Creating a budget really shouldn’t be the place where financial decisions begin. Instead, a comprehensive look at what you most care about and how you want to live your life is the best place to start, even before budget categories are determined.
This becomes especially clear when we consider how we seek to raise our children with a proper financial mindset. We want them to learn how to earn, how to save (and invest), and how to spend. Unfortunately, this doesn’t spring up for them from the womb!
When speaking with our clients about their financial decisions, these are the sort of conversations that ultimately prove to be the most meaningful — often life-changing.
We get the opportunity to help them discover not only how they want to use their money, but perhaps even more rewardingly — how to align that spending with the things they care most about.
Here’s one of the places where we start:
Rich people don’t clutter their lives with liabilities — they make investments. As a way of contrast, those in the middle class accumulate such items, and are often forced to make payments on them (too-expensive cars, boats, etc.). And, of course, those who are stuck in a cycle of poverty usually see themselves as buying “things”.
The problem here isn’t that those who are poor, or “middle class” aren’t wealthy — it’s that they haven’t taken the time to figure out a healthy approach to their spending.
There is a book by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton (called The Science of Happier Spending) which chronicles the “research distinguishing spending that satisfies from that which disappoints.” The authors give us five principles of spending that actually produces fruit.
- Experiences are more satisfying than stuff.
- Abundance ultimately backfires. Making indulgences rarer rather than frequent makes them more satisfying.
- Buying time is the best investment.
- Using “reverse credit” (pay now–use later) imbues us with the pleasure of anticipation rather than the buzzkill of paying later for something already consumed.
- Spending on others trumps spending on oneself.
I’d say that’s a great place to start in having these conversations.
For example, recognizing that time is much more of a limited quantity than is money (as the adage says: “We are each only given 24 hours in a day”) means that it makes sense to evaluate how you are approaching the “spending” and stewardship of your time — and that it often makes sense to pay money for more of it.
The wealthy see the value of their time, and they regularly invest in it by paying others to free it up. This could range from paying for lawncare, cooking — or even sometimes paying for someone else to drive them to and from work. And this often forces them to think about using their time in the most valuable way possible.
You are the only one who can be a mother or father to your children. You are the only one who can be a spouse to your partner. You are the only one who can do the things that only you can uniquely do.
Bringing your money together with the things you most deeply care about isn’t always easy … but it IS worth it.
But this is what my team and I are here for. When you come to us for your planning this year, if you’re willing, let’s set a time to have a longer conversation about what you would like to do with your life. Because that’s really where everything comes together.
“One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: To rise above the little things.” -John Burroughs