Everyone has a unique perspective on life. When first meeting with a financial advisor, you should share as much as possible about your personal goals and concerns so his or her recommendations will be consistent with your desires. You must clearly articulate what you want most so you can use your priorities as a measuring stick. If you don’t know what you want, how can you effectively decide what to do?
Lewis Carroll masterfully captured this concept in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in which Alice asks the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
What Are Your Priorities?
Here are some examples of what I have articulated as my biggest priorities in life:
- To be at peace with God, other people, and myself.
- To have great relationships with my wife, children, extended family and friends (in that order).
- To help improve the lives of other people as much as possible through my profession and through community and church service.
- To live a long, healthy, fun life!
On the surface, it may appear that these objectives have nothing to do with financial decisions, but they are actually very closely linked. For example, to be at peace with God, other people, and myself, I must be honest in all of my financial dealings. This means that I do not borrow more money than I know I can repay, I pay my bills on time, and I would rather starve than earn a living dishonestly. I strive to maintain a great relationship with my family by choosing a more conservative lifestyle that does not require me to work 80 hours a week. That way I can spend plenty of time with them and take time off when necessary to attend important family events. I also involve them in purchasing decisions to be sure that I am not sacrificing their wants or needs for what I want to buy.
Some of my personal financial decisions have helped me fulfill these priorities, but others have not. Obviously these are very general goals that are hard to quantify, but I still like to measure my decisions against these to be sure they are always consistent with my primary objectives. After you know your main goals, you can break them down into more specific components that support your main objectives.
Whatever your greatest priorities may be, my purpose is to help you make wise financial decisions so you will be able to attain them.
How to Discover Your Priorities
Don’t worry about knowing what’s most important. Just take a few minutes right now and make a list of everything you want “most”. Some of these things might be financial things like “own a home” but others might be less concrete, like “make sure my children are safe and secure.”
Once you’ve listed as many as you can think of, take a new sheet of paper and prioritize them in order of importance. This ordered list of priorities can become a road map for your future financial decisions.
Adam Dawson, CFP® is a Principal at Capstone Capital and the author of Timeless Principles of Financial Security.
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