How our tangible assets reveal who we are

Resilient investing focuses on more than just money, by expanding our assets “under management” to include both the tangible and personal.  It’s easy to see how our homes and land are investments in the tangible, but the idea goes further than that: we want you to give real consideration to what tangible “things” are important to you, and why, so that you’ll actively choose to grow these assets in ways that nourish your personal and our collective resiliency.  An Atlantic article entitled For the Love of Stuff fleshed out some themes we found interesting.

Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes about what he calls “instrumental materialism,” a deeper impulse than the simple craving of objects. “Things embody goals, make skills manifest, and shape the identities of their users,” he and his coauthor write in The Meaning of Things. “Man is not only homo sapiens … he is also homo faber, the maker and user of objects, his self to a large extent a reflection of things with which he interacts.”  Dr. Russell Belk explores a related idea, the “extended self,” and observes, “It seems an inescapable fact of modern life that we learn, define, and remind ourselves of who we are by our possessions.”  Interestingly, Csikszentmihalyi found that rather than serving as a poor substitute for human connection, objects can amplify those connections, noting that “people who said they didn’t have any special objects turned out not to have any special relationships either.”

A resilient investor’s tangible assets go beyond just those they own, to include the ways they shop and care for—or invest some financial assets in restoration of— farmland and natural habitat. But the role of objects in our life is also part of it; for some delightful glimpses of this, check out the Tumblr The Burning House, which gathers photos of the things that its contributors would grab in the event of a fire.  The photo at the top of this post is from Märta in Stockholm, and it’s a clear window into her life and priorities.  May we all take the time to honor the tangible in our lives!



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