Have you ever asked yourself – what is most important to me? What do I value most in life? Does your spending reflect it? I’m talking about values and figuring out if you’re spending your hard earned money on things you value, or if you’re spending it elsewhere. Because if you spend money on things you value, you just might enjoy life more.
According to Oxford Languages, Value is a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgement of what is important in life.
Values are important because they can serve as a north star for our actions, or, in the case of financial planning, our goals. Sometimes we don’t take the time to clarify our values. As a result, we don’t know if our habits and actions coincide with our values.
For example, you may value time with family. But when you look back on your year, you realize you really didn’t spend that much time with your family. Maybe you missed some opportunities because you were too busy doing things, instead of focusing on what’s important to you.
The first step in aligning your values with your behaviors is being aware of what’s most important to you.
Finding Your Values
If you don’t know right off what you value most, there are several ways to figure it out. One way from mindtools.com is to take the following steps:
- Identify when you were the happiest.
- Identify when you were the most proud.
- Identify when you were the most fulfilled and satisfied.
- Determine your top values based on your experiences of happiness, pride, and fulfillment.
As trivial as it may sound, I LOVE playing golf. Many of you know this. But there are some aspects of golf that I enjoy more than others. I’m not a big competitor, so winning or beating the guy I’m playing with, isn’t important to me. But I hate sucking. And I sucked at golf for a long, long time. So a few years back I decided to make golf a priority – because I valued it. I knew that I wasn’t going to change my game by doing the same things I’d done in the past, so I identified what might help my game. I came up with two solutions:
Surrounding Yourself with Likeminded People
One thing my Dad taught me was that if you want to get better at something, you have to surround yourself with people that are good at it. He became a better hunter when he joined Commemorative Bucks of Michigan and volunteered on their board. He met some really good hunters and his knowledge expanded exponentially.
Similarly, when I joined the Financial Planning Association of Michigan’s board, I grew as a planner. This eventually led me to being on the national board of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA). Being a part of NAPFA grew my practice exponentially as I was hanging out with really good advisors that were managing billions of dollars.
How do I surround myself with better golfers? I join a golf league at the premier golf course in my area – Hawk Hollow/ Eagle Eye. At first I wasn’t very good. But as I watched the older guys in the league that played really well, some of them golf coaches for local high school teams, I learned what it was to play better golf. I also was introduced to some really good coaches. This led me to the second thing that improved my game exponentially.
Getting Professional Help
I had always learned from tips on videos and in magazines. When I started getting serious I bought a book that had a complete system. Being the organize your finances guy, I liked the idea of a system that would organize my golf game. It worked and I broke 90. But it wasn’t consistent and I wasn’t improving to the point I was looking for – breaking 80. At the suggestion of some of the guys in my league, I decided to hire a professional. I tried a couple and ultimately settled on Chris Mory. At first, I didn’t like what he was having me do. I thought my way was better. In fact, it was downright uncomfortable. But I stuck with it, knowing that maybe he knew something I didn’t. Eventually I saw the difference. My drives were longer. My shots had a baby draw and most importantly, my scores lowered and I began having more fun to the point where I won our golf league with my partner last year.
Both surrounding myself with likeminded people and hiring a professional improved my game to the point where I shot 3 over par 73 at a local course. I’d only broke 80 a couple times up until this past summer. But none of it would have been possible if I hadn’t recognized that I valued golf, and decided to make some changes.
Values & Money
Figuring out what you value is only the beginning. Once you know what you value, the next step is to set goals around your values. If you value traveling, you might set a goal to take a vacation once a quarter or once a month. Then you book your weekend AirBnb for the month and look forward to your trip. At the end of the year you can look back and see all the memories from the places you visited. This is made possible because you decided to understand your values.
When you’re setting your goals this year, ask yourself – what does I find most valuable? When am I the happiest, proudest, or most satisfied and fulfilled? These are your values. Once you’ve identified your values, look at where you’re sending your money. Do it reflect your values? If it doesn’t, you might consider setting goals that reflect your values. But it all starts with finding your values.