October 20th, 2022 is World Values Day. Everybody agrees that they want more happiness in their life. In honor of World Values Day, John Scherer and Bridget Sullivan Mermel talk about one of the keys to uncovering more happiness in your life while making the same amount of money (or more!): focusing on your values.
Researchers have found that finding prioritizing your values and setting goals leads to a more meaningful life. Bridget puts this in terms of a deceptively simple formula: Value + Goal = Meaning. Learn about this algorithm and much more on this episode!
00:58 Finding meaning and values
03:30 John's Perspective
04:47 Bridget's first example of money and meaning
07:57 Bridget's second example of money and meaning
Here’s a link to The Short Schwartz’s Value Survey: https://www.framevoicereport.org/media/1093/the-short-schwartzs-value-survey.pdf
Here's a link to more information on World Values Day: https://www.worldvaluesday.com/
More information about how to get involved: https://youtu.be/NcbJPbr_jO8
Here's Bridget's firm website: https://www.sullivanmermel.com
John's firm website: https://www.trinfin.com
For advisors around the US: https://www.acplanners.org/home
Bridget: John, everybody agrees that they want more happiness in their life. And in honor of World Values Day, I thought we could talk about one of the keys to uncover how you can get more happiness in your life while making the same amount of money by just re-prioritizing. Hi, I'm Bridget Sullivan Mermel, and I've got a fee-only financial planning practice in Chicago, Illinois.
John: And I'm John Scherer. I have a fee-only financial planning practice in Middleton, Wisconsin. Before we dig into values and how you can apply it to your money, let's remind everybody to hit that subscribe button. By subscribing, you help other people find this information and raise our profile on YouTube, so please hit subscribe. Bridget, let's get into talking about values and money. And I didn't even know that there was a World Values Day. This is awesome. I appreciate it. Let's dig in.
Bridget: Well, I've been interested in the topic of meaning, and it turns out there're actually researchers that have been figuring this out. And in our industry, we're quick to cite the researchers who look at how to make more money in investments—passive index funds, all that. But I think we've been slower to adapt to the researchers that actually help people be happier. And so that's one of the things that I'm very interested in. So for happiness, one of the major components is meaning. And if you understand your values, you can leverage your values, and leverage plus goal equals meaning.
You can see I like algorithms. So you understand what your values are, you create a goal around your values, and that helps you create meaning. Okay, the last thing I want to say is there's an easy way to locate your values. Back in the day, you had to go sit on a mountaintop or something and contemplate for a few months to figure out what your values were. And these days, because there're researchers, they have figured out 57 core values that go across cultures. The name of the researcher is Shalom H. Schwartz, and what I use with clients is called a Schwartz Short survey.
John: Say that three times fast.
Bridget: Yeah, exactly. And it really helps us delineate what exactly your values are. It's easy to take because some people hate surveys, but I like this one because you can see exactly what's going on. It's almost like a survey where you can see behind the curtain. There's no mystery to it. You can see all the values, and it includes definitions to them all, and then you rate them.
I used to take Cosmo quizzes where they ask you a whole bunch of questions, and then they come up with some answer, and you think, “Okay, how did they come up with that?” It's not like that. It’s very obvious. This just lays out all the values. And so, when I see all the values, then I can figure out which ones resonate with me most. And what research indicates is that if you see all the values, you can pick which ones are yours.
John: Yeah, that's great. I'll tell you what, I love these types of conversations that we have. As you know, I tend to be more of the Vulcan mind, thinking, “Okay, give me the data. Let's get to the hard answers.” That's sort of my natural way of doing it. And of course, it was interesting to hear how our industry has a lot of research on how to make more money, but not much on how to make it more meaningful and how to increase happiness. And of course, the only thing that money is useful for is as a tool to help other parts of our lives. The money itself doesn't do anything.
It's the relationships or it's the lifestyle or it's all those other things, the freedom of time, whatever it is that's meaningful to us. And I do appreciate, again, being that kind of straight-line thinker that I don't have to go out and buy a special robe and make reservations for the mountaintop. It's less out there than that. There're some really tangible things that you can still get both sides from. And I really appreciate this discussion. I know that you've got some examples and some things that you've actually applied in your business, and I think it'd be really cool for people to hear what it looks like in real life.
Bridget: Yeah. So, again, the name of the survey I use is the Schwartz Short Survey, and we'll have a link to it in the show notes. We've been using this with people, and one person came in, and they were asking, should we buy a new house? And I asked, “Why do you want to buy a new house?” And they said, “Well…” They seem to be very connected with their community. And they lived the condo, and they liked their condo, and they've never talked before about buying a new house, even though I had said they totally could from a financial standpoint.
But anyway, so they come in and asked, “Should we buy a new house?” And I said, “Why do you want to buy a new house?” And they said, “Well, our dog is getting up in age, and there's a lot of stairs in the condo.” Okay, all right. I replied, “Well, let's take a look at your values.” And their values were not about being show-offs or getting social approval or anything like that. It was all about independence, creating their own goals, and benevolence. When I was talking to them, I said, “Your dog, I hate to inform you, is not going to last too many years, and you're going to have this house after that, and you are now in a job where you don't have these things that you value the most.
You are commuting and don't get to set your own goals, et cetera. And I think you'd like more freedom,” which had been on the list for quite a while. “Even if you decided to rent a house for a few years just for your dog, you could totally afford it, and then you would also be able to go back to the lifestyle you have now and pursue these other goals that you've really said are important to you.” Does that make sense?
John: Yeah. It's so interesting hearing you describe that process. And what strikes me is that sometimes in addition to the things that we feel, like the urge to buy a house, there can be underlying things. And it's easy, it sounds like, to get away from where our values are. I can certainly relate to starting down a path, but then without any kind of anchor, you can end up pretty far away from what you really want to accomplish.
Bridget: Yes. The other thing is that people forget what the values are saying. That's one of the reasons why we have people do this, so that we can remind you. Ironically, you remember if you have a blister—you can't forget the thing—but what’s really important to you, you forget. But our brains are buggy. We're not perfectly programmed, so that's just one of the bugs in the system.
Bridget: I want to give you another example because I personally backed into this myself. One of the research findings is that giving money away makes people happier. And so, I thought, “Okay, let me give money away with my values.” That makes sense, right? And my values are about creativity, independence, and trees, so I gave some money to different charities, and one of the charities I gave to was called Open Lands, which is a charity in Illinois that develops the tree canopy, which is a fancy name for trees, so they plant trees, and they work on tree policy. This charity did a really nice job of working me up the system. Does that make sense? They said, “Thanks for the money,” and then they got me on their newsletters, and their newsletters come out once a month, so it's not that much.
And then I got some stuff in the mail. They asked me to sign a petition. Great. And then I thought, “Okay, they're easing me in.” And then they asked, “Do you want to go to this lunch with Dick Durbin, who's an Illinois senator?” I passed, but that was cute. It was nice. But then they have a local effort. They have a community rep who has taken a lot of tree education, and this person reached out to our neighborhood newsletter to say, “We're doing tree planting. Do you want to volunteer?” And so, I was said, “Sure. I'll transplant trees. I can dig. I think that's what it takes. And I'm a pretty good digger.” Not really, but I can dig well enough.
And then she said, “Oh, are there any trees for you?” And I responded, “No, in front of my house is all taken care of. But across the street in the park, one tree got hit by lightning, and there’s a stretch with no trees.” And I said, “Who has the jurisdiction over who plants tree across the street in the park.” She said, “Oh, we'll figure it out.” Sure enough, I got three trees across the street from my house, and so I need to water them every week. But the thing is, I got to say, it's ridiculous how much meaning and happiness I get out of watering the trees.
It's way outsized for these few trees across the street. And then I met one of the other people down the street. We have nine trees on our block that got planted. Again. I walk around the street, and I look at the trees. It's kind of crazy. I have given them some money, and I will give them more. Now I'm a supporter. I think this place is great. And I'm not able to promote this particular charity any more than any other charity, except to give you an example of a well-run charity.
Bridget: So that's my personal example of how to give some money to get involved in something meaningful. This is an example of how to say, “Here's my value. How do I find something that has meaning?”
John: Yeah, it's really interesting to hear that. Thanks for sharing that story. And it strikes me that in many areas of our lives, if we can act in congruence with our values, we're better off. And money is no exception to it, whether it's health or other things. We can really make this apply. And the only way we can get there is by identifying and being mindful of our values, because, like you said, they kind of sit in the background if you're not paying attention to them.
Bridget: Absolutely. And I want to mention again, the algorithm of value plus goal equals meaning. Again, that's something researchers have revealed. For example, my value is the trees. I am going to plant some, and then I get a lot more meaning out of it. And now, it's not that if I did something that was not directly associated with my values it would be meaningless—I have done this with things that aren't really quite my value and its fine—but this gives me a greater sense of meaning.
John: More bang for your buck.
Bridget: Absolutely. So this is a great place to wrap it up. I’m Bridget Sullivan Mermel, and I've got a fee-only financial planning practice in Chicago, Illinois.
John: And I'm John Scherer. I've got a fee-only financial planning practice in Middleton, Wisconsin. Remember to hit that subscribe button that helps other people find this content online. And both Bridget and my financial planning practices are actively taking new clients. Please reach out if you're interested in learning more about the things we talk about here on Friends Talk Financial Planning. And we're also both members of the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners. To find somebody in your area that thinks in a similar fashion as Bridget and I do, visit acplanners.org. Until next time.
At Sullivan Mermel, Inc., we are fee-only financial planners located in Chicago, Illinois serving clients in Chicago and throughout the nation. We meet both in-person in our Chicago office and virtually through video conferencing and secure file transfer.