Money is a tool, not a goal

Is money a tool or the goal? Read about a different way to think about money and your happiness.

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"I want more money."

"I need to save more money."

"I wish I had more money."

I hear these phrases all the time—and I'm guilty of saying them, too. While it's natural to think this way, doing so only creates more stress around money. When we look at more money as the ultimate goal, we will never feel satisfied that we have enough. However, when viewed as a means to an end, we realize that we can afford anything.

When Is More Money Enough Money?

Money is everywhere in society. That's a fact, not a judgment. It helps us function daily. Whether you use it to pay your mortgage or to cover your commuting expenses, money is essential for most people. We also want those nice-to-have elements like travel and a social life, which require more money.

It's not surprising that We. Focus. On. Money. All. The. Time.

I've never met anyone who can't generate a list of things on which they would spend money if provided the means to do so. From this standpoint, it's logical to think that we must need more money to live a fulfilling life. The challenge we face is actually wrapping our mind around the concept of "more money." What does that mean and how do we know when we achieve "more"?

Understanding Your Commitments and Values

Dream with me for a minute. Step outside your current financial circumstances and make a list of what you would do with $100,000,000 this week. The amount is arbitrary—the point is to picture a specific, yet tough to fathom, amount. Now, make another list of what you would do with an additional $100,000,000 next week. How about the following week?

The point of this exercise is to help us clear our minds of the material items and instant gratification experiences that clutter our thinking when we view the world with a finite money supply.

Eventually, we will exhaust our list of what we want, which leaves us free to focus on the things that we are truly committed to in our lives.

Once we have everything that we think we need, we begin to focus on what matters to us. We focus on those things that give us the utmost satisfaction and leave us feeling content. (Yes, we can actually feel this way.) This is often a peaceful place and one where we can create a clear vision for how we can use our money as a tool to achieve the most important things in life.

Creating Goals Beyond More Money

Chasing more money is a futile journey that only leads us to stress and perpetual frustration. If our goal is more money, we will never have enough. There is always "more" money to obtain to spend on "more" material and experiential things. We will never truly be satisfied with such a mindset.

If we go back to our list that we created above, we can identify the specific goals that would actually make a positive difference in our lives. I guarantee that you won't actually find "money" anywhere on our lists.

Wouldn't it be ridiculous to add money to a list of things you would buy with a virtually unlimited supply of the stuff? So, why would we ever have it as a goal?

From here, we can actually categorize and prioritize our most important goals. The next step is quantifying them.

How much will each goal cost you and by when would you like to achieve them? Is it possible to save enough money for each by the specified time? If not, can you cut out some of the cost or extend the date? What if you dropped the lower level items on the list and simply focused on the high priority goals?

This process should show us a few things:

1. We see what is truly important to us.

2. We realize that money is not actually a goal, but a tool to help us along the way.

3. Our goals are flexible and can be adjusted to fit our financial circumstances.

4. Satisfaction is within our reach… we just need to plan for it.

So, go ahead, free your mind of the clutter… and make room for what you truly value instead.

Topics:
  • Financial Planning
  • Saving and Spending
  • Financial Planning
  • Saving and Spending
  • Financial Planning
  • Saving and Spending
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This article was written by Eric Roberge from Forbes and was licensed as an article reprint from May 27, 2013. Article copyright 2013 by Forbes.
The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Fidelity Investments cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any statements or data.
This reprint is supplied by Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC.
The third-party provider of the reprint permission and Fidelity Investments are independent entities and not legally affiliated.
The images, graphs, tools, and videos are for illustrative purposes only.
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