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Is How You Use Your Money Aligned With Your Values?

 

A hamster in a wheel.

 

Have you ever watched a hamster running in a wheel? All that running, all that effort, day after day after day … But the poor little thing never really gets anywhere, does he?

 

Many of us feel the same way about our money.

 

More specifically, we feel that way about the work we do to get that money. We spend 40 hours every week on a wheel, running after a salary. And then, first thing Monday morning, we’re back on the wheel, and the whole thing starts over again.

 

Many people just keep repeating this cycle, over and over, until they finally retire. They think that stepping off the wheel just isn’t an option because they have bills to pay, school/child care  expenses to save for, and a dream to be “financially set” before retiring from work.

 

 

How much is enough?

 

These are all persuasive arguments that keep people on the wheel. And the hope is that someday, you’ll be able to stop running and enjoy the fruits of all that hard work.

 

Unfortunately, more often than not, “someday” never comes. If your focus in your work and in your financial planning is just having enough money, you’ll never feel like you have enough. There’s always another pound to chase, another way to economise so that you can save more.

 

But for what? Is having more and more money, in and of itself, something that you really value? Does having more make running on the wheel worth it?

 

You might think that this “never enough” mentality ends once a person retires. In fact, it just transitions into a new, related worry: “Am I going to run out of money?” Again, that “someday” gets pushed back in favor of more saving, more super-conservative living. You might not be working any more, but you’re still just chasing after money.

 

 

The wind in your sails.

 

At the end of the day, your money is not the shore we’re sailing for. It’s not the sea you’re sailing on. It’s not even the boat you’re steering.

Your money is the sail. It’s the tool you use to get where you want to go.

 

And the wind in that sail is your values.

 

Just like a good sailor learns how to maneuver the sails to catch the most wind, aligning what’s most important to you with your financial resources is the key to successful financial planning.

 

So instead of asking yourself if you have enough money, or if you will run out of money, ask yourself a better question:

 

 

Am I managing my money in a way that’s improving my life?

 

We don’t want you just to “have enough money.” We want you to live the best life possible with the money you have.

 

That starts with thinking about what’s really important to you. The people whom you love. The causes that are dear to your heart. The activities that keep you feeling fit and full of energy. The hobbies that put your unique skills to their highest uses. The opportunities for learning and self-discovery that enrich your understanding of the world and of yourself. The wisdom that you will pass down to your children and grandchildren so that they live their best possible lives as well.

 

We believe that aligning your financial plan with these values is every bit as important as analysing your tax position or managing your investments.

 

Come in or call us and see how our interactive tools can you help plan for your whole life and get more from your money than just more money. 

 

 

Empower Yourself by Recognising Your Freedom to Choose

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves” – Viktor Frankl

 

We may not always be able to control the circumstances of a given situation we find ourselves in. But we always have the freedom to choose how we respond. The choice we make – and how we make it – often determines how well we survive the situation, and if we go on to thrive.

If challenges in your family life, your career, or your finances are making you feel powerless, try approaching the challenge from a new angle. This simple three-step process can put you back in touch with your freedom to choose how and why you live your life.

 

  1. Consider your reaction.

 

Take a step back from the problem. Take a breath. Take a walk. Pour yourself a cup of coffee.

 

By creating some space, you’ll be able to ask yourself, “Why am I reacting the way that I’m reacting? Is there a better perspective I could be taking? Am I letting past experiences influence my reaction for better? For worse?”

 

When we feel overwhelmed by a challenge, we often fall back on established patterns in our thinking. Often these default reactions are negative. If we’re arguing with our spouse, we might replay past arguments in the back of our heads. Financial difficulty might trigger memories of our parents struggling with money as we were growing up.

 

Identifying the negative experiences and perspectives that create our immediate reactions to challenges can help us find ways to create more positive and empowering reactions.

 

 

  1. Consider your purpose.

 

Instead of allowing the situation to dictate how you’re responding, push back. Refocus how you choose to respond around the goal that you are trying to accomplish.

 

For example, if your business partner backs out of the new company you’ve been planning to start, that loss of manpower and capital could make you feel defeated and powerless. But the reality is that you are choosing to dwell on negatives that you can’t control.

 

So, what can you control?

 

If you’re really committed to starting your new company, you can choose instead to focus on alternative funding sources. You can reach out to other friends, family, and colleagues about potential partnerships. You can choose to work on Plan B.

 

Another example is the investor who feels powerless as market volatility chips away at his nest egg for a quarter. No, you can’t control the natural disaster or political spat that’s giving the market fits right now. But you can choose to focus on your long-term purpose: a secure retirement for you and your family. That positive thinking and big-picture perspective could prevent a costly knee-jerk reaction.

 

 

  1. Consider your values

 

One of the best ways to drive negative thinking from our reactions is to focus on the things that matter the most to us. Reconnecting our decision making to our values can lead to solutions that make life more fulfilling.

 

Work might be the most common source of challenges in our lives. And while no one loves absolutely everything about their job all the time, it’s worth considering how your job affects your sense of freedom. Do those 40 hours per week give you the financial resources to spend your free time doing what you want with the people you love?  Are your skills and talents utilised in ways that make you feel like you’re making positive contributions? Does your employer have a mission bigger than profit that’s important to you?

 

If your answers are no, no, and no, you can choose to keep dragging yourself out of bed every Monday, resigned to the uninspiring week ahead. Or you can follow your values towards a more empowering choice. Consider a career change. Learn a new skill that will bolster your CV or line you up for a better job at your current employer.

 

If switching careers is really out of the question right now, choose to appreciate the parts of your job that you do well because of your unique skillset. And when you’re not working, make time for the hobbies, interests, and experiences that do fully engage your core values. Who knows? One day these pursuits might lead to exciting new opportunities for you and your family. If you’ve been committed to your values all along, you’ll be ready to make the right choice.

 

 

Are you choosing your best possible life?

 

If you’d like more insights on how you approach challenges and choices in your life please get in touch.

 

 

Is Your Money Being Used to Improve Your Life?

There’s a movement toward redefining money: instead of accumulating money for what it can buy, more of us want to use money to live the best life possible with what we have––a concept known as Return on Life™ (ROL).

With ROL, money becomes a tool to help you live the life you want. Accumulating as much wealth as possible is no longer the primary objective of your financial plan.

The traditional path to saving and investing has been to focus on the future (retirement), and rely solely on numbers and return on investment (ROI). However, this approach often can be misleading because it doesn’t consider your individual circumstances. “Beating the market” is often an artificial objective because it is not likely to have a substantive impact on your unique situation. Consider this: what does beating the market by one percent less (or more) mean to how you live your life? Do market returns have an impact on how you live your life?

 

What is relevant is developing a financial plan that considers the following:

 

• How much do you currently have invested?

 

• What is your current cash flow?

 

• What transitions are you currently experiencing, or expect to experience (examples include paying down debt, divorce, concern about illness, job loss, retirement, purchasing a home, providing financial assistance to a family member)?

 

• Do I feel comfortable with my level of financial obligations (examples include housing expenses, leisure activities, and insurance expenses)?

 

By incorporating these factors into your planning, we can begin to understand what needs to change (or not change) in order to live the best life possible without overextending yourself. You may even be pleasantly surprised to learn you can enjoy the fruits of your labors sooner than expected!

 

Money does not exist for its own sake. Money exists as a utility that we use to improve our lives. How your returns compare to any index, fund, investment category, or another person are less consequential than whether you are meeting your own ROL goals. Measure your success against your objectives, not someone else’s. You don’t need to keep up with the Jones’—or anyone else.

 

In order to enjoy ROL, you need to understand where all your money is coming from and where all your money is going––and why.

 

Understanding the “why” enables us to create a plan that works for you and your individual circumstances. You may be living above your means and need to make changes to your lifestyle. Or you may already have enough, and be able to take a trip or enjoy another experience you have been putting off.

 

Together we can address the following questions:

 

• What challenges and opportunities are you currently facing?

• What key transitions are looming on the horizon?

 

Your answers to these questions will determine the inflow and outflow of money, as well as your financial progress or decline. Knowing your age, and how long you expect to live isn’t enough to develop a financial plan that works.

 

With ROL, you don’t give up the best of life or the best parts of yourself just to get money. The money is there to serve you, not vice versa. Instead of focusing on someone else’s definition of success, write our own. ROL puts quality before quantity by managing your assets in a way that improves your life and provides peace of mind.

 

In traditional financial planning, the primary components include asset, risk, and debt management, as well as tax, estate, and income planning. All of these areas are essential and necessary for a strong financial plan, but there is more to developing a strong financial plan than numbers.

 

We all have different values and principles regarding money. Each of us has a history, present circumstances, and future hopes that are unique. By focusing only on numbers, we miss enjoying life now and in the future because we only concentrate on accumulating wealth. A financial plan designed with ROL as its foundation is designed to build freedom, relieve the pressure of ROI-focused planning, and ensure your plan meets your goals.

 

There is no greater freedom, and no greater wealth, than living the best life you can with the money you have.

 

 

Don’t Just Work for Money, Work for meaning

In a recent survey of 12,000 workers worldwide conducted by the Energy Project, only 50% of respondents found meaning in their jobs (1). Imagine spending 40 hours a week doing meaningless work. It’s soul-sucking, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

 

We understand why so many people stick with jobs that don’t provide meaning—it’s the money.

 

And working “for the money” is not all bad. Having financial security so we can provide for our families is obviously a worthy reason.

 

However, as important as money is, feeling that the work we do is meaningful matters too. It’s better for our health. It’s better for our relationships. And it just makes getting up in the morning much more desirable.

 

In an article in The Atlantic, author and cultural commentator David Brooks said, “There is no income level at which people are not desperate for meaning.” (2)

 

The good news is, there are proactive things we can do to derive more meaning from our work.

 

For some of us, finding that meaning in work might require a company or career change. For others, it could be as simple as reframing how we think about our current jobs and finding new ways to engage our talents. Here are a few strategies for maximising your sense of meaning from 9 to 5.

 

Craft a new job out of your current job.

 

Hospital custodian isn’t a job that most people would consider meaningful, or even desirable. But Amy Wrzesniewski, now a professor at the Yale School of Management, found that many of the custodians she talked to didn’t consider their jobs low skilled or unfulfilling (3). Instead, they felt they were part of a team that was helping people get better. They may not have been performing surgery or prescribing drugs, but they believed their job was an important part of a bigger process.

 

In addition to basic cleaning duties, these custodians also went out of their way to bond with patients and visitors. They talked to unvisited patients, and even kept in touch with some after they were discharged. Rather than trying to find a different job, these custodians had crafted a more meaningful job out of their assigned work.

 

The job crafting concept can provide a new perspective on the work you do (4). Your current job might provide opportunities for expression, connection, and creativity that you never realized were there. Try to reconfigure your approach to daily work tasks around these opportunities.

 

Focus on WHY, not what.

 

It’s easy to get so bogged down in the things we have to do at work that we lose sight of why we do them. It can be helpful to your sense of meaning to consider the end result of your work, especially as it impacts other people.

 

For those happy hospital custodians, the Why was helping the ill. Your Why doesn’t have to be that altruistic – although, somewhere at the end of all that paperwork and accounting there’s a person with a need you helped fill, a problem you helped solve, an experience of joy you helped deliver.

 

Your Why could be the meaning you find from engaging your unique skillset. Instead of sagging under the weight of all that copy you have to edit, appreciate how your work engages your writing skills. Maybe a problem along the company’s supply chain engages your critical thinking. The company itself could also be your Why, if you’re working for a business that has a mission that you really believe in. You could also find a meaningful Why in the social bonds you create with the people you work with and the customers who rely on your products and services.

 

Examine your mindset.

 

If adopting a new mindset about your work doesn’t help you find more meaning … try examining your mindsets.

 

Business writer Dan Pontefract believes that we have three distinct ways of thinking about our work as it relates to our sense of meaning (5):

 

The Job Mindset is a “paycheck mentality,” in which people perform their jobs purely for compensation.

The Career Mindset is triggered when we focus on advancement: making more money, getting that big promotion, increasing our power or sphere of influence.

 

Finally, the Purpose Mindset engages our feelings of passion, innovation, and commitment, and an outward-looking focus on serving your employer as a whole.

 

Pontefract recommends spending a week tracking your mindset. At the end of every day, write down approximately how much time you’ve spent in the Job, Career, and Purpose mindsets. At the end of the week, tally up the totals.

 

What do these numbers tell you about your mindset at work? Are you spending the majority of your time grinding towards that Friday paycheck, or looking for ways to get ahead? How does your time spent in the Job and Career mindsets compare to the time you spend in the Purpose mindset? Can you use job crafting to adjust your mindset and focus your energy more on how your work contributes to something bigger than money?

 

If you can’t balance out these mindsets in a way that allows you to find more meaning in your work, you might need to talk to your boss about adjusting your role. Or you might need to explore new career paths. Either way, we’d be happy to discuss this with you and help you position your financial resources to support your decision. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss in more detail.

 

Sources

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/opinion/sunday/why-you-hate-work.html?_r=1
  2. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/07/meaning-work-happiness-brooks/489920/
  3. https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/what-you-can-learn-about-career-satisfaction-from-a-hospital-janitor.html
  4. http://positiveorgs.bus.umich.edu/cpo-tools/job-crafting-exercise/
  5. https://hbr.org/2016/05/youre-never-done-finding-purpose-at-work

A Simple Plan to Achieve More in Life and Feel Good About the Results

We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in the short-term and underestimate what we can accomplish in the long-term. The frustration that results is one big reason why so many New Year’s resolutions die before Spring.

 

But if you use these key strategies that are supported by deeply-held values – and science!  –  you’ll set better goals, achieve them, and feel better about yourself while doing so.

 

Know your values.

 

Knowing your values can provide real clarity on what you want to achieve in your life.

 

So ask yourself, what’s important to you? What makes you excited to get up in the morning? What are the passions and interests that fill your time when you’re not working? Who are the people you do those things with?

 

Another way to explore your values is to try new things. For example, volunteering at your local church or community center might reveal a passion for teaching or philanthropy that you never knew you had. These active experiments can become even more important as you age and start thinking about how you’ll stay happy and engaged in retirement.

 

Align your goals with your values.

 

Behavioral scientists have found that achieving goals is rarely a matter of ability or knowledge. For example, a person who wants to lose weight knows that eating ice cream with hot fudge five nights a week is not compatible with weight loss. Yet, the reason they keep downing that ice cream is often due to a lack of motivation. They might feel the immediate pleasure from the ice cream outweighs (no pun intended) the longer-term result of no weight loss, or worse, weight gain.

 

The more important a goal is to us, the more motivated we are to achieve it. Asking “Why?” can help you align your goals with your values and increase that motivational component:

 

  • Why should you stop eating ice cream five nights a week? Because I want to be healthier.
  • Why do you want to be healthier? So that I can live a longer and more active life.
  • Why do you want to live longer and be more active? So that I can do more things with my children and grandchildren.

 

Now we’ve identified core values – health and family – that are tied to the goal. These values will make the goal more important, and more likely to be reached.

 

Develop an action plan.

 

Asking “Why?” helps us move our goal-setting to a higher, value-driven space.

 

Asking “How?” helps us drill down into specific actions we can take to achieve those goals.

 

“I want to lose weight” is the sort of goal many people set and then abandon. That’s because it’s too unspecific. You can’t just “lose weight”

every day until you hit your desired number.

 

So ask yourself, “How am I going to lose weight?” An answer like, “I’m going to exercise more” is closer, but still not actionable enough.

 

So how are you going to exercise more? Take a bike ride through your neighborhood every morning? Jog for 30 minutes after work three days every week?

 

Those are small but solid steps that you can use to develop an action plan. You might even go a little further and join a gym, start a neighborhood walk group, or hire a coach to add an extra layer of accountability and keep you on track. And yes, cut out the ice cream and hot fudge!

 

Measuring is Motivating.

 

Whatever goal you set, try to keep score. It could be as simple as pulling out a piece of blank paper and putting a checkmark on it for each day you don’t eat ice cream. We find that the act of keeping score creates its own momentum and can be like a “pat on the back” for a job well done.

 

Be resilient.

 

Even a perfectly-set, highly-motivated goal will be challenging. Some lazy Saturday you’ll snooze past your workout. You’ll cheat on your diet. An unexpected home repair might throw off your budgeting goals for the month. But that’s ok! We’re all human. Roll with it that day but then get right back to your plan.

 

All goals and personal improvements require effort. The grit we need to get over those inevitable humps is its own kind of skill that you can cultivate. Try to push yourself above and beyond your smaller targets. Welcome and accept feedback and criticism that can make you perform better. Prepare yourself to do better tomorrow when your alarm goes off.

 

And most importantly, stay positive. If your goals truly are aligned with your values, then working towards them shouldn’t feel like punishment. When you experience setbacks, try to embrace them as learning opportunities and adjust your action plan accordingly. And here’s an important piece of advice–when you hit small milestones on your way to big goals, treat yourself. We can all use a little positive reinforcement.

 

We’re here to help you.

 

What you aspire to achieve may require a financial commitment. Please contact us and we can discuss your particular situation and see how we can help you get on a faster path to achieving your life’s aspirations.

 

Sources

https://www.belayadvisor.com/behavior/

https://99u.adobe.com/articles/55219/true-grit-how-to-build-up-your-resilience

Are You Living Your Life On Purpose?

Why, day in and day out, do you do the things that you do?

Because you have to? Because you want to? Because you’ve had the same routine for years and you’re used to it?

If you feel like your life is something that just happens to you, it’s time to reassess how you’re spending your time. Financial security, stability, and creature comforts are all important. But feeling that your life has purpose will become more and more critical to your emotional and physical well-being as you age — especially when you finally retire.

 

A healthy sense of purpose. 

 

Research into the area of human well-being draws a distinction between happiness (experiencing pleasure and avoiding pain) and the feelings of meaning and self-worth that we derive from our lives (1).

 

Too often, we focus on the former and neglect the latter. This is why the sheen wears off so quickly from a big-ticket purchase. Buying a new car or big-screen TV gives us a quick hit of pleasure. But sooner rather than later, new things become just more things that we’ve accumulated. Once that initial happiness evaporates, we find there’s no additional layer – no purpose – to improve our well-being.

 

Researchers have also found that people who feel like their lives have purpose live longer and show decreased risk of cardiovascular problems (2). And as you age and prepare for retirement, living with purpose helps to limit your risk of cognitive problems, such as Alzheimer’s (3).

 

The purpose of work and family.

 

Most of us tie purpose to the things that we spend the majority of our time doing: working and raising our families. Again, it’s important to draw a distinction between simple happiness and purpose.

 

A doctor who has to deal with ill people and mortality might not consider her job “happy” all the time. But helping people gives her that critical sense of purpose that rounds out her feelings of well-being.

 

Taking care of children will, at times, make even the most patient parents want to pull their own hair out. But feelings of love, connection, and responsibility make both happy family vacations and frustrating afternoons in timeout purposeful.

 

If you feel like your life is lacking purpose, start by looking for misalignment in these two areas. Is your job “just a job” that pays the bills? How could you pivot to a career that uses your unique gifts and skills to create purpose? Or are you working so hard that you’re missing key family events, which are also critical to your sense of purpose? Are there ways to improve your work-life balance?

 

It’s never too late.

 

Many people believe that living and giving generously with their time, talents, and/or finances is a luxury they can’t afford, especially once children, mortgage payments, and college tuition enter the picture. However, research indicates that senior citizens frequently cite “dying with their music still in them” as one of the biggest areas of regret when they look back on their lives, meaning, chances they didn’t take, ideas they never pursued, or opportunities they watched pass by. It’s not money they’re regretting, it’s the sense of purpose they missed out on that would have improved their Return on Life.

 

Of course, not everybody can have that “perfect” job. But even in those situations, think of it not so much about the work you do, but “who you bring” to the work you do. Find ways to bring purpose to even the most mundane jobs and how that work is helping others.

 

And it’s never to late to find that purpose. Even seniors can discover new passions that will give their golden years purpose if they approach retirement with an active, enthusiastic mindset.

 

If you’re having trouble getting started, try asking yourself, “Why do I get out of bed in the morning?”

 

Is it to take care of your family? If so, then consider planning a family vacation for the summer. Coaching your child’s youth sports team. Turning dinner time into a group cooking activity. Or setting a regular monthly date night with your spouse.

 

If you find purpose in helping those in need, consider finding a volunteer position for a few hours a week.

 

Do you like to express yourself? Then perhaps start a blog or a digital photography website that you can work on in your free time. Turn that spare bedroom into a craft room.

 

And if you think your purpose is simply to make more money? Well, then maybe you need to start asking yourself better questions. Remember, money is a means, not an end.

 

We encourage you to come in and talk to us so that we can start a new dialogue about how your financial plan can help you get the best, most purposeful life possible with the money you have.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11148302
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26630073
  3. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/210648