The Role of Satisfaction and Values in Designing Our Financial Lives
The word “satisfaction” describes a feeling of fulfillment or contentment. Its meaning is
relative and often dependent on each person’s definition of success as applied to
specific areas of life.
Therefore, in the area of finances, satisfaction is more of an emotional issue than a
practical one. That is because our sense of satisfaction is highly subjective and greatly
influenced by our attitudes and beliefs. As a result, the degree to which we feel
satisfied with our financial lives is based on a unique and personal interpretation of our
own financial needs and circumstances.
For example, one person can feel grateful for an annual income of $100,000 while
another person will feel disillusioned and deprived at this same level of income. In
addition, one person can be very comfortable carrying an ongoing credit card
balance of $5,000, while another person will feel stressed out until his or her credit card
balance is zero.
Also keep in mind priorities can change over time and affect our feelings of satisfaction.
A person can live with disorganized financial records for years with little concern, and
then one day become frustrated with the disorder and think, “I can’t live this way
Keep in mind that those who feel dissatisfied with their financial lives are often unsure of
the source. For instance, an individual can know intellectually that they are financially
independent, and yet the fear of economic vulnerability can persist on the emotional
level. Others strive for and achieve wealth, but feel little gratification from their
However, the foundation for making positive change in our financial lives is
awareness—the freedom and enlightenment that comes from first assessing our
individual levels of financial satisfaction, and then recognizing the unique and personal
circumstances, behaviors, and attitudes that impede our sense of financial well-being.
Like satisfaction, the meaning of “values” is subjective and unique to each individual.
In a nutshell, our values reflect what matters most to us as individuals.
When trying to define our values, we often think in terms of principles or standards that
we consider important such as “honesty,” “loyalty,” or “altruism.” We also tend to think
of values in terms of what we as individuals hold most dear such as “my family,” “my
faith,” or “my health.”
Our values are also those intangibles that keep us motivated. Motivators vary from
person to person, but examples include recognition, achievement, knowledge,
contribution, creativity, spirituality, challenge, adventure, harmony, and so on.
In addition, our values define the purpose for our activities and the criteria we use for
allocating our personal resources of time, energy, skills, and money. When there is
incongruence between our values and the way we “spend” those resources, we
experience inner conflict or dissatisfaction.
In Caring for Your Soul in Matters of Money, Karen Ramsey wrote:
In personal financial management, the place to begin is to adopt a realistic
perspective. Money will only improve the quality of your life when it is used with
clarity. Only when you learn to spend money in concert with your underlying
values—things that you most deeply care about—will it become a tool for
creating a more fulfilling life.
Therefore, to achieve higher levels of life and financial satisfaction, your
objective will be to clarify what is most important to you. Next, allow that
understanding to guide your interactions with your financial advisor and provide
a framework for your financial goals.
Always remember that financial and life satisfaction evolve from a clear understanding
of the nature, influence, and importance of your values. Your sense of well-being will
multiply when you clarify your priorities and make financial and life decisions that
nurtures what is truly most important to you.