Everyone has personal values that have shaped and formed over the years through their experiences, relationships, and education. Unfortunately, many people struggle with finding happiness simply because their actions and values aren’t aligned.
For example, someone who wants to be debt-free shops and racks up a big credit card bill. Or someone who wants to transfer their wealth to their kids has yet to set up a will.
If you want to feel in control over your finances and feel good about your relationship with money, focusing on your financial values is essential. Positively and actively aligning your money with your values can shape money decisions that will make you happy and financially secure.
Too many of us live life to keep up with the Joneses. Whether it’s the way you were brought up or societal influences, you may have predetermined notions about how you should spend your money.
Keeping up with what society thinks you should spend your money on often harms your money values and creates a divide between your decisions and what is essential to you.
Aligning your money with your values starts by understanding your feelings and desires. Are your values yours or someone else’s?
There are several ways you can align your money with your values; here are the three most common:
The best way to start is by aligning your values with your spending. Values-based budgeting is an opportunity to illustrate what things you find important in your life. To begin this process, I recommend discovering your values.
For example, what brings you the most value, what makes you get out of bed every day, or what brings you happiness? Once you have determined your values, review your monthly spending to see if it matches. For example, if you would like to be eco-friendly, buy a compost bin or save to buy an EV car.
Pro Tip: When evaluating your spending, consider the items on your credit card statement that don’t bring you joy. For example, if you have a subscription that you don’t use regularly, cancel it. Find ways to replace the expenses that don’t bring you joy with ones that do.
If you are passionate about supporting organizations and causes that matter to you, consider adding charitable giving into your monthly budget to make it part of your routine spending. Consistent giving can positively impact how you view money and make you feel more confident about other money decisions.
Before donating, run your charity through a Charity Navigator to ensure it’s not a scam or doesn’t use its donations for causes you wouldn’t support.
Pro tip: Being part of the process to see what your money is helping to accomplish can improve your happiness. For example, gifting assets to family while you are alive can allow you to spend more time as a family and instill the value of giving.
Values-based investing, like ESG and SRI investing, helps people focus on investing their money in companies that make a positive impact. In other words, your investment portfolio would be built to reflect your values while supporting your long-term goals.
For example, if you are passionate about being eco-friendly, you can invest in companies that use renewable energy and limit waste. In the beginning, value-based investing can be complicated. If this is the case, take it slow and invest 1 or 2% of your portfolio in one or two companies that match your values.
Pro Tip: Don’t limit your investing to big companies. Investing in start-ups, local businesses, or your community can be an excellent opportunity to give back and actively be involved in the investment.
Although you may already know your values, talking to a friend or family member can be helpful if you need help determining your values. Once you have defined your values, select a few that are most important to you.
Evaluate your expenses and categorize them to match the values that you have identified. If most of your expenses don’t match your values, values-based budgeting can help you become more thoughtful about your spending.
As our lives change, it’s natural for values to shift as well. Consider setting a date every year to reflect on your values and evaluate what is most important to you. There’s nothing wrong with making a few tweaks or starting new.
Do your finances reflect your goals and values? If not, how would you change it?