Foundations for a “Better Financial Life”
Satisfaction describes a feeling of fulfillment or contentment. Its meaning is relative and often dependent on one’s definition of success as applied to specific areas of life. In our financial lives, “satisfaction” is as much (if not more) an emotional issue as a practical one. That is because a sense of satisfaction is highly subjective, and greatly influenced by the individual’s attitudes and beliefs.
In our society we tend to equate financial satisfaction with having a lot of money. In actuality, the degree to which one feels satisfied with his or her money life is based on a unique and personal interpretation of his or her financial needs and circumstances. In other words, two individuals can experience identical financial situations, and yet the degree of financial satisfaction they feel can be at polar opposites.
For example, one person can feel gratified and “wealthy” with an annual income of $100,000 while another person will feel disillusioned and deprived at this same level of income.
Another illustration is use of credit. One person can be very comfortable carrying an ongoing credit card balance of $5,000, while another person will be “totally stressed out” and “not satisfied” until his or her credit card balance is zero.
In addition, priorities can change over time and affect one’s feeling of satisfaction.
For instance, an individual could live with disorganized financial records for years with little concern, and then one day become discontent with the disorder and lack of control and shout “I can’t live this way anymore!”
Another experience for many individuals is that their desire to increase their charitable giving grows in importance over time as does the sense of satisfaction they receive from sharing their financial resources.
Those who are dissatisfied with their financial lives are often unsure of the source of their feelings.
For example, an individual can know intellectually that they are financially independent, but not feel financially secure on the emotional level. Others can strive for and achieve wealth and yet not feel any gratification from this accomplishment.
In addition, there are those who feel “inadequate” when it comes to financial matters and put off making financial decisions for fear of revealing their lack of financial savvy.
Therefore, the groundwork for making positive change in our own financial lives is awareness—the enlightenment that comes from first assessing our individual levels of financial satisfaction; and then recognizing the unique and personal circumstances, behaviours, and attitudes that impede a sense of financial well-being.
Values are the essential meanings relating to what is desirable or has worth. Like “satisfaction,” values are subjective in meaning and unique to each individual. In a nutshell, values reflect what matters most to us.
When thinking about values, we often think in terms of principles or standards we consider important such as “honesty,” “loyalty,” or “altruism.” We also tend to think of values in terms of what we hold most dear such as “my family” or “my health.”
Our values are also those intangibles that keep us motivated.
Motivators vary from person to person, but examples include wealth, recognition, achievement, intelligence, creativity, challenge, adventure, harmony, and so on.
In addition, values provide both the purpose for our activities and the criteria for how we allocate our personal resources of time, energy, skills, and money. When there is incongruence between our values and the way we “spend” those resources, inner conflict or dissatisfaction will result.
In “Everything You Know about Money is Wrong,” author and financial advisor Karen Ramsey wrote:
“In personal financial management, the place to begin is to adopt a realistic perspective. Money will only improve the quality of your life when it is used with clarity. Only when you learn to spend money in concert with your underlying values—things that you most deeply care about—will it become a tool for creating a more fulfilling life.”
The foundation of Financial Life Planning is understanding the nature, influence, and importance of your values. Your goal will be to learn what is most important to you and to (1) allow that understanding to guide your interactions with your financial advisor, and (2) provide a framework for your financial goals.
Your sense of financial satisfaction will multiply when you clarify your priorities and make financial decisions that align with your life goals.
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