Photo credit: Atte Gronlund on Upsplash
If you’ve ever wanted to feel completely comfortable making big purchases and spend substantial sums of money without regret, first, find your purpose.
Big Spending hangover...we’ve all had them. It was probably an impulse purchase. It may have happened while you were alone with no one to act as a sounding board or it may have happened while you were with friends who told you exactly what you wanted to hear...Yes! It’s SO you! You deserve it! Go for it!
Whatever the circumstance, the feeling is the same. At some point after the initial rush of adrenaline subsides, we feel anxious, remorseful, chagrined. What did we do?
And this isn’t only true when we spend big on something ‘a little’ out of our cost comfort zone. We feel the same feelings even if that impulse buy was something well within our means and usual spending.
Your Purpose. On Purpose.
The ‘Why?’ question we posed above wasn’t simply a clever narrative strategy to keep you reading. The ‘why’ of your spending, or the purpose motivating your purchase is what makes that ‘morning after’ the Big Spend dreadful or delightful.
The simple answer to, “Why do I feel regret even though this purchase won’t ruin me financially or seriously impair my ability to meet my short and medium-term obligations,” is -- the purchase didn’t help fulfill your goals or move you further along towards your purpose.
The fact is, when you spend any amount of your well-earned money on something that’s not aligned with your goals and in pursuit of your purpose, you will feel regret and the anxiety that comes with knowing you missed an opportunity for progress towards something you really want.
Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, REALLY Want
That’s the real kick in the teeth, isn’t it? We look at the thing we bought and we know the rush won’t last because deep down, it’s not something we really wanted in the first place. It’s something we bought to fill a hole where our feeling of purpose should be.
Feel what I’m saying?
As financial life guides, we have had this conversation hundreds of times with the people we work with. They come to us asking for help controlling their spending, and we end up having a conversation about why they need to identify their life’s purpose.
Well, a traditional financial planner will help you structure your assets so that these impulse purchases don’t dramatically deplete your resources for retirement or gut your savings for college or that milestone celebration vacation. A financial life guide will help you discover your most compelling goals for yourself -- your self-defined purpose -- and then work with you to connect your financial, educational, emotional, physical and spiritual assets in a way that best supports you as you walk the path towards that purpose.
We call the process Financial Life Guidance. While no one can expect to have a perfect understanding of ourselves or anyone else, financial life guides do seek a more thorough, honest insight into our own and a client’s ideal life as it ‘feels’ and ‘looks’ by talking about desires for family, occupation, and recreation as well as our motivation for wanting what we want in all these areas.
If you read our blog, Newly Moneyed Millennials Want Robo Advisors. Really?, you may remember we talked about the importance of taking this ‘inventory’ when working on our own, individual financial plan. Whether you did or you didn’t (we think you should!) Margaret and Miles’ stories illustrate the impact of purpose in our lives as demonstrated through our spending.
Margaret and Miles
Both Margaret and Miles woke up one sunny morning, left their homes, and returned later that day with receipts from their Big Spends. But...though they both fell asleep swimming with the rush of adrenaline, they had very different experiences the morning after.
[As you read this story, imagine your most recent, big purchase and try to identify with the person with spending that ‘feels’ most like your own.]
On a warm winter Tuesday, Margaret and Miles each made a purchase. Margaret arrived home at the end of her afternoon out with a brand new Coach bag, price tag $500, and Miles threw off his jacket in the entryway with the receipt for his new yacht still in the breast pocket.
Which one woke up the next morning filled with regret and feeling guilty?
(Spoiler alert: It was Margaret.)
Margaret didn’t intend to purchase her handbag that Tuesday. Really, she was simply killing time until she met a friend for coffee at Starbucks when she wandered into the Coach store, but as soon as she saw it, she had to have it.
The gold accents on the compact Swagger bag in black pebble leather caught her eye as soon as crossed the threshold, and her heart said something like, “Oh you are going home with me.” Still she did a lap around the store to think about it, turning over various bags to see their cellphone pockets and included key chains. She also noticed it was now 4 minutes until her friend would arrive. It was time to do this. So Lisa reached for the credit card she’d been accruing points on and charged the $450 plus tax. She took her Swagger bag and a little jolt of adrenaline with her to Starbucks.
Miles woke up Tuesday with a goal: buy a yacht. He didn’t ‘accidentally’ wander into a luxury watercraft store and end up with a fancy boat. In fact, he walked into his meeting with the salesperson fully prepared, having done months of research and comparison shopping to make sure he was getting exactly what he wanted and needed.
Needed? Miles needed a yacht?
Yes, Miles did.
Two years before the day he handed over that check for his yacht, Miles had committed to a personal, values-based plan for managing his finances and so he knew his goals for family, occupation and recreation. Working with trusted counselors, including his financial life guide, Miles knew that buying this yacht aligned with his own, personal purpose.
Miles had identified his his motivation as being a source of long-term comfort and support for his family and friends and to encourage greater engagement in charitable work in his community. This was going to be his legacy, his purpose.
On this yacht, his family would spend several weeks together each year, enjoying each other’s company and forming even stronger bonds. On this yacht, Miles would entertain clients and continue to nurture business relationships that helped him afford this purchase in the first place. On this yacht, Miles would invite friends and colleagues from his community and share opportunities with them to improve the health and welfare for friends and neighbors no matter what their occupation or personal challenges.
Margaret spent $500 on a luxury handbag that fit her plan...wait, no. She had no plan...for her purpose…Oh right. That’s the point. She had no purpose (that she’d identified, yet). No purpose, no plan. The day after Margaret’s Big Spend, all she had was a luxury bag and another bout of spender’s remorse.
The different motivations that lead each person to make their Big Spend says a lot about what drives their lives, and predicts fairly accurately how they spend their money and how they feel about how they spend their money.
Recognize yourself in Margaret or Miles?
Both of them could well afford what they bought that Tuesday, but only one of them woke up the next day still feeling exhilarated and only one of them felt satisfied months, even years later as they continued to enjoy (and appreciate) that purchase.
P.S. We Can All Feel Like Miles
Maybe we’ll never purchase a yacht. A yacht may not be what we need to help us reach our goals or move us further towards fulfilling our own, personal purpose.
But -- we can all identify our values and our motivation and find our purpose, and start spending our money on things -- including experiences and opportunities -- that evoke the same feelings of freedom, exhilaration and long-lasting satisfaction as Miles experienced that Tuesday.
If you are curious to learn more about how people can identify their own, personal purpose and set meaningful spending goals, please contact us today. We’ll be delighted to share our experience helping others with you.