highly developed nations such as Britain and the United States have a “dark side” in the form of the “affluenza virus”, a bug that results in sufferers putting too high a value on money, possessions, appearances and celebrity.
My message to clients of The Whitehall Partnership, as should any responsible financial adviser, is this: enjoy your wealth; grow it; protect it; pass whatever you can on to the next generation, but do not lose sight of the intangible benefits that good human relationships and a healthy outlook on life can bring.
If you would like advice on maintaining the health/wealth balance, or any other aspect of your financial affairs, call The Whitehall Partnership today on 0845 43 49 250 to arrange a free introductory meeting at a time and place of your choosing.