Emerging from another glorious and exhausting graduation season, we take a deep breath and take a moment to congratulate the grads and all who supported them in their journey.  We have walked with our graduating seniors for many years—nudging and prodding, pushing and pulling, hugging and praying.  Then the magic moment of solemn ceremonies, speeches and photos arrives.  Change the tassel, toss the cap and shout the victory! 

Now what?  They step into adult life with 16 years of education and a major victory or two.  

They have hopes, dreams, plans and schemes.  But what does the graduate need now?  Answer:  They need to develop a successful, adult relationship with money.  

We all enter the work world as servants of money.  Everything in life depends on the paycheck.  Money makes the rules.  However (drum roll please!) the goal is to flip the script and become the master of money rather than its servant as quickly as possible.

Money is a fantastic servant

but it is a viciously cruel master.

In some ancient cultures money was personified in the demon god known as Mammon, who represented everything evil about money:  greed, covetousness, selfishness, power, oppression, domination.  Yuck stuff!  This monster still rules in our system of commerce. What do we do with a demon like this raping and pillaging the planet where we live and work?  Well, we engage him in a wrestling match.  The ancient tradition required the victor of a wrestling match to kill his opponent.  But we, instead, want to subdue him and make him serve us for the rest of our lives.  Using a well executed wrestling “double leg take-down” we’ll pin him to the mat!  But then what?  Here’s a thought.

Based on my personal testimony, there is a “grand graduation” in life.  Beyond high school, college or grad school, retirement is the ultimate graduation.  And contrary to popular thinking, retirement doesn’t happen automatically at certain age.  Retirement happens when the servant (money) goes to work and provides an income to fully support the lifestyle desired by the (human) master.  A really good money servant might retire a master who is still just 20 or 30 or 40 years old.  But when money is not mastered, the person may work until death.

So, let’s move back to today’s college graduate with tips on how to master money and make it work.  Here’s the simple four step strategy:

  1. Study money! In order to defeat and subdue a foe the warrior must first gain thorough understanding the prey.  A lioness will study and stalk her victim before attacking.  Yet most of us confront the monster of money without any knowledge of the beast.  A standard high school or college curriculum rarely addresses the subject of money.  So as adults, we need to become good students of financial literacy.  To begin assessing general knowledge of the subject, take a stab at answering these questions:
    1. What is the history of money?  Where did the concept begin?  How did money evolve into the form we know today?  What is it likely to look like in the future?   Hmmm.
    2. What are the properties of money?  How do we know when something is or is not money?
    3. Describe the characteristics and function of the banking system.  What are central banks and how do they control our money?
    4. Why does money flow towards some people/cultures/businesses?  Why does it fly away from others?
    5. How extensive is your money vocabulary?

Knowing how money conducts itself in the marketplace is fundamental to capturing and deploying it as a servant rather than bowing to it as the master.

  1. Learn the tax code.  Again, the master will be able to answer the following:
    1. When was the tax system implemented and what was its original purpose and intent?
    2. How has the tax code changed through the years and what conditions brought about those changes?
    3. How will taxes impact my finances?  
    4. What strategies can I use to lower my tax burden, skillfully and legally?
    5. What jurisdictions (within the US and globally) can put me in the most favorable tax position?
  2. Establish multiple streams of income.  One job is generally not enough and working two jobs will increase taxes and decrease quality of life.  The goal is to develop passive, residual income streams that don’t require trading time for money.  A master will pursue this goal until the passive income is sufficient to sustain the desired lifestyle without working a job.
  3. Connect with a dynamic learning community.  I’d like to shout this one from the rooftop!  Money masters are lifelong learners who leverage their efforts through deep connection with others.  

Final words.  Grab these four tasks by the horns and don’t let go.  Avoid discouragement by anticipating and preparing for setbacks such as:  a stream of income that doesn’t pan out, a learning community that isn’t for you, or a project that fails.  The first “thing” you find may not be the exact right thing.  But it may be “the thing that leads to the thing.”  One thing for certain, those who don’t do anything but work a job, will never find the right thing.  But those who learn to master the monster will find joy and fulfillment and the freedom to walk in their purpose and design.  

My charge to each member of the class of 2022 is to peer into the future and envision the date of the “grand graduation”.  As you walk into your first job, imagine yourself in the future day walking away – no longer working for a living.  See yourself stepping into a life of freedom.  Envision the year of this great celebration:  will it be 2032? 2042? 2052? 2062?  

The charge for parents and supporters of the class of 2022 is to help them envision their “grand graduation.” Let’s master the monster all together.