Charles Collier on Understanding Money

Charlies Collier, Senior Philanthropic Adviser at Harvard University, offered some thoughtful remarks about dealing with money on today’s teleconference.

He suggested that when you are facing a financial crisis, “If you can’t beat it, flaunt it.” In other words, “it’s better to get it out there. If you can’t talk about a difficult money decision in a church, you’ll have more of a mess. It’s very hard, for sure.” He adds, “The most important thing is to try to be a calm presence — it sounds so simple and is so difficult.”

Collier subscribes to the ideas of Jay Hughes, who says families have four kinds of capital: human, intellectual, social and financial. Collier gave a theological spin on these by saying that human capital involves love of self, intellectual the love of family, and how the family governs itself, social capital includes love of neighbor, and financial capital involves love of creation. He said that financial capital creates capacity in the family if well placed, and creates capacity in the church if well given.

In the families he works with to help make decisions about what to do with their money, he asks them this: “what’s the one thing you could do? What could you tell your children at this stage? What’s the one step you could do now?” He said, “A lot of people aren’t going to make big changes, but they might make one new step.”

Collier’s book, Wealth in Families, is available on Amazon. I found it a useful guide to thinking through principles about money and how to make decisions about it.

The recording of the teleconference is available. E-mail me at, and I’ll send you the link.

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