From Money to Meaning

When I was six years old, I remember walking up the sidewalk to my local library in Solvay, New York and seeing this huge building, and a strange name I couldn’t pronounce. Carnegie. Andrew Carnegie.

After a little research recently, I found out that the Carnegie Foundation along with Solvay Process Company had built the library in 1905. From 1883 to 1929, the Carnegie Foundation funded the construction of over 2,500 libraries.

As a kid, my first impression of Andrew Carnegie was this great man who brought this wonderful library to me and, as it turns out, to six generations of people in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain.  That’s phenomenal if you think about it.

But as I became older, I learned in school that Andrew Carnegie was also a steel magnate robber baron.  A totally different image. So what’s the connection?

Carnegie made a transition from money to meaning, from a lot of success to significance. For him, it was very important to contribute to education and cultural knowledge.

I recently met someone who mentioned Bob Buford’s book, HalfTime. Bob wrote this book back in 1997; it is very relevant to this subject of money to meaning. I probably run into somebody once a quarter who mentions that book to me and how it’s made a major impact on them.

HalfTime speaks to folks that are making this transition from “Hey, I’ve had a whole bunch of success” to “I’m looking for significance and purpose.” They’re making a shift from just focusing on money, to focusing on meaning.

As a more recent example, Bill Gates formed the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to deal globally with health, hunger, education, and poverty, and to do it in an entrepreneurial way. Similar to Andrew Carnegie, Gates, who formed the foundation back when he was in his late 30s, was ready to transition from money to meaning.

So what does this have to do with you?  Most of us aren’t Gates or Carnegie. In working with wealthy families and individual for many years, we’ve seen our clients start some sort of charitable giving, either through donor advised funds, private foundations, or formalized gifting programs.

Even more so, many people have given their time and various talents to help others. Like charitable giving, and often intertwined with it, they are able to address their own search for meaning as well as their desire to pass these values on to future generations.

We are regularly asked by clients who are transitioning from money to meaning whether there are structures that can accomplish this: benefiting others while creating benefits for the family as well. The answer, of course, is yes, and the structure can fit their specific goals and desires.

If you find yourself in this transition phase or, if the topic is simply of interest to you and you want to know more, please give us a call at (800-480-7913). We’d love to talk to you to continue the conversation and assist you in turning your success into significance.

So until next time, enjoy.

For more on Coyle Financial Counsel, visit our website.

And  visit for Bob Buford’s series of books on Halftime.

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