The Wealth Cure
Putting Money in Its Place
In his second book for adults, the perennial New York Times bestselling author helps readers discover how to put money in its place and use wealth-building as a tool for joy and fulfillment.
Hill Harper is uniquely poised to guide readers through tough times and offers bestselling advice for reaping the rewards of a truly happy life. With The Wealth Cure, he does more than that: He presents a revolutionary new definition of wealth; motivating readers to not only build financial security but to achieve wealth in every aspect of their lives.
Applying a parable approach, Harper instills practical nuts-and-bolts explanations for laying a sound financial foundation and also focuses on how to recognize the worth of your relationships and increase the value of your interactions with the people in your life.
Drawing on personal recollections and true stories from family and friends, Harper has created an inspiring guide. Readers will begin to see money as energy and a freedom for following their passions. Far from a get-rich-quick primer, The Wealth Cure brims with inspired wisdom for building a lasting bounty from the experiences, loved ones, and achievements that really matter.
“The most creative people on the planet are those who frame the biggest, hardest questions and then gather the resources necessary to ﬁnd the answers.”
Wealth. To most of us this doesn’t sound like something we need to be cured of, right? In fact, most people would love to get infected with a “wealth virus.” I am not suggesting that wealth is a sickness. Rather, I believe that we—as a culture and as individuals—must reexamine, alter, and then cure what has become a debilitating relationship with money and wealth.
Our society is addicted to debt, and, exacerbating that problem, we live in a culture that associates material objects—“bling”—with success. Those two factors have led us to overvalue money. So much so that in many ways we “chase paper” just as intently as substance addicts chase their next ﬁx. Our relationship with money borders upon addiction, and so many of the problems we see today, individually and collectively, are the result of this craving. We make irrational and often destructive choices because we have given money and its pursuit too much value.
I thought I understood the meaning of wealth. When I was a kid I saw a Mad magazine cartoon of a man holding a sign that said, money is the root of all evil. And right behind him stood another man, holding an almost identical sign with just a slight adjustment in wording and a drastic adjustment in message: the lack of money is the root of all evil.
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying money is not important. Of course it is. Let’s be real. We need it to acquire goods and services; it’s the compensation we receive for our labor and ingenuity. Money also enables us to take care of loved ones, be charitable with the less fortunate, invest in people, or simply throw crazy fun parties. It’s easy to see how many of us came to believe that money equals happiness. But money is not wealth. This is a book about money and wellness. I believe that money plus wellness equals wealth.
In early 2010, I began writing a book about money and ﬁnancial literacy. Since so many people I met were struggling with issues related to their personal ﬁnances, I thought it would be a valuable topic to explore. Oftentimes I choose to write about issues that I personally want (and need) to understand better. But what started out as a very straightforward book about budgeting, savings, and debt evolved as the result of a life-changing experience in July of 2010.
As so often happens when you start out on one life path, unforeseen events affect the route you end up taking. Sometimes you get a short cut, other times a detour that takes you way, way out of your way. For me, the unexpected came in the form of a parallel path, one that brought me to the same point but that offered unexpected scenery and in many ways changed the way I looked at life around me.
A sudden and unexpected health crisis became the background against the book I was writing about money. And as I thought about the physical challenges I faced and how in many ways they paralleled the challenges we all face when it comes to our ﬁnancial health, I realized that the roadmap to physical wellbeing was much like the one to ﬁnancial wellbeing: from health cure to Wealth Cure.
Health and healing concerns come naturally to me and it may be genetic since so many family members on both sides are deeply rooted in medical ﬁelds. On my father’s side I count at least six Harper healers. My grandfather, Harry Harper, a general practitioner who focused on obstetrics; his two brothers, also general practice physicians; another brother who was a dentist; my dad, Harry Harper Jr., a psychiatrist who guided patients toward mental health; my Uncle Frank, a family practice physician devoted to promoting health for his patient’s entire family circle.
The Hill’s (my mother’s side) medical interests started with my grandfather, Harold Hill, a pharmacist who provided medicines and advice to his clients. My mother, Marilyn Hill Harper, practiced anesthesiology, spending her days ensuring that surgical patients moved safely through their procedures to recovery. My ﬁrst cousin Joe Pinckney is a family practice physician who directs a clinic for underserved populations in North Carolina. From all these health- oriented relatives, I learned that a series of steps is required to facilitate healing and I adapted these strategies to wealth management. These are the Wealth Cure stages: Diagnose / Treat / Comply / Maintain / Thrive.
The ﬁrst step in assessing the health of your wealth is to do what you would with your body: get a physical, have it checked out to make sure everything is working as it should, at its optimal level. For most of us, there’s bound to be something that needs adjusting—either minor or major. A DIAGNOSIS of your ﬁscal health is the ﬁrst step on the road to a Wealth Cure.
Any diagnosis should be followed by a second opinion to help develop TREATMENT OPTIONS. When it comes to health, there are many experts, all with different sets of experience and with different perspectives. It’s true with money, too. Maybe even more true! Everyone you know—from your brother-in-law’s ﬁnancial advisor to your mother—has something to say about money. Not all of it is right or good for you, but sorting through their perspectives and pulling together a team you trust is a must for long term ﬁnancial health.
Once you’ve gathered all the information you need, the next step is compliance with THE TREATMENT PLAN. It’s one thing to buy that treadmill, it’s another to get on it every day and work on your cardiac health. And so it is with your ﬁnancial health: having a great plan isn’t worth much if you don’t stick to it.
Anyone who’s worked to lose that extra twenty pounds will tell you they feel great once they’ve hit their goal. They’ll also probably tell you that staying at that target weight takes as much effort as getting there. Paring back your credit card debt is a great way to cut your expenses and get your ﬁnancial ship righted. The hard part is resisting the temptation to run up the next bill now that you’re out from under a cloud of debt. So MAINTAINING YOUR HEALTH AND WEALTH is vital to long term wellbeing, whether physical or ﬁnancial. Ultimately, all of this is to THRIVE AND SURVIVE.
I give speeches all over this country and many of the people I speak with these days say they feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and even defeated when it comes to money and personal ﬁnance. Why are so many people discouraged? Is it the decimated real estate market? Is it the ﬁnancial meltdown that erased life savings? Or is it taxes, the deﬁcit, health care premiums, rent or mortgage payments, high unemployment, or credit card debt? The most important question is, do we have the education and tools to effectively manage our money and our life choices?
On the macro level, many are frustrated because our government seemed to stand idly by and allow a massive economic meltdown, causing the worst job losses and recession since the Great Depression. And although both government and businesses were wildly irresponsible, no one appeared to be appropriately punished, and it was back to business as usual.
On the micro level, many are suffering right now with the aftermath of that recession. Scores of individuals have overextended themselves with oppressive credit card and mortgage debts. Debt issues cause a huge amount of stress, particularly in an uncertain job market. Problems with debt can poison every aspect of our lives. The number one thing that couples argue about is—you guessed it—money.
Beginning around 1980, our values began to shift in catastrophic ways. Credit card use expanded rapidly, resulting in an exploding personal debt that rose from $355 billion in 1980 to $2.6 trillion in 2008. Financial institutions collect billions of dollars in credit card, debit card, and late fees because we spend more than we have. And, to make matters worse, while personal debt is exploding, savings have plummeted. The savings rate was seven times lower in 2008 than in 1980.
Our society has become steeped in hyperconsumerism. Advertising and the pressure it creates to own the latest model or name brand have led us to believe that acquisition is the only representation of abundance. As a result, we are buying more and more and attaching an elevated importance to these items. The irony is not lost on me that my paycheck from CSI: NY is due to those same advertisers that buy time on our show.
Through pop culture we are bombarded with the message that cash is king. Even when we turn on a sports report, we hear more about the players’ salaries and contract disputes than their performance on the ﬁeld. At times ESPN sounds more like CNBC. It reminds me of how I used to sway to Wu-Tang’s anthem “C.R.E.A.M.” (Cash Rules Everything Around Me).
Many of the problems we have witnessed in the world during the last number of years are a result of people chasing money at all costs, looking for quick, easy gains, even at the expense of their morals or integrity. Rather than coming up with new ideas, products, or services, many individuals and businesses just focus on creating new “schemes.” We devote our energy to devising intricate plans for how to separate other people from their money. We have placed such a disproportionate value on wealth that we have made it acceptable to take other people’s money if we’re clever enough to trick it out of them. The attitude seems to be,” What’s the least we can provide, yet charge the most for it?”
I often hear elders talking about “the good ole’ days” before predatory lenders, hedge funds, derivative contracts, and house ﬂippers. That’s selective memory. The original Ponzi scheme happened back in the 1920s, and snake oil salesmen were defrauding folks decades before Mr. Ponzi. But the recent real estate crisis created by predatory lending practices and the problems on Wall Street exacerbated by credit default swaps were considered to be more than A-okay. In fact they were rated AAA.
Caveat emptor—“let the buyer beware”—is a saying we often hear. But what about aequitas equitas—which means the quality of “fairness” or “values.” We must reassess the exalted place that we award to money and stop worshipping “Benjamins.” It’s okay to appreciate money; the challenge is to make sure its value is in balance with the other sources of wealth in our lives.
Redeﬁning our proper relationship to money and wealth—participating in what I call the Wealth Cure—requires a return to some fundamental values that have been discarded. Sometimes we think we’re in touch with what matters, but then something unexpected happens, a change takes place that propels us to reexamine our hearts to uncover what we truly value. We can create a new deﬁnition of abundance, which will lead us to a new way of living. This awareness and shift of focus form the basis of the Wealth Cure.
The pages that follow tell the story of a recent journey. And although most of my trip was spent alone, in a real sense, I had lots of company:
— The wisdom of inspirational people whose stories help guide and instruct me
— My memories of loved ones who are no longer alive but whose words, and deeds, helped shape me
— Old friends, whose own journeys helped clarify mine
— And a couple of new friends who enriched my life in unexpected ways
My trip was transformational.
In sharing this story, I hope to pass on what I have learned. I hope to dispel some of the confusion and anxiety around money and show how it can be an effective tool. But most important, I want to help reinvent the fundamental understanding of wealth in order to help us achieve a balanced happy and healthy life.
“This is a different kind of financial book, one that not only urges us to look at how we use our money but also at how we define wealth. It's as much about personal philosophy as about advice on building a solid financial future.” — USA Today
“The Wealth Cure could fit comfortably in the self-help or personal finance aisle, melding together life strategies, wisdom from family and strangers he meets on a cross-country train ride, and nuts-and-bolts budgeting advice. It's a guide that doesn't promise to get you rich quick, but to quickly help your life get richer.” — AOL Daily Finance
“Too many of us think we don't have the ability to better identify how to spend our money, but in Hill Harper's latest book he gives advice on simple ways to save more and admits some of his own financial and personal challenges.” — Chicagotribune.com
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