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What I Learned About Generational Wealth From My Rich Therapist Mentor

I study wealthy people.

One of the things I've learned is that how they think about wealth is fundamentally different than how we think about wealth.

We think we can work our way to wealth. Wealthy people laugh at that idea.

You don't work your way to wealth. You own your way to wealth.

You can own any number of things, stocks, bonds, rental properties, bitcoin, it doesn't really matter. But the big idea is you have to own something and NOT SPEND IT.

Part of this is because the government is actively devaluing our money every year. The government targets 2-3% inflation each year. This means they want each dollar to be able to buy 2-3% less stuff each year.

Your cash is basically a melting ice cube.

Owning things (assets), on the other hand, protects you from inflation. The more inflation there is, the more companies are worth. That's why Amazon's stock price shot up during 2020.

Graph showing Amazon stock peaking in 2020.

So all in all, it's better to own an asset (stocks, bonds, bitcoin, small businesses, real estate, etc.), than to have cash in the bank.

You don't work your way to wealth. You own your way to wealth.

The trouble is, if you just own assets how do you ever use the money?

What good is owning Amazon stock if I never sell?

I didn't understand this. Luckily, I have a rich therapist mentor. So I called her up and asked. I want to share with you what she taught me because most of us don't have a mentor telling us why generational wealth is important for therapists. I found what she taught me useful.


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Portrait of a black woman.

After explaining my financial situation I asked my question. "So, I've taken your advice and bought a few of the assets you recommended. But at what point do we sell?"

"If you can comfortably pay your bills you should never sell your investments." she replied.

"That doesn't make sense. Then how do I enjoy the money?"

"The money isn't really for your enjoyment. It's not your money. It's your kids' money. And when they have kids, it will be their money. Now if something happens, say you get a divorce -"

"Or my mom gets sick."

"Yeah, if your mom gets sick, then sell. But don't sell just to live the high life."

"Oh, the wealth is like a life raft."

"Exactly. Its an ever expanding life raft. All those money problems you told me about earlier, if you follow our plan, the days of those problems wrecking you are over. Because that's what the wealth is for."

Donald Duck running from ever expanding balloon

"That also kind of means living frugally the rest of the time right?"

"Oh yeah. That's the secret of the rich by the way. They live well below their means most of the time, but that means the 'sudden emergencies' never derail them. Because they save their money. And I should know. I'm a trust fund baby."

The truth about generational wealth (from a therapist).

I've been searching for exactly why this conversation struck me so much. I can't put my finger on it. But I've made a list of a few of my big takeaways.

It's okay to spend money, as long as...

The first thing I learned was it's okay to spend money if you really needed it. Yes the rich own their way to wealth, and most of the time their money is sitting in an account someplace compounding. And yes, if I want to be wealthy then I should do the same.

But I can't be afraid to spend money when I really need it. Just make sure the money is spent more on alleviating pains than buying pleasures.

It's not my money, it's...

The second thing I learned was that the rich don't see their money as their own money. It's their kids money, and they're just the guardian on the account.

They might spend it so their kids have an advantage, like giving them a down payment for a house or paying off their college debt. But they avoid spending it so their kids can have fun.

The idea is that their kids will do the same. One day, when the parents die and the kids inherit the money, well it's not their money. It's the grandkids money.

That's how you build generational wealth. This means having wealth is about being selfless.

The wealthy are frugal, but in a weird way...

Third, this means the displays of wealth you see, the nice cars and big houses, are small in relation to the wealth you have.

If you look at how much of their net worth they spend, the rich should look really frugal. If you have a million dollars you shouldn't have a million dollar house. If you have a million dollars you should have a small house.

You and I can be wealthy if we change our mindset to...

Finally, If the primary purpose of wealth is to have enough that you can sell some to pay for emergencies and still have a large amount growing, then you probably need much less wealth than you'd think.

Like if I die and leave my son 100k of assets to my son then he's going to have to work, but if something crazy happens, like he totaled his car, he'll be able to buy another car and go on about his life.

And he'll still have enough that will keep growing so that when the next emergency happens, he gets sick and can't work for a year, he'll be okay.

That's all wealth is.

How I'm thinking about generational wealth as a therapist, dad, and husband.

I suspect most therapists aren't thinking about generational wealth. Most of us just don't make enough. Personally I've never been a fan of the idea of "generational wealth". To me it always seemed silly, like we're trying to control and shape future generations from beyond the grave.

That just ain't going to happen.

I think much of how we talk about "legacy" also falls into the same trap. When I die the world will continue to spin on without me. When I die my clients will find a new therapist.

Much of our attempt to leave a legacy is a vain egotistical attempt to avoid death.

That just ain't going to happen.

However, after talking with my mentor, my view on generational wealth has changed. Generational wealth isn't for some unknown distant generation. It's for the kids now who call me dad and for the wife who calls me "love" that when I'm gone they can live their lives in peace.


Jordan (the Counselor)



If you liked this post, consider reading this next. I think you'll like it ;) It's about the big mistake everyone makes with money.


Jordan Harris, Ph.D., LMFT-S, LPC-S, received his Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Louisiana Monroe. He is a licensed professional counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist in the state of Arkansas, USA. In his clinical work, he enjoys working with couples. He also runs a blog on deliberate practice for therapists and counselors at

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