He greatly influenced how I view life
I only ever encountered Ed once. But he had such an influence on the way I view life that I think of him as Ed, as if he’s a friend. I devoted Walk 4 in Life Two to what I learnt from that encounter. I was, and am, a geek, and in my career I dealt with pension funds largely in terms of numbers and assets. But life is about more than numbers, and about more than money. In Life Two I said that it’s “something else that hit me between the eyes, because it’s so well expressed and I encountered it accidentally.”
I continued as follows:
I was speaking at a conference, and came across another session that looked interesting. It was about financial professionals having successful meetings with clients. And a man named Dr Ed Jacobson laid out a notion that he called the “life abundance portfolio.”
I hope he expands it into a book. It’s a reminder that life is about so much more than money. He reminds us that we have all kinds of interactions and experiences in life. I can’t remember the labels he used, but here are the words I use to remember his concept. He said there are seven aspects of life to consider. I remember them in pairs:
- family and friends;
- work and play;
- physical health and mental (including spiritual) health;
- and, oh yes, finances.
I think of them as the seven asset classes in your life’s abundance portfolio. And when we’re considering life’s abundance in the way Dr Jacobson suggests, it’s clear that money is only one aspect.
Oh wait, that’s investment jargon. Let me explain it to you.
A portfolio is a collection of things. So a “life’s abundance portfolio” is a collection of things relating to life’s abundance. An asset class is a group of things with similar characteristics. So the whole phrase describes all the stuff relating to life’s abundance, classifying them under seven headings. In other words, think of everything that makes your life feel full and complete, under the seven headings listed.
I commend Ed’s notion to you. I’ve even suggested to financial professionals (expanding a thought that Ed mentioned) that they use it, right from the start, to establish with their clients that the professional part of what they do is only one aspect of your fulfilled life. So, before they review your financial portfolio, they should review with you your life’s abundance portfolio. I add (as Ed did) a practical angle: they need to establish this broader context when the financial side is going well. Otherwise there’s a big (and legitimate) danger that you’ll view it as a cynical distraction, a way to conceal bad financial news.
All of this allows us to remember how lucky we are in the rest of our life abundance portfolio. Thank you, Dr Ed Jacobson.
That’s how I remembered it and wrote it up. In July 2019 I mentioned it in a piece published in the Financial Times (https://www.ft.com/content/2a8abfa8-a3c7-11e9-a282-2df48f366f7d), and on June 27, 2020 the FT published another piece of mine (https://www.ft.com/content/6fa8908a-7fca-40c4-9c5a-e6ac86b12504). My convoluted mind somehow made a connection from the 2020 piece to the 2019 piece and then to Ed, and I wondered if in the intervening years he had written a book about the life abundance portfolio. So I googled his name. What I discovered is that he passed away in September 2019. And that he had published a book in 2008, called Appreciative Moments: Stories and Practices for Living and Working Appreciatively (https://www.amazon.com/Appreciative-Moments-Practices-Appreciatively-2008-05-13/dp/B01JXRNCXW). I sent for the book. I love it, and in addition to its many practical lessons, it also conveyed to me that I had got the context of Ed’s AICPA session completely wrong.
Its purpose wasn’t to put forward the notion of the life abundance portfolio. That was incidental. The purpose was to show financial professionals how to use client meetings to understand their clients better, and help them to appreciate all aspects of their life. He was really using the book he had already written, and applying its principles to their professional practice.
Appreciative Moments is written in a simple, straightforward way, in short chapters that each illustrate an aspect of how to appreciate your own life more fully. He has some very personal anecdotes, among many others, and at the end of each chapter, to drive the point home, he lists a number of practices for you to apply the teachings to your own circumstances. In addition, because he has obviously lived this way himself, he also tells you about things that can go wrong when you’re trying to do this. Very useful!
And now I realize that, at that AICPA conference, he was helping financial professionals to help themselves and their clients. And, in the style of his book, he added the practical warning that there was a good time to introduce the notion and a bad time as well, and they should be aware of both.
Ed didn’t need to write another book, after all. His life abundance portfolio, which has had such a huge influence on the way I view life, was just incidental to being appreciative, as applied to the work of financial professionals.
Ed was a trainer for the Kinder Institute of Life Planning. Ed and George Kinder working together – what a combination! I’ve used and cited George Kinder’s work too (https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/92653/the-seven-stages-of-money-maturity-by-george-kinder/).
I recommend Ed’s book to you. I’m doubly grateful to Ed now, for the life abundance portfolio concept and for the book. And I say again: Thank you, Dr Ed Jacobson. I wish I had known you better.
 Jacobson, Ed, Ph.D. (2011). “Re-energize and renew your relationships with high impact client review meetings” at the AICPA Advanced Personal Financial Planning Conference, Las Vegas, NV, January 10, 2011.
I have written about retirement planning before and some of that material also relates to topics or issues that are being discussed here. Where relevant I draw on material from three sources: The Retirement Plan Solution (co-authored with Bob Collie and Matt Smith, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2009), my foreword to Someday Rich (by Timothy Noonan and Matt Smith, also published by Wiley, 2012), and my occasional column The Art of Investment in the FT Money supplement of The Financial Times, published in the UK. I am grateful to the other authors and to The Financial Times for permission to use the material here.