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Money Values and Well Being by Beth Jones, RLP®

When asked what a financial life planner does, I often reply that I help people integrate their money and their life. But what does that really mean? We help clients create financial plans that are more than just numbers. We actually include “you” in the plan. We are interested in what motivates you in life…what are your fundamental values? What are your dreams for a life worth living?

Each of us is motivated to move our lives in certain directions. That motivation is determined by the values we subscribe to. Our values are the foundation of our thoughts, the expression of what is important to us about life. These ideals are then reinforced by our emotions and feelings, which in turn become our vital passions that we strive to realize in our lives.

Without values or beliefs, we would be like mechanical beings, compelled to action solely by our basic human urges. In this reality devoid of values, we would live unconscious lives, without meaning or purpose. On the other hand, when we absorb our values, we live a purposeful and dynamic existence. we become truly human. When we actually make a plan and implement it, a fulfilled life can be the result.

So, how much money is enough? Some people might give this question a flippant answer like, ‘A lot more than I have!” Others might argue there is a fixed income or asset level that ‘should” be enough. But of course, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The first step to finding out how much is enough is to put away your calculator and take a holistic view of your well-being.

Well-being is comprised of three factors: prosperity, happiness, and health. Prosperity is financial well-being, health is physical well-being, and happiness is emotional well-being. We simply cannot answer the question of how much money is enough without considering the components of happiness and health.

Research has verified that having enough money to comfortably meet our basic needs is related to happiness. Yet the accumulation of money in and of itself rarely brings happiness. Many of us know people who have set financial goals: “When I earn $100,000 a year or have a net worth of $500,000, I&srquo;ll be happy.” But, somehow, as they attain that goal, they often say they will actually be happy when they have more.

Happiness is not entirely determined by the amount of money we have, but rather what we do with our money. In my experience, true happiness comes from living an authentic life free from control by others in which our lifestyle is congruent with our values.

The first things you may think of that make you happy are activities such as having a good meal or glass of wine, shopping, a new car or home, a vacation, or a romantic rendezvous with that special person. These are all pleasures that give us a short-term boost of endorphins but are not long-lasting. Psychologists tell us that sustainable happiness comes from gratifications, which are long-lasting activities that challenge our personal talents, strengths and abilities.

The questions then become: What challenges you? What activities do you engage in that make time seem to stand still? That leave you energized and fulfilled? Answering these questions takes some focus and time. While we’re defining the goals and activities that will gratify us, we also need to be making a living. The challenge is to be sure that accumulating money doesn’t become a goal in itself.

Here are a few ways to help your life planning and your wealth-building support each other in a balanced way:

  • Keep plenty of cash on hand for emergencies and short-term needs.
  • Pay off those credit cards and strive to maintain a “zero” balance.
  • Develop the habit of living on less than you make, so you don’t find yourself using up precious time and energy supporting a lifestyle you don’t really want.
  • Learn the basics of investing and focus your investments on long term goals.
  • Don’t get pulled into attempts to make money in a hurry through high-risk speculation or trading individual stocks.
  • Invest in an education that supports your life plan.
  • Each day, do one thing to move your plan forward, even if it feels insignificant.

Health, some would say, is out of our hands, based solely on our genes. Others have disproved that theory by living a clean, healthy life and including their family history in the planning, such that they are taking necessary precautions. If an illness or condition presents itself, we are then better able to address it proactively and continue to adapt to the circumstances at hand. Some have reported that their health improves when they are living their plan.

We can energize our lives by taking the action to implement the values we subscribe to. Once we identify values that are meaningful to us, we can develop strategies to implement them. When we make the determined effort to implement those strategies, good fortune is sure to follow in the form of new opportunities, new sources of revenue and income, and other forms of material and psychological benefits.

Which profession can really help people to obtain all three components—prosperity, health, and happiness that constitute well-being? In my experience it is comprehensive financial life planning. A true financial plan is a blueprint for using all your resources—including money—to create and support your fulfilled life. Are you living a life of integrity that is aligned with your values?

Beth Jones, RLP® is a Registered Life Planner and Financial Consultant with Third Eye Associates, Ltd, a Registered Investment Adviser located at 38 Spring Lake Road in Red Hook, NY. She can be reached at 845-752-2216 or Securities offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC.

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