Money is a Means, Not an End

Raise your hand if you would like more money (or just keep staring at your computer screen). Keep your hand raised if you have a clear idea for what values money allows you to honor. Most people don't take time to think about their financial picture in terms of how it fits with their fundamental principles. Money is not about buying stuff - it is about what that stuff can ultimately create for you. In that sense, it is a means, not an end. It doesn't mean anything to "have more money" if you don't know how it will make your life better.

For example, I recently bought a condo. It cost me a lot of money. Why did I buy it? Because it honors two key values of mine: freedom and independence. Living on my own and supporting myself are important to me, and the condo helps me build a financial future that will hopefully allow for the freedom to travel and worry just a little less about how to put a roof over my (and my eventual family's head).

It can be really challenging to connect "stuff" with values. To do so, I encourage you to keep asking "what does this provide" or "why is this important to me" until you feel like you can't go any further. If you're one of those people that said yes to wanting more money - why? Let's go through another example. I want more money so I can buy a new wardrobe. What's important to me about a new wardrobe? It would allow me to dress more professionally at work. What does that provide? A sense of professionalism, which would lead to greater confidence.

Everyone's value chain in different, but the point of this exercise is understand the big picture of how money can lead to greater fulfillment, without being so driven by the actual stuff that it pays for.

I also want to distinguish here between values and goals.

  • Goals are specific, measurable objectives that you want to achieve by a certain time.
  • Values are more abstract - they are the general guiding principles by which you live your life. Some examples include freedom, happiness, service, creativity, security, accomplishment, integrity, excellence and many more.

This site has a great list of personal values to get your juices flowing. You may want to circle the values that jump out at you, then narrow your list to ten, and finally rank your top five (sounds easier than it is when you have to actually rank them). Identifying your values can help you develop a framework for making financial decisions in the future. Money can certainly help you buy things and ultimately achieve your goals, and I challenge you to connect those goals to the values that you hold.