Yes, We Must

Jonathan Clements

MONEY ISN’T AN END in itself. Rather, it’s a means to other ends. But what ends? Some people have a good handle on what they want from their financial life. But for others, it’s a lifelong struggle. They purchase endless possessions that bring only fleeting pleasure. They pursue goals that they belatedly discover aren’t all that important to them. Result: money worries, excessive spending, mountains of debt and fierce family arguments.

How can we avoid this mess? In his new book The Feel Rich Project, financial planner Michael F. Kay advises readers to figure out what their “musts” are—as he puts it, “what must occur for you to feel secure, satisfied, and successful.” These aren’t the things that would be nice to have or nice to do, or the things we feel we should have or should do. Rather, the “musts” are things that are essential either for our sense of security or because they speak to our core values.

Everybody will have a different list of “musts.” Here’s what makes my list:

  • I don’t want to worry about money, and I don’t want my spouse to worry. Having enough savings obviously helps. But I also limit my purchases to things I really care about. Spending less, so I worry less, seems like a small price to pay.
  • I don’t provide regular financial support to my adult children, and I don’t think that would be healthy. Still, I want to make their lives a little easier and I love to bring our family together for special occasions, so I’m quick to send a check when they’re hit with a surprisingly expensive car repair and I’m happy to pay for them to join us on vacation.
  • I want to devote my days to activities I love. I have a ridiculous number of projects on my plate, but they’re all of my choosing—blogging, writing books, working on a financial startup, putting out my bimonthly newsletter, sitting on the board of a financial advisory firm. Some of these things are lucrative, some may eventually prove lucrative—and some make minimum wage look like an attractive proposition. But whatever the pay, I want to keep doing them, and I don’t want any misstep with my finances to imperil that.

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