JOYNing with Ebenezer Scrooge: A Fresh Take on “A Christmas Carol”

By David Geller   |   December 13, 2018

Our tale begins, as so many tales do, in a north Atlanta midrise office building…

At late evening on this Christmas Eve, most of the offices are darkened. The parking deck is nearly barren. A lonely security officer on the plaza raises her eyebrows at the sight of a stooped older man with a stovepipe hat covering lank white hair, and a face as craggy as Brasstown Bald. However, she has seen much stranger things at the Dragon Con parade. So, the guard says nothing as the old man strides briskly to the elevator bank.

On the fifth floor, he knocks impatiently on the glass front door at JOYN’s offices with the silver head of his walking stick. After a few moments, someone appears, flicks on the entranceway lights and clicks open the deadbolt.


David Geller: “Ebenezer! So happy to meet you. I was very glad to get your call.”

Scrooge: “Yes, yes, well, good of you to take time to see me on such short notice on Christmas Eve. Although I must have you know, sir, I find all this Christmas claptrap to be a complete and total humbug. Just look at all the empty offices in this building! No one there making money! Surely this must also enrage you, a man of finance?”

David: “Well, JOYN’s offices pretty well clear out over the holidays, too, so I’m quite used to it. You were lucky to catch me at my desk, I had some last-minute paperwork that couldn’t wait. Let’s go back to my office. Meantime, can I offer you something to drink – Coffee? Bottled water?”

Scrooge: “I suppose my constitution could benefit from a glass of sherry or a tankard of mead, thank you, good sir.”

David: “Umm, okay, I’ll poke around the supply shelves. Please, go ahead and sit down. Let’s chat about why you called me.”

Scrooge settles into the guest chair in David’s office. Behind the haughty sneer he shows the world, he seems a bit rattled. And is that a flash of fear in his eagle eyes?

Scrooge: “My old partner, Jacob Marley, always spoke most highly of JOYN. Felt you could handle almost any problem a gentleman might face. I must tell you, though, I don’t know what to make of all this ‘Behavioral Wealth Management’. Wealth is all that matters, behavior be damned.”

David: “Yes, Jacob was a wonderful client… He had changed a lot before he died seven years ago. Now, what is troubling you, Ebenezer?”

Scrooge fidgets in his chair. He removes the stovepipe hat and rubs the head of his walking stick uneasily.

Scrooge: “I shall cut to the chase, then. This evening when I returned home, my door-knocker somehow morphed into Jacob’s face – now, don’t look at me like that, I assure you I am quite in my right mind! Then, when I was in my bedchambers, I heard a damnable clanking and banging on the stairs. In strides Jacob’s ghost, draped in the most horrible chain!

“The ghost of my old friend goes on to tell me that I am to be visited tonight by three more spirits, who will show me the error of my ways before it is too late. I need JOYN to help put a stop to this. I have no patience for ghosts interrupting my sleep. I plan to be back at my business on Christmas day, making money while the rest of society dithers about on silly festivities.”

David pauses for several moments, trying to wrap his brain around the concept of Ebenezer Scrooge at a JOYN life priorities exercise.

David: “Ebenezer, we have several acquaintances in common. Based on what they have told me, I think I already know a little about you and your life. I am confident in saying, the real meaning of your visit from Jacob Marley has to do with money – more specifically, what money means to you and what you do with it.

“Ebenezer, I am going to present you with two options and I want you to choose one of them:

“In Option One, imagine you died last week. At the memorial service, a disinterested minister gets up and tells the few people in attendance, ‘I was able to talk with Ebenezer last week before he died. He was in hospice care. We knew the end was coming.

‘I asked Ebenezer what he wanted his legacy to be, and he replied that he wanted everyone here to know that he beat the S&P by 3 percentage points per year and died in the top one-tenth of 1% in net worth. Thank you all so much for coming.’

“That’s Option One, Ebenezer, and I think you have a good shot at making it reality, the way you are leading your life.

“Now let’s consider Option Two. Imagine you died last week. In a church overflowing with people for your service, the minister explains, ‘In the first part of his life, Ebenezer really worked hard and was really frugal. He amassed a pile of money. But in the middle part of his life, he realized his life should be about way more than money. The ongoing accumulation of wealth at the expense of things that really matter in life was not a good deal – for him or for others.

‘So, in the last part of his life, Ebenezer became a leader of this community. How many people in this church have been helped by Ebenezer’s generosity with his money? Dozens of hands are raised.  How many people in this church did Ebenezer mentor? Again, dozens of hands are raised. How many have named a son after Ebenezer, in honor of his generosity?  I want you to stand if your life has been better because of Ebenezer’s kindness, generosity, and willingness to help others.  The entire congregation rose to its feet.

“The eulogy is about the positive impact you had on all these people and how much they loved you – not because of your money but because of how you used it to help them. So, Ebenezer, which option would you prefer?”

Scrooge says nothing for nearly two minutes. Suddenly his hard face melts into relaxed contentment. He springs to his feet, belying his age.

Scrooge: “David, old chap, this old fool is about to take a new path! We shall meet again later to talk more about Behavior Wealth Management, but right now I must dash. Got to buy Christmas Dinner for the Cratchits, you know. Now, is there a shop nearby that sells a plump goose?”

David: “A … goose?”


Dickens Got It Right

Particularly during this time of year, Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol” perfectly illustrates JOYN’s core principles. At his core, Ebenezer Scrooge was all about his money – counting it, not spending it. He measured his life in financial terms. But, how much his or her money has grown is a terrible measure of someone’s value.

A great life is about the relationships you build and how you make a difference in the lives of people you care about. As Scrooge held onto his money and obsessed about growing it more and more, the more it became a deeply destructive force in his life. Jacob Marley and the other three ghosts showed him that money became truly powerful once Scrooge devoted it to things that brought real joy and meaning to life and connected him with his sense of personal purpose.

We all have so much to be grateful for, and all of us at JOYN are grateful for the confidence you place in us.

We never forget that money is a powerful tool, and we will do everything we can to help you use your money, and the other elements of your wealth, to craft an extraordinary life.

JOYN wishes you and yours a blessed, purpose-driven holiday season.



Investment Advisory Services offered through JOYN Advisors, Inc. Registered Investment Advisors. Insurance offered through JOYN Atlanta, Inc. Securities offered through Securian Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. JOYN Advisors, Inc. and its affiliates are not affiliated with Securian Financial Services, Inc. This email and any attachments are intended only for the use of the individual addressed and may contain privileged and confidential information.
David Geller

About the Author

CEO David Geller co-founded the firm in 1991 and led the creation of Behavioral Wealth Management. Recognized on numerous prestigious "top financial advisor" lists, David is an in-demand speaker for professional groups and JOYN workshops. His writings have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Huffington Post.

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