Last week I discussed with you how to understand your money values in answer to the question of Janet, “How can I teach my children about FQ when I myself am not good with money? Where do I start?” (Click link to see last week’s article)
Here’s the continuation. Understanding your core values is very important in having a healthy and happy relationship with money. If you don’t have a good grasp of your core values, chances are, you will not be happy with what you do with your money.
I wish to share with you the story of David Bach in his book Smart Couples Finish Rich to illustrate how a lot of people fail to identify their core values and align them with what they do with their money.
During a seminar held in a nice resort in Hawaii, which was given to top employees and their spouses, he asked the question, “What are the values that money enables you to fulfill?” There was silence. He had to rephrase the question a couple of times and had to give a lot of examples before the participants started giving their answers such as Freedom, Happiness, Security, Marriage, Spirituality, Love, Family, Health, etc.
On the other hand, when Bach asked them, “What material things would you like to have that money can buy?” everyone was quick to give their multiple answers – a new car, diamond rings and earrings, signature bags, signature shoes, yacht, rest house, long vacations, new kitchen, big closet, expensive bike, and so on.
It’s interesting to note how we can easily enumerate the stuff we want to buy but struggle to do the same when asked what values we want to live by. If we are not careful, we might spend our lives just chasing the stuff. Bach says that this is one cause of midlife crisis. After years of working and accumulating the stuff, we realize that we’re not happy. We accumulated the wrong stuff because we were not guided by our core values.
Now for our reader Janet, to start transforming your relationship with money, the first thing to do is to reflect on your core values. What are your core values? These are the things that you cherish, that you hold dear to your heart. These are the things that you’re willing to fight for, and in some cases, may be willing to die for.
List them down, maybe your top three or five values and always use them as your guide on how you spend not only your money but your time and energy as well.
Maybe my own journey to my decision to become a full time homemaker is an example of how the dynamics between our core values and what we do about and for money works. I was an Assistant Vice President in one of the top investment houses in the country at that time and we had very young kids. I was happy with my job and the pay. And I’ve always envisioned myself to be a career woman, a successful career woman. Our first two sons were then aged four and one and we were building our dream house. But something was not right. I was not happy anymore. It’s because one of my very core values was being sacrificed. I value family and raising my children well was a role I decided to take seriously and enjoy at the same time. I was contributing half of the family income and it felt good. Moreover, as every couple who has built a house would know, construction cost always surpasses the original budget by a mile. So we were in that situation where the most practical thing for me to do was to stay in my job; anyway, there wasn’t anything wrong with the kids that compelled me to give up my income.
But there was a look in my baby Enrique’s eyes back then that up to now still brings tears to my eyes whenever I recall it. He was just a year old and could not yet verbally demand for that all too important mother’s attention while his ever bibo Kuya was four and could easily articulate that Mama had to listen to his stories, new songs, poems and other antics learned from school. Enrique’s eyes seemed to say, “How about me? I need you too.” I’m getting misty eyed as I write this down.
After a lot of discussions with my husband, some computations, a lot of reflecting and praying, I took the “less practical” path. I resigned to be a full time homemaker. I gave up my career and in monetary terms, my husband and I gave up half of our family income in order to satisfy our core value. Adjustments had to be made but somehow things just fell into place and I’m very happy that I made that audacious decision.
Looking back, I thank that nagging feeling that bothered me and made me stop and assess my situation. If we’re not careful we might end up with a not so healthy relationship with money. The things that we do with and for money might actually bring us to the direction opposite that of living out our core values.
An example is a father who has friendship as one of his core values, but is too busy and feels guilty spending time and money for recreation with his lifelong friends, ends up losing touch with his friends.
Another example is a once athletic mother who values health but scrimps on expenses like gym membership fee and healthy food but spends a lot on clothes and make up to conceal her uncontrolled and unhealthy weight gain.
A couple who values financial freedom because of their common hardships experienced during childhood spends a lot of money to give to their children the material things that they didn’t enjoy ends up raising extravagant children who will struggle financially in adulthood.
Being aware that each person has different core values should remind us that we should not be judgmental about the spending habits of other people. We cannot just compare our spending habits and give sweeping statements such as, “Mrs. X does not have good money values because she spends a lot of money on y and z things.” Different persons value different things differently.
Janet, I hope this helps you jumpstart your new relationship with money. Always use your core values as your compass. Remember, if what you do with and for money does not agree with your core values, no amount of money in this world will make you happy.
Wishing you financial happiness,