How One Concept Can Simplify All of Your Money Decisions

December 15, 2015

Connect Member

Personal finance expert at Creative Money: a resource for gaining clarity & confidence about money.

Have you ever felt stymied by a big financial decision? Have you waffled between, “Should I?” and, “Shouldn’t I?” until you were frustrated and overwhelmed? You’re not alone: We’ve all done it.

What if I told you that you could make one decision now that would simplify all of your financial decisions for the next 12 months?  Would you be interested? (Silly question, right? Of course you would!). Well, it’s possible. I call this decision your Chief Initiative, a values and goals statement that you can think of as true north for your finances.

Plan Your Year In Minutes
I recently met a husband and wife who were not only on different pages about their finances, but also in entirely different books. The husband had very different life goals from his wife’s. He wanted to borrow money to start a business, move to a new house, switch jobs, and so on. She, on the other hand, was nervous about so much change.

I asked them both to identify their biggest life value — their Chief Initiative. Interestingly, they both stated family. Eureka! They had found common ground.

Knowing their Chief Initiative helped them focus every financial decision. It narrowed their choices from a place where everything was possible to a place where it was easy to see whether a decision was in line with their values or not.

For example, the idea of borrowing money and starting a new business meant more financial instability, as well as time away from family and the possibility of uprooting their kids. When the decision was put in that light, it was obviously a no-go. It was also easy for the husband to see that he should take a job he’d been offered that would allow him to work from home and still pick up the kids from school and be heavily involved in the family.  

The couple’s Chief Initiative was only one word — family — but the effect it had on their ability to come together and make tough decisions was incredibly powerful.

Decide on Your Chief Initiative
You may already know your Chief Initiative. For many people, it’s an undeniable gut feeling. They already know what their strongest values are: things like family, charity, stability, or prosperity. For others, however, a single value doesn’t necessarily come to mind right away. If you’re in that position — maybe you have several and are struggling to choose, or maybe you don’t have any — these questions can help guide you to select one Chief Initiative to focus on:

  • What’s causing you stress in your life? It’s likely that you’re feeling stressed by something because it runs counter to a core value.
  • What is most important to you in your life? I’m talking about the thing you would do, or want, or believe, no matter what. If money were no object and no obstacle, what would you focus on?
  • How do you want to feel? Danielle LaPorte is onto something when she talks about her Core Desired Feelings idea, and it can be used to describe your values as well. Maybe you want to feel free, responsible, honest, spiritual, or abundant. That feeling can guide your decision.

If you want some additional inspiration, check out this extended list of values as a starting place. Once you’ve chosen your Chief Initiative, you can further validate it by asking yourself, “What does my value mean to me?” The most amazing thing about this process is that there is no right or wrong answer. You value what you value — period.

Use Your Chief Initiative to Guide Future Decisions
Once you’ve defined your Chief Initiative, it will be your scale on which every decision can be weighed. No matter what financial decisions you’re facing, you can work through them with a single question: “Does this support my Chief Initiative?”

It narrows things down to a very focused, single question that you can quickly and easily answer whenever you’re not sure if something is right for you.

Mindy Crary is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.