In 2009, Simon Sinek started a revolution. It wasn’t started with bombs or bullets, but with an idea, a TEDx talk, and a best-selling book titled, Start with Why. His idea was that good leaders inspire people to act by giving them a sense of purpose or belonging – a “why.” Motivated by a sense of purpose, Sinek reasoned, people can do amazing things. They can accomplish the impossible. They can endure the unbearable. They can stay optimistic and engaged when others around them are disheartened and alienated. Much of the darkness in the world would be eliminated, if people could gain a greater sense of the why in their daily lives.
I saw the power of why during a recent trip to Bellevue, Washington as I visited with a man who is dealing with the ravages of an aggressive form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. In a matter of months, Kevin went from a relatively normal life to near constant pain and very limited mobility. His prognosis is grim. He knows he will eventually face paralysis, the inability to speak, eat, and even breathe. Eventually, he will die. Despite his enormous challenges, Kevin and his wife find the strength to endure this trial bravely in their faith and in their family, which includes several children and grandchildren. Faith and family are their why.
Understanding our why can also be important as we deal with the more mundane aspects of life. For example, saving for retirement sometimes requires that we forego fun and exciting things today so that we can live the lives we want in the future. The denial of now can be hard at times. Several years ago, my wife and I lived in Minneapolis with our five young children. One March, our 12-year-old daughter asked us why we didn’t spend spring break in Hawaii like her friends. With temperatures in the low-teens I wondered the same thing, but I knew the answer. My wife and I were saving for the future, including college for our kids and our retirement. If we were going to reach those goals, Hawaii would have to wait. It wasn’t necessarily what I “wanted” in that moment, but our why made our decision clear. (By the way, I’m not sure that why satisfied my daughter, but she now appreciates the education that decision and others like it made possible.)
If you are struggling to keep your financial goals on track, maybe the solution is to get a clearer focus on your why. Here are nine questions you can ask yourself to help you clarify your financial why. If you are married or have a significant other, you might find it enlightening to consider these questions together.
- If I knew I were going to die tomorrow, what would I regret not doing today?
- If it were in my power, what would I change right now to bring greater financial peace to my life?
- How does my relationship with money affect my relationships with others?
- If I knew my needs would be met for the rest of my life, how would I change the way I spend my money?
- How do I want my children and grandchildren to remember me when I am gone?
- Which possibility is more troubling to me: missing life’s experiences today or facing financial uncertainty later?
- What was the last item I regretted purchasing?
- Three years from now, when I look back, how will I know that I am making the financial progress I desire?
- In the last 12 months, how much money have I given to causes I care about?
Steven C. Merrell MBA, CFP®, AIF® is a Partner at Monterey Private Wealth, Inc., a Wealth Management Firm in Monterey. He welcomes questions that you may have about investments, taxes, retirement, or estate planning. Send your questions to: Steve Merrell, 2340 Garden Road Suite 202, Monterey, CA 93940 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.