"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
– Luke 12:34
I’m in a bit of a contemplative mood as I write, this morning. After a restful weekend with friends and family … being out and about, listening to the radio and watching some TV, I’m struck by this question — why is it that so many people who live with significant means are simply … unhappy?
Having worked with families across a wide spectrum of income and asset levels, I don’t find this to be a general rule, but what I do find is that neither is it uncommon. Some "rich" people are terrible grumps — but so are many who are struggling through poverty.
And, of course, some of the most beautiful people I know also happen to be wealthy … and a few are very poor.
So, a common temptation is to judge our well-being not by what *we* have — but by how much we have compared to others. However, families at today’s poverty level live as well as the upper middle class did a few decades ago! Yet, they still feel deprived. I’ve found that even big luxuries ultimately disappoint us as we steadily become accustomed to a higher standard of living. An indulgent purchase loses its luster, and the satisfaction it brings is fleeting.
So how can you fix this?
I believe it starts by re-aligning our hearts a bit. And that’s what I’m writing to you about today.[By the way, it may seem unusual for a tax professional to write about this sort of thing — but I’ve found that money is often the truest expression of our passions. And, as such, it’s worth protecting fiercely.
"Real World" Personal Strategy
Putting Your Money Where Your Heart Is
It’s a cliche, but it’s oh-so-true: Money doesn’t buy happiness. Families earning $50,000 a year overspend trying to keep up with those making $100,000 — who, in turn, attempt to live like those making $200,000. For many families, the lure of consumerism wins out over qualities like foresight and the patience which saving requires.
The Beatles were right too: "Money can’t buy you love." You can’t pay someone a million dollars to love you more than a million dollars. Money can’t buy integrity or friendship either. You can often purchase a cheap imitation of these values but not the genuine article.
But money can be used to clarify and encourage the things already most important to you. It can be used to show your love for someone, keep your integrity or help a friend in need.
So, here is a simple exercise which can help you determine what you value most in life: Look at this list of 15 values:
Aesthetics and culture
Cross off 10, and keep the five most important to you. Then rank those five in order of importance. Look at your list and answer this question: Are you living your life and using your money in sync with your values? If you are married, ask your spouse to do the same exercise independently, and then compare your answers.
Now, take these values and give a hard look at where you are spending your money. Does it fit?
Surveys have found that people regret what they didn’t do more often than what they did.
Our lives can change course dramatically (and serendipitously) all because of some small decision on our part. How many times have we heard the story of how a happily married couple met, only to be surprised it almost didn’t happen?
And, often, these decisions are expressed through how we spend our money.
We each long to participate in something significant and realize our greater passions. But that doesn’t just "happen"! It requires foresight, planning and forgoing our momentary desires. The choices we make, every day, determine the ones we will have the opportunity to make in the future. Without those hesitant, often stumbling first steps, we can’t even begin the journey. And, of course, the first step is the hardest.
Voicing what we are passionate about can be scary. Beginning to act on our ideas can feel overwhelming. But courage isn’t a lack of fear; it’s action in spite of fear. And our fear may indicate we are on the quest of our lives.
So again — I refer you to your list of values, held up against how you are currently spending your money: Are there small changes you can make–which would translate into BIG, passionate goals? Going through this exercise may not result in a dramatic career change, but it will help you see ways to align your actions to your goals.
And that, my friend, WILL bring you true happiness.
To You and Your Family’s Peace of Mind!