Our relationship with money is never just about money. It’s inextricably linked to our life experiences, so when you get to know someone’s money philosophy, you get to know them on a deeper level.
Thrive Global asked Henrik Werdelin, the co-founder of the innovative dog brand BARK, to fill us in on his personal relationship with finances. Here, the entrepreneur and author of The Acorn Method shares a valuable money lesson he learned from his mom, his favorite way to spend his hard-earned cash, and the 100% free way he invests in his well-being.
Thrive Global: What’s one of the first memories you have about money?
Henrik Werdelin: It’s tough to remember the first time I thought about money, since I’ve always had to work. I grew up in Denmark with my mom, who didn’t have much money, but she did have — and still has — a very entrepreneurial soul. So from a young age, I had an extensive collection of odd jobs. If my mom overheard a unique way for a kid to make money — — everything from mopping the stairs in our apartment building, to working at the hardware store, to delivering flowers or newspapers, to washing dishes in a restaurant — she would say, “Oh, Henrik can do that!” I never spent a lot of money back then, so for me, doing all these odd jobs was as much about the enjoyment of completing the tasks as much as it was being paid for them.
TG: Describe your relationship with money now — and how it has changed throughout your life.
HW: I’ve always been a saver. Because I began working at a young age and grew up in a country where education is free, I was able to start my career with a little bit of savings. The savings weren’t much, but that bit of money — tied with the knowledge that I could always go back and live at home if things went completely wrong — was the safety net that allowed me to have the confidence to play around with entrepreneurship.
TG: Can you recall a time when you felt financial instability or uncertainty — and how you were still able to invest in your well-being during those times?
HW: As an entrepreneur, you always live in an uncertain financial situation. You don’t know if you can get new customers the next day, or if you can fundraise, or if your idea is going to click with people. I once heard Richard Branson say that if he only had once piece of advice for entrepreneurs, it would be to exercise. I agree with that advice, mixed with the importance of getting proper rest. Sleep and exercise are important parts of my work philosophy because if you take care of your body, and if you look at sleep as essential recovery instead of as a luxury, you reduce your chance of burning out quite a bit. The great thing is that sleep and movement are free!
TG: What questions do you ask yourself before you make a big purchase?
HW: I allow myself to dance around a purchase for quite a long time. I like gadgets a lot, but I’ll read reviews and have long inner dialogues about the item before I’ll actually buy it. Sometimes I’ll push the decision out into the future, for what I call the “cooling off period.” If in two weeks I still haven’t found a reason why I must have this thing, then I won’t buy it. That being said, I like to spend money on those that I love, and I don’t waffle as much on big purchases for my family (whether people or animals!). For example, I pay a guy named John to take my dog on trips to the forest each week. That decision is a no-brainer because of how happy the trips make her, evident from how she greets John and from the photos documenting their days.
TG: Tell us about some financial investments you’ve made in yourself that have impacted your well-being in a positive way.
Adopting a dog: This was an easy one to pick! Research shows that owning a dog might actually make you live longer. And adopting a dog wasn’t just for me, but for my whole family. There’s 2020 research that says a dog can help with kids’ social and emotional development. I can toss out scientific research all day about the benefits of dogs, but in the end, they’re also just these incredible creatures who remind us to live in the moment and approach every day with enthusiasm.
A temperature-controlling mattress: Science shows that if you can lower the temperature of the space around you during sleep — the National Sleep Foundation recommends between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit — you have a better chance of getting optimal sleep. I’ve tried many different things to get better sleep, and this is one of the strategies that has worked for me.
Taking a sabbatical: At BARK, we offer sabbaticals to employees who have been with us for more than five years. For mine, I spent three months with my wife and son traveling around the world. Being unplugged for that time was one of the best investments I’ve ever made, and I think it’s incredibly important to pass that investment along to all the folks at BARK.
Meditation apps: I pay for quite a few meditation apps like Headspace, Calm, and Ten Percent Happier. I find learning to take calming moments every day has improved my creativity, my relationships, and my ability to fall asleep.