Doug Lynam said he became a monk to get away from his rich-kid childhood and escape money altogether.
But money matters affect a monastery as much as any business or residence.
Lynam discovered this early on at his monastery, where he determined the monks had left financial concerns to the will of God.
Lynam took it upon himself as the youngest monk to climb the monastery’s mountain of debt.
He read several financial advice books, enough to bone up on guiding the monastery — he won’t disclose which one — through the only feasible solution: bankruptcy proceedings.
Fast forward 20 years, and Lynam now has his own financial advice book out: From Monk to Money Manager.
Lynam, 45, said he left the monastic life in 2016 and now is director of education and retirement services at LongView Asset Management in downtown Santa Fe.
“I wish I had this book when I was in my early 20s,” Lynam said, “because it would have helped me reconcile my spiritual values with a healthy approach to money. I think [readers] are going to learn how money really works and how it aligns with spiritual values.”
The transition from monk to money manager sounds as unlikely as it gets. But instead of escaping money as a monk, money pretty much became his avocation at the monastery.
After steering the monastery through bankruptcy, Lynam’s spiritual counseling of guests often veered to financial counseling.
“The majority of people I met, if you dig deep enough, you’ll likely find financial problems,” Lynam said.
As a teacher at Santa Fe Prep (nearly all the monks had day jobs), the school suddenly needed an economics teacher, and Lynam stepped up to the challenge. As a class project, Lynam looked at the school’s pension fund for teachers.
He did not expect to find a pension fund with no fiduciary overlooking the plan. The school did not realize new federal regulations were in place requiring independent schools to have a fiduciary for pension funds.
“Doug helped us get a fiduciary,” said Jim Leonard, the head of school at Santa Fe Prep. “We were basically ahead of the curve because of Doug.”
At about the same time, the New York Times wrote about widespread problems with teacher pension funds. Lynam called the paper and was featured in a June 2017 Times article about “the monk who left the monastery to fix broken retirement plans.”
LongView, which boasts a “socially responsible and sustainable investment” philosophy, in the coming weeks is set to become New Mexico’s sixth B Corp, or benefit corporation, principal David Cantor said.
B Corp is a private certification issued by Pennsylvania nonprofit B Lab, which acknowledges a business’s social sustainability and environmental performance.
Lynam’s own financial philosophy seeks to debunk the saying that “money is the root of all evil.” He appends that with “money makes the world go round.”
“How is money going to be used as a tool to alleviate suffering in the world?” Lynam poses. And from the book: “God is calling us all to be a little wealthy and master the art of money management because it will reduce our suffering and allow our acts of service to have a larger impact.”
Lynam draws a clear distinction between wealth and being rich. Being rich is having a lot of money and likely spending it all. Wealth is investing money so it earns more money, he said.
“What do you need to ensure you aren’t at risk of ever being poor again?” Lynam wrote in the book. “The answer is simple: you need to be a little wealthy. … It’s okay to be a little wealthy. In fact, it’s necessary. … Just make sure your purchases have great personal value. Not because you are ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ The Joneses are broke and in debt.”
Lynam’s young-adult aversion to money spawned from a childhood where, he said, his parents “weaponized“ money as a “tool of manipulation and control.” (His mother, Lois Pollard, sees how Lynam could have this view, considering the parents divorced when he was 7 and there were many years of disputes of who would pay for what. “What he’s seeing is his vision of what is important to him,” Pollard said. “He saw this as weaponly.”)
On the way to becoming a monk, Lynam said he undertook summer Marine Corps officer candidate school in Quantico, Va., for four years while enrolled at St. John’s College in Santa Fe.
He ultimately did not pursue a commission and became a monk instead.
Lynam took the necessary courses to pass the finance licensing tests, but he doesn’t have an MBA or any such college finance degree.
“There’s no curriculum or rhyme or reason for a monastery,” Lynam said. “The range of guests’ financial problems are so broad. I saw everything: debt management, child support, divorce, retirement.”
He started his own financial adviser business while still a monk, Lynam Financial Services, which he merged with LongView a year later. And he taught at Santa Fe Prep. And he was a monk.
“I was working three full-time jobs,” Lynam said. “Something had to give.”
The book is available in Santa Fe at op.cit. books and Garcia Street Books.