Whether you’re trying to get rich quickly or slowly, there are a plethora of playbooks out there about saving, investing, real estate, business building, and side hustles for you to follow. While there is certainly plenty of advice that is garbage—especially on the get-rich-quick front—there are many, many paths to financial success. That is, if you define financial success as accumulation.

Once you’ve got a lot, you’ll also find plenty of strategies for optimally parting with your money. You can ladder, bucket, annuitize, exchange, reverse mortgage, take profits, spend, give concentrated securities, and otherwise dispossess yourself of all (and more) that you have accumulated in your lifetime. If you believe that success is living large and letting the last check bounce, your options are nearly limitless, and you’ll find many excited to enrich themselves through your decumulation.

But is this all there is to financial planning and wealth management? To life? Accumulation and decumulation? Or is there another path?

Yes, and that is the path of wealth activation. It’s more challenging because it’s less prescriptive—there’s no one playbook or five-step plan you can follow—but it’s more rewarding because it’s completely customized for you and your family. It’s not the anecdotal advice of some influencer or guru, so it doesn’t fit into a book, blog, or podcast, nor is it the self-interested path of a big financial firm. It’s yours.

I’ll extrapolate it further, but here is a simple equation to start:

Wealth Activation = Resources x Purpose

First, let’s define resources, because this is about more than money, and most of the resources at our disposal are arguably worth even more than cash. Here’s a handy acronym to help you remember—TIMER—to define the often-finite resources at all of our disposal more fully:

  • Time
  • Influence
  • Money
  • Energy
  • Relationships

So, you obviously have some of all of the above, right? These represent a more holistic picture of your wealth. But, I don’t want you to think about how much you have of each of these in gross. Instead, I’m curious—how would you rate your current level of satisfaction regarding how you’ve employed these resources?

How well do you allocate your time? To what degree do you exercise your influence? Are you intentional with your money and assets? Are you making sufficient investments in your health and maximizing your energy to enjoy all of your resources—and with whom?

  • As you revisit this list above, please rank yourself on how satisfied you are with employing each of these vital resources—between 1 and 5, with 5 representing the highest level of satisfaction. Add up each of your numbers and divide by 5—this is your wealth activation score.

Again, this is not an accumulation score or even a wealth score. It’s a wealth activation score. You could make and have a ton of money, but your time is not your own, and your health and relationships are crumbling around you. You could be recently retired with more time than you know what to do with and suffering from late-life depression because your days lack meaning. Or you could have a million social media followers but no real depth of relationship in your life.

What’s your score?

If you’re a 4 or 5, kudos. While most focus on crushing just one or two of these resources and too often allow the others to languish, you’ve taken a holistic approach. If you’re a 2 or 3, welcome to the club. This is where most people are, but the good news is that you’ve been honest with yourself, and this is the hardest—and likely the most important—first step. And if you rated yourself a 1, this just might be the most important thing you read this week, month, or year.

So, how do we effectively activate our wealth and increase our score? The good news is that it’s super simple; the bad news is that it’s not easy. It’s not easy first because we must set aside the time for reflection—and for so many of us, that just feels like a luxury we can’t afford. It takes time. It’s also not easy because we have to look into the proverbial mirror and think critically of ourselves. While we spend most of our time subconsciously justifying our every behavior, here we are consciously looking for our blind spots, our deficiencies. This requires energy.

And lastly, it’s not easy because, if we do this well, we’ll invite accountability into this discussion. Whether a spouse, partner, friend, mentor, or financial advisor, we’ll be bold enough to ask for insight and help. This takes solid relationships and the courage to share.

Once we’re willing to face the unease, however, the simple path to wealth activation is to apply a purpose to each resource. If we look first at the most tangible and visible feature of our wealth—our money and assets—it’s as simple as applying purpose to each dollar, account, investment, insurance policy, tax strategy, estate document, and so on. We’re not growing, protecting, giving, and living simply for the sake of checking boxes—or because we feel like we should. (There’s way too much should-ing in financial planning!) We’re applying a direct purpose to each of these elements of wealth.

We can similarly apply this reasoning to each of our other wealth resources, and if you’re lacking immediate insight into how you’ve applied purpose to how you protect and spend your time, for example, ask the question, “What’s important to me about [my time]?” and repeat for each.

This process—considering resources beyond our money alone and choosing to apply purpose to each of those resources—brings new life to financial planning and wealth management. Ultimately, it’s not about increasing your net worth, or even your “wealth activation score,” but being a better steward of our resources and deriving more joy from their accumulation, investment, and distribution.

Because that, in the end, is true wealth.

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