Independent, Fee-Only Financial Advisor

Independent, Fee-Only Financial Advisor

Friday, November 19, 2021

Your Spending and Your Values

As an opinionated personal finance expert still in my 30’s, I absolutely had to respond to this:

Growing up, I was always a saver. I collected my pennies, nickels and dimes to open a savings account when I was in kindergarten. I quickly learned to value earnings from work. My parents paid me to do extra chores and supported me when I got a job bagging groceries when I was 15. From a young age, my dad had planted the seed of interest in investing when he told me that foundational tale of my sister owning shares of The Coca-Cola Company. 

Suffice to say, when I was in my late teens, and certainly by my twenties, the basics of sound personal finance were as natural to me as breathing. I’ve worked hard, been frugal with my spending and careful with my saving.

The one thing that I didn’t quite understand was value.

Values are those characteristics, qualities and principals that you are willing to pursue harder and stand up for longer. Values go beyond addressing your basic needs, they go beyond your relationships. Your values define your very being. When your actions and lifestyle are in alignment with your values, you are living your best life. When they are out of alignment, you may notice feeling uncomfortable or just not quite right.

If you value something - you should be willing to spend your time, energy and money to pursue it.

As someone who is generally frugal, there have been times that spending an extra dollar pained me. However, there have been missed experiences that now pain me - even though I saved many more dollars. That is not to say that I have not spent and enjoyed my money at all, but I look back and ask myself why I didn’t spend a few extra dollars to eat at a fascinating top rated restaurant or avoid an adventurous weekend outing.

My life savings at age 25 were a tiny part of my overall financial picture. Most of the money I would ever have had not even been earned yet! Had I spent every penny that I had then, I would have bought myself incredible experiences that I would still treasure today. I did make the right decision to save that money, but my mistake was in not identifying what would be important to spend it on.

Could I have corrected this? A deep and honest assessment of my values would have helped. I was halfway there - I did not spend frivolously on things I did not appreciate. I was intentional about the time I spent, the home I bought, the investments that I made. On the other hand, I missed out on opportunities that would have brought me great joy and fulfilment, my money accrued with no realistic expectation of being spent.

I don’t regret saving my money - I do regret not spending on things that are more important than that money.

There is a balance, of course. At any age, having emergency savings is important. You should be able to save a dollar off of even your very first paycheck. The trick, however, is knowing what the highest and best use for that dollar is. 

Through the years, I have helped clients identify and understand their deepest values.  I have seen people transformed by saying yes to an opportunity that they truly valued, or no to a part of their lifestyle that didn’t align with those values. I have showed them how they can spend on the things they truly cherish, living a more bountiful and more financially secure life because of it. Further, I have studied the very concept of values and the conversations that bring them to light.

Money is more important than simply having it. Money is an expression of all of the work we have done to earn it. It is the result of our patience in waiting for it to grow. It is the gift of those who came before us and left something for us. Yes, it takes money to eat, drink and keep a roof over our heads, but it is how we do those things that is truly important.

We can't get back the misspent dollars of our youth and exchange them for experiences and investments we still cheris. We can make sure that our future spending is in the right place. Take time to think about their values. A guided conversation with your advisor can help draw those out. Have those conversations. Spend and live in a way that aligns with those values - live your best life!