Your values – the ideas and concepts that are most important to you – are tightly woven into the fabric of who you are. But discovering your values can prove to be a challenge.
In financial planning, your values are important, because even if you achieve success in financial terms, it will feel hollow if you’ve compromised your values along the way.
Headlines about current events are constantly changing. In addition to changing headlines, we have economic indicators and information, investment markets, political environments and legislation, just to name a few.
But your values are typically constant in your life.
When I first embark on the financial planning process with a woman or couple, the first discovery question I always ask is “why is money important to you?”
Most people confess they’ve never been asked this question before, so they’re often a bit puzzled as they think about it.
This isn’t a leading question. I’m not looking for a specific answer. And there is no right or wrong answer. But I believe that your values are perhaps the most important ingredient in the development of your financial plan that it’s where I always begin.
Most people start with expected answers. Things like “to provide for myself and my family” or “to keep a roof over my head.”
My response would be something along the lines of, “why is it important to provide for yourself and your family?” Or “why is it important to keep a roof over your head?”
My goal here is to get people to dig below the surface and think more deeply about why money is important to them.
I’ve had this conversation with some folks last 5-10 minutes. With others, we’ve spent an hour digging into and discovering their values.
Many people often land on concepts like freedom, independence, choice or flexibility.
But wait, there’s more.
After we thoroughly explore the why is money important to you question, I then jump into the “3 George Kinder Life Planning questions.”
As I’ve written about these questions before, they’re designed to help you continue to think about your values and your life in the context of not simply attempting to accumulate more and more money but instead defining what you want to use money for in your life.
This is just another way of exploring and discovering your values.
Much of financial planning is quantitative and number-based. And it’s important to have the numbers all buttoned up.
But don’t discount the importance of the qualitative aspects of your life as it relates to your financial plan and ongoing planning decisions.
Not only do I believe in the importance of your values in building your financial plan, I also find it a fascinating topic of discussion and an often untapped opportunity to help you achieve a better understanding of yourself and where you’re trying to go.
So I’m excited to introduce another recently acquired tool to help with discovering your values.
It’s a deck of cards from a company called think2perform.
And their “values card deck” is something I’m eager to introduce to my discovery process.
While I think there is certainly room to experiment with a tool like this, here’s how it’s designed to be used.
If I’m sitting down with you in a discovery meeting, I would hand you the deck of cards and ask you to sort them into two piles. One pile contains values that fit you well and the other pile are values that don’t fit you well.
There are 50 cards and each card has a value on it. Here are just a few of the cards:
- helping others
- meaningful work
- and so on
After you’ve gone through all the cards and created a pile with the values that best fit you, you go through the pile again and select the 15 values cards that are ideally important to you.
Next, reduce the stack to your 10 most important values cards.
And finally, reduce the stack to the 5 values cards that ideally are most important and best reflect who you are at your core.
Does this mean you only have 5 values?
Of course not. But we’re trying to prioritize your most important or ideal values among many.
Then, as you’re faced with current and future financial decisions, we can use your 5 most important values as a litmus test to make sure your decisions are in alignment with who you are and the life you want to lead.
They become a critical part of your financial plan and a good check point when you’re faced with a decision or considering a change.
For some of you, this exercise probably sounds a little like new age airy-fairy stuff. That’s OK.
But if like me, you’re interested in discovering your values and using them as a guide in your financial decision making, you may find this new tool helpful.
If you’re a client and you’d like to go through this values card exercise, please let me know and we can address it next time we meet.
If you’re not a client and you’d like to go through this process, either share the tool with your current advisor or give me a call and let’s talk about it.