What Does Money Mean to You?

What does money mean to you? Whether you are in a relationship or not, you are in a relationship with your money whether you spend a lot of time consciously thinking about it or not. Even if finances are the neglected step-child in your personal life, it is still there and your mindset and relationship to it is running the show.

Several years ago I asked colleague and Savvy Ladies Founder Stacy Francis what is one financial book she really likes that she would recommend I read. She suggested I read “Smart Women Finish Rich” by David Bach. I must admit that I let this one sit on my shelf for a year or two before I recently dusted it off. It has been my “morning read” book with breakfast the past few weeks. In the book Bach starts with the most important question you can ask yourself : What is Important About Money to You? He then uses this question to guide the reader through the Values Ladder exercise which is taken from the book “Values Based Financial Planning” by Bill Bacharach.

Lucky for me this conversation is not new. When I hired my most recent financial planner several years ago the first thing we did when I met her was to march through the values ladder exercise in Bacharach’s book. For me it was the first time I ever thought about money in this way. No surprise that it coincided with my foray into the coaching profession. It was like the world was conspiring to get me aligned with my own values first before I launched into helping others.

The values ladder is a brilliant coaching tool that asks the question “what is important about money to me?”. The key to getting at the heart of the matter is that your answers need to be values based, not goals based. That means your answers look something like “security”, “freedom”, “adventure”, “confidence”, “peace of mind”, etc. Those are values based answers. As opposed to goals based answers like “pay off my credit card debt”, “buy a new home”, or “save $X for retirement”. Now goals are important, but I can assure you that if you put the cart (goals) before the horse (values) you are building your financial future on unstable ground. Orienting your life around goals is unfulfilling and uninspiring. Orienting your life around your values leads to a sustainable pull forward toward your goals while living more fully right here, right now.

So, back to the example… I would answer the question “what is important about money to me?” with “security – peace of mind”. That’s great, but it doesn’t dig deep enough. As a coach I know the real good stuff, the answers with the power to radically shift our relationship with money often lie deeper than the first answer or two. As a result, this exercise keeps asking the question – “what is important about?”. So in this case the next question would be – “what is important about security-peace of mind?” I might answer “freedom with no constraints”. Again, a great values based answer but there is more to it. So you keep asking the question “what is important about…” until you have reached your final answer – the one that can’t be mined any further. In my exercise I ended up with “self-actualization” and “living fully”. In some of the exercises in the book people ended with “making a difference/helping others” or “living fully with my family right now”. The end point looks different to everyone.

The point of this exercise is to get clear on what is really important to you about money. Then armed with this knowledge you can delve into the more goal-oriented and action plan oriented steps of financial planning. More importantly, you can take a hard look at what is important to you about money and whether or not your current life is aligned with what is most important. For instance, if “being with family and friends” is your most important value and you’re spending 80 hours a week commuting and working your life is not congruent with what really matters. That can come as a shock and leave you feeling powerful emotions.

Part of the reason why people avoid these types of exercises and want to launch right to the how-tos is because of how scary and painful it can be to discover that your life is out of whack. Yet awareness is the first step toward a more inspiring future, so why not wake up today rather than years down the road or when you find yourself face to face with illness or death?

Want help with a smarter way for creating more profit in your business that is aligned with your values? Contact me for a discovery session to see how to make that a reality for you.

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Google+ Comments


  1. For me, money is necessary for meeting day to day expenses for myself and my family. But its not just confined to expenses and it includes some savings in meeting unpredictable future and giving a helping hand to those in need.

  2. In today's world, without money you cannot survive as its the sole medium of exchange unlike the barter system which was used centuries ago. It does not mean money is everything, though its a great necessity in serving the purpose.

  3. I always love the comments I get on these posts. It cracks me up that anyone thinks that I want or advocate trying to survive without money. Heck no.. it is a wonderful thing and as Stefanie points out – a great necessity to serve what I hope is a bigger purpose or a bigger game in life.

    What I do believe is that it is our relationship to money (and to ourselves) that tips money to either enable or disable us.

  4. I loved David Bach's books, too, although a friend had to twist my arm to get me to read them. 🙂 It was the values piece that jumped out at me as well, and that has continued to inform my financial planning on both deep & practical levels.


  1. […] year and every year the best way to get started with your financial goals is to answer the question “What Does Money Mean to Me?” Money is just money (what a revelation!!). There are plenty of poor people who are wildly happy and […]

How to Prioritize When Everything is a Priority

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