The Why Behind Your Goals

The fact that you’re reading a personal finance blog says a lot about your commitment to manage money well.  However, I’m curious to know more about your motivations.  To use a question frequently asked by our two-year-old: “But why?”

Are you trying to get out of debt?  Build savings?  Figure out the best way to invest?

But why?

That may sound like a silly question, I realize.  Those financial goals are inherently worthwhile.  But I believe it’s important to know what the accomplishment of any goal we’re pursuing would enable us to do.  What’s the real goal – the goal behind the goal?  Knowing the answer to that question is hugely helpful in finding the motivation to do the work.

When I was digging my way out of debt, for example, it sometimes felt like a long slog through a muddy field.  But when I thought of what getting out of debt could free me up to pursue – marriage, the work I really wanted to do, a life without so much financial stress – it spurred me on.

It Isn’t About Getting Out of Debt

Lately I’ve been thinking about the writing and speaking I’ve done since quitting my corporate job nearly six years ago, and about the writing and speaking I’d like to do in the future.  It’s been helpful to think about that question – “But why?”

I love helping people get out of debt, dial down financial stress, and get the most from their money.  But those aren’t the goals that get me out of bed in the morning.

The “But why?” for me is about helping young couples use money in ways that’ll strengthen their marriage instead of the more common approach that usually leads to stress and strife and even divorce.

The “But why?” for me is about teaching financial beliefs and behaviors that enable people to build great relationships, pursue their life’s work, and experience a sense of purpose and meaning.

The “But why?” for me isn’t even mostly about money.  It’s about using money as a means to far greater ends.

And the goal of being able to do this work one day was the “But why?” that explained so many of the financial decisions we made early in our marriage, like living for five years in an “up and coming” neighborhood that was in the very early stages of that process.

What Are Your Real Goals?

Think about your situation.  What financial goal is most on your mind these days?  Which one are you pursuing?  As you think about where you’re trying to go financially, how would you answer our daughter’s question: “But why?”  What’s the bigger story behind your desire to achieve that goal?  I’d really like to know, so please leave a comment below.

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7 Responses to The Why Behind Your Goals

  1. John O May 10, 2011 at 9:58 AM #

    Financial goals in the retirement years we are in are surviving financially until the end by carefully stewarding what God has provided and still provides,no pension involved, being able to be generous givers along the way and at the end be able to be generous to God’s work in the world and some to our following generations.

  2. Matt Bell May 9, 2011 at 10:52 PM #

    Freedom, peace of mind – some recurring themes, and good reasons to move toward becoming free of debt. I also appreciate the faith perspectives above – the desire to reflect God’s generosity and also to trust more in Him than in our bank accounts.

    Scott, I feel your pain with the “one vehicle program!”

    I love hearing these “goals behind the goals,” these answers to the question, “But why?”

  3. Michelle May 9, 2011 at 8:54 PM #

    Since you asked, I believe at 50, that my reason is that I don’t want to have to struggle as I get older. Peace of mind is worth much. On the other hand, I don’t want to look at money as being my saving grace. I need to be stronger in knowing that God will provide my needs. I’ve seen it in the past but I’m concerned about the future.

  4. Steve Roblee May 9, 2011 at 6:08 PM #

    Matt, there are three reasons for my wife and I to get out of debt. The first is the freedom that comes from no debt. It empowers us to give more generously (the second reason), save toward retirement (third reason), and live our lives in the most enjoyable, pressure-free way. God has been good to us and we want to celebrate His generosity by imitating it to those in need and without Jesus.

  5. Scott May 9, 2011 at 5:39 PM #

    We have been working at getting debt free for about 5 years. With four kids at home this is a big project.Our house mortgage is all we have for debt and our emrgency fund is about 5 grand , yet still needs to grow.
    The “but why” answer from me, is about freedom. Freedom from financial stress, freedom from dependency upon others, freedom to give and help others, freedom from the ploy of marketers.
    My biggest struggle is with the “needs” items. Things that really do save us money , but cost a given amount to get started. We do some canning, which needs jars,lids, and lp gas to do. We recently purchased a vita-mixer (way to expensive), yet we can now use all the product of many fruits and vegtables, as well as eat a better diet of fruit and veggies.It also grind grains for the bread we make.We tried the one vehicle program, but getting soaked on my way to work (on a bicycle) is not an option, and a rain suit is a hundred bucks or more .
    Thanks for your work and website for saving money ideas, and the deeper issues of how and why.

  6. Matt Bell May 9, 2011 at 4:44 PM #

    That’s awesome, Steve. I cleared out 20-grand of debt in 4.5 years and I know plenty of others who’ve leveled much taller mountains of debt. It can be done!

    I’d love to know what you’re looking forward to being able to do once you’re out of debt.

  7. Steve Hutson May 9, 2011 at 4:41 PM #

    I am working diligently to get completely out of consumer debt. I don’t think I have time left in my life to clear my mortgage, but I am working on getting every other debt gone.

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