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Investor Psychology Part 3: Using values to plan your future

Investor Psychology Part 3: Using values to plan your future“Money is good for three basic things. It helps people BE, DO & HAVE.” — David Bach, Smart Couples Finish Rich

We now know that acquiring stuff usually doesn’t have the payoff we’re expecting, rather, it’s better to focus on great experiences. But how can you apply this concept to your life? It’s best to start with the basics: goals and values.

Most people have some sort of goal in their lives— they want to lose ten pounds, sail around the Mediterranean, or golf at Pebble Beach. But what many don’t consider are the values behindwhy they want to achieve those goals. You may want to lose weight because of health reasons, self-esteem, or vanity. The longing to travel could be rooted in your desire for freedom or love for geography; while a golf trip might satisfy your desire for a challenge or to just have fun. Goals are the way to experience the values behind them.

If you’re in a relationship, it’s even more important to understand your values. Many couples have different goals but similar, if not the same, values, providing an opportunity to find goals that work for both.

When it comes to financial planning, this is really important for a number of reasons:

  1. The more goals you have, the more expensive it may be to fund all of them. If you agree on a smaller number of goals that satisfy both of you, they will be much easier to achieve and you will save money.
  2. You will be able to enjoy them together.
  3. You are less likely to spend your precious time working towards goals that don’t satisfy you after you achieve them.
  4. You’ll be happier!

If you’re wondering which values are most important to you and your spouse, below is a list to get you started. A more comprehensive list can be found here.

Start by picking four or five of the most important ones to you and write them down. If you’re in a relationship, I suggest you do this separately then compare notes.

Values can include:

Security
Freedom
Happiness
Fun
Excitement
Power

Family
Friends
Spirituality
Independence
Making a difference

Love
Health
Confidence
Adventure
Growth

 

Discuss the common goals you can create to enjoy those important values. It’s unlikely you will share 100% of the same values so compromise is necessary. Talk about how you can divide your resources (financial and time) between joint values and those you don’t share. This may not be easy, but if you’re both open-minded it’ll be well worth it.

The challenge is to ensure you stay on course and as true to both of your shared values as possible. The world is full of distractions and it’s easy to be pulled into the patterns and examples set by your peer group. Stay focused on what’s important to you, or you’ll end up spending more time on things you’re not passionate about.

Keep in mind this isn’t a one-time exercise. As we reach different stages of our lives, some of our values will shift in importance. Even if they don’t, the way they manifest may. When you were younger, excitement may have meant white water rafting or skydiving, while today it means exploring Rome and flying first class.

There’s abundant research suggesting values aren’t things you know intuitively so take the time to learn what your values are. One of the worst things you can do is to spend your life chasing something that leaves you empty once you’ve achieved it.

Don’t let that happen to you!