Are wealth advisers the new spiritual advisers? As Christian churches and other formal religious organizations have lost their monopoly on guiding people through life, so I suggest the new vacuum is being filled by financial planners.
Wealth advisors deal directly with the basic questions of life because wealth now underpins much of what happens in life: Where did I come from? What am I doing here? What happens when I die? They are also involved in family protection via insurance and estate planning etc.
In 1750 a new economic era was created by the UK Industrial Revolution. Wealth came from manufacturing, rather than from agriculture. People still needed food, of course, but a lot more money would eventually be made from manufacturing.
This was not an immediate revolution. Over the millennia people only worked when they needed to. Agricultural life was seasonal and so time was left at various periods when there was no need for planting, cultivation and harvesting. There was time for religious observances and other ceremonies and pastimes.
Factories – and then offices – changed all that. Production lines had to begin and end at the same time. Continuous daily synchronization – rather than seasonal working – became the basis of working.
How could bosses be sure that a worker would be back tomorrow? People had to be bribed to attend each day at the same time. Consumerism was invented to keep people wanting more and more. Wealth was no longer just for a small number of elite landowners (not that there was all that much to buy anyway). Gradually the wealth trickled down to the masses.
The big leap came after World War II. The new notion that economic growth required a mixture of government intervention and free market principles unlocked far greater wealth for more people than ever before. Additionally, housing became not just a place to live but also a place to invest.
As the wealth – stocks, bonds and housing – all increased, so governments encouraged citizens to invest. One of Mrs Thatcher's radical transformations (for good or ill) was that by the time she left office in 1990 more British workers were shareholders than were members of trade unions. Economic power shifted from labour to finance.
Making money had become interesting. I can remember a time at university when the lads who studied finance were marginal, unathletic geeks who couldn't get girlfriends. Now the courses attract men and women, with lofty aspirations to own luxury cars and grand homes. Hollywood has made finance fascinating and exciting (with movies such as "The Wolf of Wall Street", "Margin Call" and "The Big Short).
Meanwhile the financial planning industry changed from being a small select group of people catering to the managerial elites in their society, to an army of planners, consultants, and journalists all dealing with finance for a much larger array of people. A new industry was born.
The birth was augmented by the realization that government pensions would be too heavy a burden on national populations. People were having fewer babies (why have a baby when it would be better to have a new car?) and yet also living longer. There would be more retirees living longer, while there would be a shrinking workforce paying taxes to finance the old age pensions. The question was asked: "Can we afford the elderly?"
"Wealthcare" has now become as important as healthcare.
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