Your Money or Your Life — Or Both

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By now, most of us have at least heard of Simon Sinek and his maxim — which is also the title of his bestselling book — “Start with Why.” The main idea that Sinek has captured so effectively is that companies and people can achieve great success by truly understanding the purpose behind what they do, and then ordering all their efforts from that starting point. As Sinek puts it, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” In other words, those who accomplish important things do so because they understand their “why” — their purpose.

This principle certainly holds true in the world of investing and financial planning. In our work with clients, the most important questions we ask center around helping clients surface their “why.” Once we have a thorough understanding of a client’s purpose — the aims in life that are truly paramount for them — we are in a position to construct a plan and a strategy to help them use their financial resources effectively. After all, most people are shooting for something much more important than simply dying as rich as possible. Most of us hope to accomplish goals of real meaning — in our own lives, the lives of those we care about, the world at large, or all of the above — during our time here. For persons of wealth, especially, this hope usually centers around the individual’s purpose — their “why.”

Of course, there are practical reasons why connecting one’s purpose with one’s finances is important. For one thing, research shows that persons who have a firm sense of overarching purpose and direction in their lives tend to exercise more, sleep better, and even have better dental hygiene. It follows that such people also tend to have more financial success than others. Apparently, those who live with a firm grasp of their “why” tend to be happier, more focused, more energetic, and less vulnerable to stress: all qualities that lend themselves to career achievement and related financial rewards.

But beyond that, those who can connect their financial aspirations with their larger purpose in life tend to have healthier attitudes toward money in general, which typically has a positive impact on the quality of relationships, self-understanding, and even personal resiliency. Often, having a “purpose statement” for your finances helps shift the focus from the less healthy concern with “How much do I have?” to the more constructive consideration of “Why do I have it?” Such a statement might look like one of the following:

  • The purpose of money in my life is to enable me to make joyful choices in my life.
  • The purpose of money in my life is to advance my commitment to_______________.
  • The purpose of money in my life is to help ensure the security of my family.

The possible variations are many; the important thing is to find the “why” of your finances in terms of what matters most to your purpose in life.

Those who can put their financial affairs in the context of their larger purposes typically adopt some key attitudes. They realize that money is not an end in itself; instead, it is a tool intended to be used for a purpose. This idea is related to the realization that, while money cannot buy happiness, it can provide options. In other words, many of the things that give us joy or comfort, or peace of mind — taking our grandchildren on an outing, living in a safe neighborhood, paying for needed medical care — also require money. We don’t really want the money; we want the choices it gives us. Money is a tool. It’s not the only tool that we have, but it’s an important one.

Ultimately, whether your purpose involves enabling life choices, helping others, or simply creating a strategy for satisfying and meaningful retirement, the key is to know your “why.” When you connect that to your financial outlook, you integrate your money with your life in a way that creates a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

At Griffin Black, we believe that our most important task is to help you discover or refine your understanding of your “why” — your purpose. This means that the most vital time we spend is the time it takes to get to know you: your priorities, your goals, your most cherished dreams for yourself and the people and causes you care about. To learn more about our holistic approach to your financial journey, click here.

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