A Trip with My Daughter to Mexico: Finding Your Wealth's 'Why' Amid Life's Greatest Things

March 11, 2024

I went to Mexico over President’s Week with my daughter. A group of us went down and had the privilege of serving at a few orphanages.

One of the men we met ran transitional housing for young men in their late teens. He grew up in rural Mexico, moved to the States in his teenage years—didn’t make good choices as a young man, but eventually got married and had a successful career. While he gave us a tour of the buildings, he emphasized how he could have golfed his way through retirement in Southern California, but felt called to return to his community in Mexico to serve. I’m sure he still likes to golf; nothing wrong with that. But his life became about more than accumulation and recreation.

His story reminded me of one of the things we say here at Johnson Wealth Management: we aim to help people live and leave a legacy. This is because we believe that investing is never meant to be just about yourself. Building wealth is not a bad thing; it’s a good thing. But when it’s an end in itself it can be meaningless. Money—like life—can go poof and be gone in an instant.

Investing, financial planning, and wealth building needs a “why”. It’s too easy to get stuck on what to invest in and how to implement a strategy, but the “why” should guide it all.

So, what’s the “why” behind your wealth? Whether you are in a season of growing your wealth or protecting your wealth, you and your family need a “why”.

Our trip reminded me of something else too. When you are surrounded by those with great needs—physical, relational, and financial—and when you are looking to actively fill those needs with presence and service, you tend to not get so caught up with what someone said on social media about the latest daily outrage, or who might be predicting the next market crash, or whether interest rates change at the next Fed meeting, or the latest political soap opera. The news wants to sell you more news, not make you a wiser person and investor. Some of the things we get caught up on in our dopamine-driven, attention-economy take our attention away from the things that matter most—the people and needs right in front of you.

The seventeenth-century French philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal, said it best: “Man’s sensitivity to little things and insensitivity to the greatest things are marks of a strange disorder.”1 To put it plainly, we should spend the most time, energy, and resources on things that matter most.

Of course, some of those things that I mentioned in finance and politics are significant. They each have their place. Furthermore, serving in a different kind of capacity across the border did not make me want to serve our clients as a financial advisor less. It made me want to do my job better. One of the reasons you may need a trusted financial advisor is so that you can be present in your life and not have your head always wrapped up in your portfolio but enabled to live your life with purpose.

Far too often wealth building can be used as a means to withdraw from the world. To avoid the hard things. To insulate ourselves from human suffering. We become less human when we ignore or avoid human weakness. I think true wealth—holistic wealth—is meant to engage with needs like human poverty, suffering, and brokenness. 

All this doesn’t mean you need to take a trip to an orphanage (though I recommend it!), quit golfing, and stop watching the news. Instead, it should embolden you to get to the bottom of how to use money and time as an intentional tool for the greatest of things in life.

Don’t get me wrong. Doing great things isn’t always going on a trip to serve communities affected by various kinds of poverty or writing a large check to an institution, church, hospital or nonprofit. Greatness can be doing the seemingly small things with perspective and purpose over and over again. Sometimes those things, those needs, and those people are right in front of you.

Look.

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Sources:

  1. Pensées, Penguin Classics, p. 237.