Wealth is more than a number

Wealth is more than a number

This is an edited transcript from a recent Standard Deviations podcast episode by behavioural finance expert and New York Times best-selling author, Dr. Daniel Crosby.


Money can bolster our joy in real ways. However, if we relentlessly chase wealth at the expense of other facets of well-being, history and science both teach us that it will lead to a hollowing out of our lives. Real, soulful wealth is about much more than a number.

A tragic illustration of society’s tendency to pursue numbers at the expense of values is seen in how we establish and tailgate goals as we journey through life compared to when we reflect upon our years. For those in their prime, goals generally centre around a number of predictable categories like fitness and money. According to a Gallup survey conducted in late 2022, 7 in 10 people planned to set some kind of New Year’s resolution. For goals setters in 2023, the top three categories were fitness at 80%, financial goals at 69%, and career goals at 59% among those of working age. And if you are anything like me, these goals probably feel familiar and aligned with the ones that we set and then promptly forget around the beginning of each new year.


But goals for those in reflection at the end of life look a little bit different and take on a profound shift. A 2012 study on the regrets of the dying highlighted five common sentiments. The first was that they wished that they had not worked so hard. The second, they regretted living a life that was not true to themselves. Three, they felt remorse for not having had the courage to express their feelings. Four, they wished they had stayed in closer touch with friends. And finally, they lamented not having let themselves be happier.


What do you notice? None of the things, not one, that seem to matter so much to us as we move through life make the list of what is important when the imminence of death has brought what truly matters into such sharp relief. Work, one of our primary aims in times of health, emerges as one of our most significant regrets when we reflect back on our lives.


I posed this disconnect to Twitter and received poignant replies. The short-term list is more about measures while the long-term list is more about meaning, said one individual. A financial planner remarked, we are confused creatures who do not see the truth until there is no time left.


Retirement and wealth

Those were both great observations, and the same dynamic extends to how we view retirement. For most people, retirement is their single biggest financial goal. And why not? It is a distant and somewhat ambiguous milestone that will most assuredly require vast sums of wealth to achieve. Investors tend to simply chase a bigger number on a spreadsheet, constantly shifting around those goalposts mentioned earlier, and we all too commonly fail to prepare for the other non-financial facets of retirement.


Retirement is also appealing since we also generally do not like work. The 9 to 5 drudgery is seen as robbing us of freedom and enduring multiple Zoom meetings each day hardly sparks joy. But for all its annoyances, work still serves as a source of engagement and socialization for many people, which has a positive impact on happiness.

Wealth is fantastic, to a point

We labour for decades to reach a certain financial milestone, only to fall into a deep malaise when we realize that other paths to flourishing may have been neglected. We spend our lives setting goals focused on career advancement and amassing wealth that, when the clarity of life’s brevity is before us, seems like wasted time.


True wealth is not about finish lines or numbers, it is about using whatever material abundance we have to enrich the other more enduring paths to fulfillment. Money can buy us simple pleasures like ice cream, cherished memories on vacation with people we love, and freedom to engage in spiritual and political pursuits, all of which can bolster our joy in real ways. However, if we relentlessly chase wealth as an indent to itself at the expense of other facets of well-being, history and science both teach us that it will lead to a hollowing out of life in an impoverishment of spirit.


These messages 100% align with Calibre’s advice philosophy – we engage our clients in real conversations about their life and then help them use their money in ways that will help them live their best possible life. Whilst Return on Investment is important, the foundation of our engagement is Return on Life.


We are here to help

Calibre Private Wealth Advisers provides financial leadership and peace of mind for successful professionals, business owners and their families.


We engage our clients in real conversations around their life and then help them use the money they have to get the best Return on Life


If you have any questions/thoughts in relation to this article or have a need for some advice and would like to discuss your particular situation, please contact Gordon Thoms or David Conte at Calibre Private Wealth Advisers on ph. (03) 9824 2777 or email us here.


The information contained in this article is of a general nature only and may not take into account your particular objectives, financial situation or needs. Accordingly, the information should not be used, relied upon or treated as a substitute for personal financial advice. While all care has been taken in the preparation of this article, no warranty is given in respect of the information provided and accordingly, neither Calibre Private Wealth Advisers, its employees or agents shall be liable for any loss (howsoever arising) with respect to decisions or actions taken as a result of you acting upon such information.




This advice may not be suitable to you because it contains general advice that has not been tailored to your personal circumstances. Please seek personal financial and tax/or legal advice prior to acting on this information. Before acquiring a financial product a person should obtain a Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) relating to that product and consider the contents of the PDS before making a decision about whether to acquire the product. The material contained in this document is based on information received in good faith from sources within the market, and on our understanding of legislation and Government press releases at the date of publication, which are believed to be reliable and accurate. Opinions constitute our judgment at the time of issue and are subject to change. Neither, the Licensee or any of the Oreana Group of companies, nor their employees or directors give any warranty of accuracy, nor accept any responsibility for errors or omissions in this document. Gordon Thoms and David Conte of Calibre Private Wealth Advisers are Authorised Representatives of Oreana Financial Services Limited ABN 91 607 515 122, an Australian Financial Services Licensee, Registered office at Level 7, 484 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, VIC 3004. This site is designed for Australian residents only. Nothing on this website is an offer or a solicitation of an offer to acquire any products or services, by any person or entity outside of Australia.

Liked this article? Share it!