by You have thought long and hard about what’s important to you and why. It might be that you most value family, education, or the environment. Perhaps you value travel, or maybe you’re passionate about photography, music, or sports. Maybe it’s a job well done. Or maybe you value a life which is well balanced between work and play.
What ever it is. There is a collection of priorities which become our guiding principles on how we want to live our life. This collection of beliefs and principles is often called our Values.
Values is not a slick marketing statement which you frame and put on a wall where others can see it. Just as the actual experience of listening to music is not the same as looking at the written music notation. Living a life of Values is when the words come off the page put into our deeds.
My dad used to tell me a story that when he was a young child, perhaps 8 or 9, how he found a $5.00 bill on the street ($5.00 had a much higher dollar value in the 1920’s). He gave it to his mom and asked her if it should be brought to the police and returned to the rightful owner. That was my dad. Honest as the day was long. One of his key values which he carried his entire life was the value of honesty. All of his actions reflected the belief that people should behave with honesty.
It would be helpful to think of Values as a verb instead of a noun. It captures the essence of everything we believe is important to us and then put into action. And the beautiful part of values is, as no two snow flakes are alike, there are no two individuals who express their values in the same exact way. For example we may share and appreciate many of our spouse’s values, but unlikely we express our values as a carbon copy of any one else. Values are as unique to us as our fingerprints.
The goal is to be clear on our values, and express it every day through behavior and deeds. It has to do with acting with integrity, where one’s actions are consistent with what is said. It is authenticity at its core.
Not easy to do, especially when money is thrown into the equation. There is a tradition that says the greatest distance is from the heart to the pocket book. We can’t get from the heart to the pocket without looking at all aspects of our life, and understanding its meanings. Our values have the potential to fuel our every day actions. When our actions are aligned with our values, we say we are living a values based life. Since our decisions helps to define our life, being aware of the relationship between our financial decisions and our values is key to living a life of meaning without regret.
What does it mean to make values based financial decisions? It means that we transcend the false notion that money brings us happiness, and begin to bring our values into the equation when making choices. While dollar values represent material worth, personal values represents the meaning we give our life. Rather than evaluating our money choices strictly from the most dollars gained, think about which choice will be in harmony to the principles we value most.
In the end, what is real wealth? Is it having what we want- or having what we need? How would remembering what our aims are in life help us to be more, rather than less, serious about the instrument called money.1
While making values-based financial decisions may not always make you the wealthiest person, it offers the hope that it will make you a happier person.
1- Jacob Needleman, Money and the meaning of Life