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Speed Review: The Geometry of Wealth

Speed Review: The Geometry of Wealth

Speed Review: The Geometry of Wealth

How to Shape a Life of Money and Meaning

by Brian Portnoy

In The Geometry of Wealth, behavioral finance expert Brian Portnoy contends that tackling the big questions about a joyful life and tending to financial decisions are complementary, not separate, tasks. Portnoy reveals that true wealth is achievable for many - including those who despair it is out of reach - but only in the context of a life in which purpose and practice are thoughtfully calibrated.


Brian Portnoy’s new book, The Geometry of Wealth: How to Shape a Life of Money and Meaning, presents a model to better understand your relationship with money. It’s about examining the role that wealth (and your lifelong pursuit of it) plays in your life’s journey.

Portnoy offers a definition of wealth as “funded contentment.” Instead of devoting your life to the pursuit of more, he suggests a different path –– deciding what contentment means to you in terms of your life goals and then taking a journey to underwrite that contentment. The story is told in three stages, using three geometric shapes to represent each stage: the circle to define purpose and clarify “the ingredients for a life well lived;” the triangle to set priorities and make decisions; and the square to simplify your financial life to achieve the necessary investment outcomes:

Circle –– Define Purpose

Portnoy identifies four “touchstones” of funded contentment, which he calls the "four Cs":

  • Connection: the need to belong;
  • Control: the need for self-determination;
  • Competence: the joy associated with a meaningful craft or vocation;
  • Context: the need for purpose beyond one’s self.

Provided you pay attention to all four touchstones in your pursuit of wealth, your goal of funded contentment will be attainable. The shape of the circle illuminates the “adaptive dynamic” of navigating life’s inevitable ups and down in the journey towards funded contentment.

Triangle –– Set Priorities

The triangle signifies the need for a hierarchy as you move from purpose to practice. Established priorities are designed to help separate distractions from mission-critical tasks.

The three points of the triangle are also designed to illuminate the three factors involved in achieving successful financial outcomes:

  1. Balancing the human tendency to make poor financial decisions;
  2. Maintaining a balanced portfolio across different market segments;
  3. Acknowledging the attraction of favored “hot” stocks or bonds.

Square –– Simplify

The four corners of a square are used to illuminate the four primary considerations of reasonable investment outcomes:

  1. The growth we hope to achieve;
  2. The emotional pain and/or sacrifice of achieving that growth;
  3. How any additional investments fit into your existing portfolio;
  4. The flexibility to change one’s mind about any particular decision.

These four “corners” should, the author argues, form a template for any investment decision.

Portnoy argues that the pursuit of wealth is a temporal journey. As such, we tend to get lost in the past (reviewing both successes and failures) and the future (speculating about future outcomes) without fully appreciating the joy of the present.

This creates further complications when we contemplate our “money lives.” The inability to remain present leads to an “enduring tension” between two distinct states of mind –– having enough and wanting more.

Portnoy’s geometric model proposes that the more present you are able to be, the greater the likelihood that you will experience a sense of having enough rather than the tension of needing to acquire more. The clear and simple path to funded contentment offers both context and placement, thus grounding any errant uncertainty about whether you’re doing enough to achieve wealth.

The Geometry of Wealth proposes a model of wealth as funded contentment. Portnoy takes you on a compelling journey of both spiritual and financial discovery as a means of understanding wealth within the broader context of your life. Instead of chasing a number, think about what contentment will look like for you, and then figure out a plan to get there.

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