Are you a butterfly or a honeybee in your money life?

Before she started working with me Hope had spent many years trying to build her wealth like a butterfly. She was flitting from one money guru to the next. Reading their books, following them online, and changing course as she found the next lovely “blossom” (investment approach, idea, stock) that caught her eye. Trying to build wealth on our own can often lead to this butterfly approach, fueled by fear that we’re doing the wrong thing (especially when the market takes a deep dive), and ever seeking new ways to make the most of this money are investing.

Hope is a smart businesswoman. She wanted to be smart about building her wealth, too. We are now working together using a honeybee approach to building her wealth—and getting her to her ultimate goal, financial freedom.

Watch a butterfly. It flutters from blossom to blossom in what seems lovely but a bit random. The butterfly is primarily there to drink the liquid nectar; the pollination they do is by accident. While butterflies are eye-catching with their beauty—and important pollinators—their focus and their purpose are very different from the behavior of the honeybee.

Now watch a honeybee. It stays with one type of flowering plant for a significant period of time. Moving from like blossom to like blossom, it is an effective pollinator. Honeybees are purposeful and productive, taking the pollen back to the hive where it’s fermented and made into “bee bread” which is fed to the bee larvae and young bees as their vital protein source.

I became a beekeeper in 2008, after many years of feeling the call of the honeybee, fueled by favorite childhood memories of harvesting honey with my family from the hives my dad kept behind our house. I have learned so much about honeybee behavior since then, especially from my beloved mentor, the biodynamic beekeeper Gunther Hauk.

Gunther’s lessons about honeybee behavior seem to offer useful lessons for investors (and investment advisors!).

Within the hive there are many roles that honeybees can fill. Two of these roles are scout bees and foragers. Scout bees, as you may guess, will go out to look for the nectar and pollen sources in the area. They return to the hive and use waggle dances to communicate with the forager bees, letting them know where to find the most strategic, purposeful, productive locations to forage.

A plan is made. Forager bees then go out according to the plan, and put into action one of their most special traits. It’s a behavior called “flower fidelity,” which makes honeybees such powerful and effective pollinators for our many foods that depend on them for pollination.

It’s why having honeybees in the neighborhood allows everyone’s gardens to thrive in a way they never have before. I had a wonderful neighbor across the street who brought me a jar of delicious grape jelly after the first year I began keeping honeybees in my backyard. He said that his grape harvest had never been so bountiful until that year. For the weeks when his grapes were flowering, the bees’ flower fidelity zeroed in on the good returns they were getting across the street. Later in the season, they focused on other sources of abundance as they presented themselves. And so their young bees were nourished by abundant bee-bread, my honey harvest grew, and so did my neighbor’s grapes!

The plan, the strategy, the focus, the purposefulness of the honeybees—it’s not just for themselves. Each individual is playing its role in a larger, life-giving story. The colony benefits, as do countless other local plants, and the animals that rely on those plants.

So what does this have to do with investing and building wealth?

My hardworking and lovely client, Hope, in trying to do the right things with her money was more like a butterfly for many years. Now, working together with honeybee strategy and focus, we are identifying the mix of investment “flowers” that can build her wealth over time while also benefiting the wider economic and social ecosystem around us.

We have created a plan based on solid information. We have a grounded investment strategy that’s also aligned with her values. She has clarity about the purpose of new income generated from her business—the annual surplus honey harvest, you might say!—which is being added to her investments to build momentum each year and move her toward her goals while doing good work in the world.

With this plan, she is focused and productive in how she will be building wealth and working toward her money goals over the long term.

And when she begins to worry, to falter, she’s got a trusted advisor—her scout bee—always out there with grounded support and advice to help her (and her investments) stay on track toward her money goals.

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Carrie Van Winkle

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