The Gray Divorce Podcast: Episode 25 How to Shape a Life of Money and Meaning with Brian Portnoy

Andrew Hatherley |

In episode 25 of The Gray Divorce Podcast, I welcome Brian Portnoy. One of the world's top experts on the psychology of money, Brian has written several best-selling books. We focused on his book The Geometry of Wealth. 

Rich vs Wealthy 

Being rich, according to Brian, is simply having more. And the push for more is a never-ending treadmill on which satisfaction is fleeting. Wealth, however, he defines as “funded contentment.” Funded contentment is the ability to underwrite a meaningful life, however one chooses to define that. 

In The Geometry of Wealth, Brian notes that wealth is only achievable in the context of a life in which purpose and practice are thoughtfully calibrated. 

“The Four C’s” 

Brian summarizes four enduring sources of a joyful life. He calls these Connection, Control, Competence, and Context. 

  • Connection is the need to belong. 
  • Control is the need to direct one's destiny. 
  • Competence is the need to be good at something worthwhile. 
  • Context is the need for a purpose outside of oneself. 

Ultimately The Four C’s sit at the heart of funded contentment and we spend a lot of time in our conversation delving into these four areas. 

Money and Happiness 

Does money buy happiness? 

The answer, Brian says, can be summarized as Yes, Not Really, It Depends: 

  • Yes: Importantly, money alleviates poverty and can alleviate pain. It can also purchase short term pleasure. And it can underwrite long term joy. 
  • Not Really: Happiness can be achieved regardless of one’s station in life. The poor can be content, and the rich can be miserable. The ability of money to purchase joy and alleviate pain has limits. 
  • It Depends: the newness of the science of happiness leaves us with unknowns. For now, we must be comfortable with shades of grey. 

The Geometry of Wealth is a deep, yet accessible, study of one of the most important issues of our day. 


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