My life is in transition, and therefore something must transit from my life. On Monday I formally resigned as Board Secretary of the New Road Map Foundation, a task I expected to last two years that I continued to do for three and a half. My various backup plans to retirement haven’t succeeded well enough – yet; so, I feel the need to step away from some non-profit, community work, and concentrate on for-profit personal work, whatever that may be. I’m aware of the irony that I’m stepping down from an organization that works to empower people to handle their own finances because my finances, which had been doing well enough two years ago, suddenly encountered an extraordinary string of (hmm, I won’t say bad luck) inauspicious events. Hopefully this brings good news, despite the appearance of bad, while also providing some opportunities.
New Road Map Foundation is the right organization with the right mission at the right time. Our civilization is passing through economic turmoil. Confidence in financial institutions and conventional wisdom has been eroded, possibly permanently. This is the time for an independent voice to clear a way through the confusion, reveal the core skills and principles that everyone can use, and provide each person a way for them to find their own path based on their values instead of someone else’s. New Road Map is one reservoir of resources that anyone can access for free, and even embraces a community of like-minded individuals who can share insight, advice, and support.
Enormous portions of the populace has recognized that the pre-packaged solutions were aimed at a mythical mainstream and frequently didn’t work with real individuals. The nuclear family in suburbia with one or two corporate paychecks and benefits and no surprising expenses rarely exists. The most common answer seems to be clinging onto any paycheck job regardless of the consequences. I know millionaires who continue to work simply because they want the company to pay for their health care. The equally common, though almost always less successful, strategy is to amass so many millions of dollars that every bill can be paid without a thought. Unfortunately, only about one half of one percent of Americans are worth more than two million dollars. A more revealing, but unavailable statistic, would answer the question, “How many Americans are living comfortably and securely?” Plenty of studies have shown that after basic needs are met, there’s very little correlation between happiness or contentment and net worth. To me, New Road Map champions that reality, and provides community for those courageous enough to redefine their lives.
Personally though, my situation has rapidly changed from “cautious about money, but optimistic” to “Uh oh, where’d it all go and how am I going to pay the mortgage?”. I can attest to the severe emotional impact experienced by suddenly having to worry about funding basic needs in a society based on currency. (Details available throughout this blog. I suggest that the truly curious start with Backup Plans, and work backwards.)
The good news is that the markets are recovering (though not for me – Semi Annual Exercise Mid 2012), unemployment is down (and I continue to apply for jobs around the world), and various housing markets are improving (Buy mine! Home For Sale Alas). So, just as I must scramble, inevitably someone must be feeling free from stress because their portfolio has recovered, or they got a job, or they sold their house, or because some personal mix of work, wisdom, and luck have freed up enough of their time to take my place and carry on the cause.
The New Road Map community is a fascinating group. There are no blanket solutions. New Road Map advocates personal empowerment based on personal values, without imposing values or even requiring that the values be articulated.
One core step is to align your values with your finances by asking yourself the emotional question, “Am I glad or content that I spent that money for that item, service, or experience?” “Am I glad or content that I made money by providing that item, service, or experience for someone else?” Answer those questions for every way you can spend or make money, then compare the results. Invariably some category sounds good enough, until compared to the other categories. If you can change, change. Ask and repeat, and keep doing that for a few months, years, or decades and a new life is customized even without having to pin labels on the underlying values.
The human result? A lot of people living contentedly and unconventionally. The organizational result? The largest and most diverse group of people I’ve met and enjoyed being around. Just don’t expect them all to be Democrats or Republicans or Libertarians or Independents or any demarkation within the populace – though they do all tend to be reasonably good at addition and subtraction and drawing one particular graph. (See the Nine Step Program for details.) Diversity reveals itself through individuality.
Oh yeah, and for folks familiar with running charities, enjoy the concept of an organization that lives by its values; which in this case means an organization that has a steady stream of income from investments and only spends what it receives. The concept of a self-sustaining charity is so radical that it confuses the governmental agencies that track such things.
So, if you couldn’t tell, this is a call for people. New Road Map Foundation needs board members. I’m not the only one who far extended the expected stint. It also needs advocates, champions, and participants. Join the board and help the world change its relationship with money. Volunteer and help spread the word. Join the community and change the world one person at a time, yourself. Oh yeah, and if you donate, New Road Map can extend its reach beyond its self-constrained budget.
Personally, my transition means I change too. This blog is based on the book, Dream. Invest. Live., so I’ve always been careful to not create conflicts of interest between my non-profit financial work and my for-profit financial work. That wasn’t an issue when the for-profit work was only a backup plan, but backups exist for a reason and it’s time for me to act on my plans. By resigning I can offer myself as a consultant with fewer restrictions. I’ve followed all nine steps of the program, am a case study in Your Money Or Your Life, wrote a book about personal finance, learned a lot about the diversity of solutions others have found, and have applied that knowledge and experience for various people. And I enjoy helping. I learned that I am passionate about people and ideas, and evidently am reasonably good at helping. (See my Consulting page for testimonials.) Helping people aim their lives at their dreams is a joy, and something valuable I can provide and be compensated for. What a life!
So stay tuned as I step more fully into my new life, and feel free to contact me if you want to talk about your situation.
And please step up into the New Road Map community. It needs you. You can benefit from the community. And maybe together we can bring more happiness and contentment into this world.