It is Sunday night, and I’m planning for the week ahead. It will be busy at the office as my husband and I are leaving on Friday to visit his family in Washington, D.C. I just finished a call with my daughter who is in Kansas City, having just started her first job out of college. She mentioned that she’d love to join us in D.C., but… could we help out by paying for the plane ticket? So we went online and…
$650 for a round trip ticket! You’d think that people in Kansas City don’t get to our nation’s capital that much. Previously, I would have agonized a bit, then said nope, too expensive, she’ll have to join us next time. However, today I decided to buy the ticket. What changed? How was I able to make the decision so quickly?
I applied my “Investing in Your Values” principles. Let me tell you how this came about...
Determining my Values
A few months ago, I attended a Women and Wealth conference, hosted by Dimensional Fund Advisors. The purpose was to network with other women financial advisors, to share best practices, and to gain insight into our own lives.
One of the sessions was about determining your core values. These values, we were told, are the things that are most important in our lives - such as family, meaningful work, community, charity, status, time, flexibility, education and health.
I was a little skeptical. I felt like I knew my values, and I was unsure what this session would teach me. We were told to dress comfortably, no phones, and that the “circle” would last several hours. No calls, texts, or emails… Would it be a waste of time?
We were given a journal and asked a variety of questions. Time flew by, and it was over before I knew it. I gained quite a bit more than I had expected. Values of mine surfaced, which explain decisions I have made recently. In the last eighteen months, I have taken on the role of chairing a major capital campaign for my synagogue. Given the added work, the late-night emails, the endless meetings… I have asked myself why? (Others have asked as well!) This session answered that for me... community and philanthropy are core values in my life.
I was inspired. I started thinking about the wealth management industry and my financial advisory practice. There is no shortage of thoughts on effective ways to invest, top managers, market predictions, planning methods, and so on. Everyone has a point of view. Yet something is missing. Values are rarely mentioned.
For more than 30 years, I have been helping clients meet their goals and objectives, offering the peace of mind that comes with a good financial plan. Our firm has the latest technology, Monte Carlo financial planning simulations and top tier money management partners. Our staff includes CFPs, CPAs, and attorneys. I become the Family CFO for clients. We thoroughly discuss each important financial decision they need to make. But what if we added values to our conversations?
The Values Experiment
So, I tried an experiment over the last few months. In addition to discussing portfolios and financial plans, I started asking clients about their values. The response was overwhelming - this is the missing puzzle piece! Many of them had never thought about values and how they tie into their financial - and life - plan. Many couples have never had a conversation about values. One couple laughed and said that “they spent more time on the color of their new car than discussing their values”.
- A husband and wife both work more than 40 hours a week, own two homes and expensive cars. Through these discussions, they realized that they missed the freedom they had when they were younger. They felt tied down to their jobs and possessions. We worked together to come up with a five year plan to simplify their lives.
- Another client identified finding more meaning in her work as a value. She had been at the same job for several years. Though enjoyable, it was not fulfilling. Could she transition to a non-profit organization at a lower salary? We worked on her budget, and she began a job search. It’s a trade-off, but by paring certain expenses this value could be achieved. An added benefit - I have never seen her more energized and excited!
- Another client’s daughter just had a baby and was living in California. As a new parent, the daughter needed help, and as a new grandparent, my client wanted to be there for her expanding family. But, she has always been very frugal and was hesitant to rent an apartment in California. Once we quantified the cost, we added it as a new line item in her financial plan. She realized she could afford it and gave herself permission to spend time with her daughter and granddaughter. She recently emailed a picture of all of them together, and there were smiles from ear to ear.
Join the “Investing in Your Values” Journey
There are many more examples I will share in the future. Some relate to life-changing events, and some are more day-to-day such as… spending $650 on a plane ticket for my daughter.
I now use my values as a guide for decisions with my time and money. I often give myself permission to spend on my values, such as family (my daughter joining the trip) while I have reduced spending on things that aren't as important. Those who know me often hear my mantra - “you can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want.”
Time and money are two valuable resources. Once you identify your values, you will have your own roadmap for the best use of both.
What are your values? Over the next few blogs, I will offer a series of exercises to help you think about this question. Let’s begin the “Investing in Your Values” journey together.