Answer 1 Question To Find Focus For Your Finances

Posted by in Budgeting, Communication, Debt, Giving, Investing, Saving, Spending, Tools


Andrea and I just got back from a wonderful, much needed vacation. It wasn’t the most relaxing trip, though if I’m honest. There were no drinks with umbrellas in them, cabana boys, or even cabanas. And we certainly didn’t catch up on sleep. Instead, we kicked off the trip by waking up at 3am.

Normally, I don’t like waking up early. Even though I’ve been getting up before the buttcrack of dawn for over a decade, it’s still a struggle. Most days the snooze button is my friend. But not this time. Our alarms went off and we hopped out of bed, thrilled to be awake. We had a flight to catch and we couldn’t wait to be on it.  

And just because we’re gluttons for punishment, 2 days later we woke up at 4 am. No flight to catch this time, just the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean.

Worth it!


As we were hiking up a mountain trail at 0 Dark 30 to catch the sunrise, I remembered a line from a brilliant book I read last year. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry, wrote “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

Why > What and How

Put down the pitchforks, I’m not comparing our early mornings on vacation to the holocaust. Instead, I’m reflecting on the truth of Frankl’s statement. We had great reasons to be up early outweighing the inconvenience of our 3am and 4am alarms.

Simon Sinek expanded on this idea a few years ago in a book and Ted Talk titled Start With Why. 

Most folks, according to Sinek, do things in a what-how-why order. They know what they’re doing, maybe even how, but probably don’t give much thought to why. For example, you’re reading this article (what) on some kind of electronic device (how). Playing Pokemon Go and checking email fit the same “what” and “how” mold, though. There’s nothing really special or inspiring about “what” and “how.”

Instead, the most effective, inspiring people do things in a why-how-what order. They start with why…their mission, cause, or goal…and give purpose to all their actions. Everything they do, “what” and “how”, is aligned with and comes from their “why.”

So why are you reading this article? Why are you putting up with my silly stories about making my wife cry on our honeymoon and getting lost in Singapore? Either you like laughing at me (please do) or you care about having an awesome relationship with your partner (why). You’re reading this (how) because you want to get better at handling and talking about money with your partner (what).

Why bother?

When it comes to handling money, it’s easy to get caught up in “what” and “how.” Make more, spend less. Cut expenses to pay off debt. SAVE SAVE SAVE! But knowing what to do and how to do it isn’t enough. If it were, we’d all be richer than we are. We need a worthy “why” to bring it all together.

Without a goal or dream, we’re just hamsters on a wheel. We’ll just do stuff with money, living hand-to-mouth, and ultimately have nothing to show for it. We’ll work just to pay the bills and buy ourselves a nice distraction or two, but later wonder where all our money went.

And since the way we handle money reflects what’s important to us, this is dangerous in a relationship. If we don’t have a worthy “why” to focus our actions, we’re essentially saying nothing is really important to us. Including our partners. We’’ll be oblivious to their feelings, hopes, and dreams, inviting a lot more stress and fights into our relationships.

What’s your why?

Maybe you’ve never talked about hopes and dreams or set goals with your partner.  Or maybe you’ve never even thought about it for yourself. This can be tough and tricky, but I’d like to help you out.

Remember, it’s easy to articulate a “what” and a “how” for money and call it a day. Take for example “Let’s pay off our credit card/student loan debt by cutting our expenses.” That’s great and responsible, but a boring “what” and “how.” You can do better. Instead, start with why you want to pay off debt.

Think about or ask your partner how would it feel to have an extra $100, $500, or $1,000 leftover at the end of the month. How would you approach your work differently if you didn’t have to trade your labor just to pay Sallie Mae or Visa? How much fun could you have? How much good could you do? What new options would you have in life?

Taking this approach, you’d come up with something like: “I want to take a job for the love of it, give more money to charity, buy that thing I’ve always wanted without feeling guilty, and/or stay home with the kids. So let’s trim our expenses to pay off our debt.” With a solid “why” like this, you’ll be much more motivated to come up with a “what” and “how” for your money and see it through. You’ll also be much more likely to stick with your goals when, not if, something shiny comes along to distract you.

Pessimism is practical

Still struggling to come up with a worthy “why?” Release your inner pessimist. Think about all the things you don’t want in life. Think about what you’re afraid of. Then flip it by stating the opposite.

Take “I’m afraid I’m going to work as a corporate slave forever just to pay off my student loans” and flip it to “I want to pay off these loans so I can afford to work for a non-profit.” “We’re going to be too broke to travel or have any fun when we get older” flips to become “I want to travel the world with our friends and family, so let’s save up a bunch of money to do that.”

Once you have your “why” figured out, “what” to do with your money and “how” will come easily. You’ll be able to withstand temptation and not get distracted by shiny stuff. And by working towards a worthy “why” together with your partner, you’ll learn to talk about money without fighting because you won’t just be talking about money. Instead, you’ll be planning and working towards a better life together.

Let me know in the comments below what you come up with. I’d love to hear your “why.”

In the meantime, if you need help talking about money without fighting sign up for the FREE program. 

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