Whenever we say that we want more money, less debt, or more possessions, what we are really saying is that we want a feeling. Money and possessions have no power. Power comes from the feeling we get from having money and possessions. In order to determine your money values, you need to determine what feelings are most important to you. If you want to have a lot of money so that you can do what you like, when you like, you’re seeking a feeling of freedom--this is your value. If you want to live in a beautiful home and live an affluent lifestyle, then you want to feel prosperous. If you want to know that there will always be enough money to pay the bills, retire in peace, and know you’ll never have to worry about money again, you want to feel secure.

Recently, I moved into an old home, which I intend to renovate. My house has a very old but functional kitchen, which I don’t like much but which I know I can live with for a while. This old kitchen has turned out to be one of life’s blessings in disguise as I’ve learned quite a lot about money values from it.

When my eldest daughter, Lisa, first saw the kitchen, she said, “The first thing you have to get rid of is that kitchen.” Lisa likes nice things and doesn’t like to wait for them. My youngest daughter, Laura, is more security conscious, hates spending money, and likes to save, and she said, “There is nothing wrong with that kitchen. Why would you want to change it?”

The kitchen evoked three different responses in three different people, and that’s the way it is with money. We are all different, and how we earn, manage, spend, save, and invest our money depends on our money values. The key to achieving your financial goals and living a life you love is to know your money values, then find a way to manage your money that respects these values.

Once I realized that my kitchen was a gauge for assessing money values, I decided to make the most of it. I started listening to what people were really telling me about their money values when they made any comments. A carpenter commented, “Nice kitchen.” When I asked him if he was being sarcastic, he looked genuinely surprised, and I learned from subsequent conversations that he is very security conscious. When my former secretary, Lisa, came to visit and said, “Good size kitchen,” I recognized this statement for what it was—a nice, neutral comment that was more about politeness than real feelings. So when I said that I disliked it and intended replacing it, she said, “Well, I didn’t want to be rude by commenting on it.” Another friend said, “Don’t worry about the inside, what’s important is to get the outside of the house looking good first.”

What all these people told me is how they feel about money and what is most important to them. The most common money values are freedom, prosperity, and security. Although it is important to honor your money values, it is equally important how you do this. When you pursue a feeling to the exclusion of all else, you may find yourself in financial difficulties.

It would be easy to assume that everybody with the same money values has the same need, but they don’t. One person’s desire for freedom may mean that he simply cannot work for an employer, while another person may be quite happy working for an employer provided he is not tied down by financial responsibilities. One person may want more money so he can do what he likes, while another may not care about money but wants the freedom to be creative.

To discover your own money values, ask yourself these questions: If I was really happy and money was no object, what type of home would I live in? Who would I live with? Where would I live? What work would I do? What would I do with my leisure time? Who would I share my leisure time with? What would I look like? When making your choices, write down everything you think, and don’t discount an idea because it seems too grand or too small. Once you’ve completed this exercise, look to see if one value is more dominant than any other. This is the value that you need to honor in a responsible way. Usually, one value will stand out, but this isn’t always the case—some people can have two values that are equally important to them, and in this case you need to honor both values.

All money values have a positive side and a negative side, and learning to balance the two is the key to success. There’s a lot we can learn from security conscious people because they are good with money. On the negative side, though, they can be overly cautious and as a result miss out on opportunities. In contrast, if you value prosperity, you know what’s important to you, and quite simply, beauty is something that makes you happy. However, this needs to be balanced with being responsible and making choices that are going to help you over the longer term.

Whatever your money values, there is always a way to earn, manage, and achieve goals in a way that honors what’s most important to you. If you are in a relationship with a partner who has different money values than you, you have an opportunity to learn, grow, and prosper. Couples with differing money values who work together are often the most financially successful because they balance each other. Sometimes, in a relationship, one person gives his power away to his partner, giving up his own desires for the sake of harmony. In an equal relationship, both parties have an equal say. If your partner refuses to respect your needs or to take responsibility for himself, then you need to look at what opportunity your relationship is presenting you with. You may need to love and respect yourself more. You do this by setting standards and letting other people know what you will and will not do.

You also need to be aware that if you are not prepared to change your behavior in any way, and that applies to the really extravagant as well as to the extremely security conscious, what is behind your behavior is fear. In this case, money problems are just a symptom of a deeper issue that needs to be dealt with.

Your money values hold the key to financial freedom, so rather than cursing money, start loving it, and look for the gift in your current situation.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit http://www.selfgrowth.com/greatways2.html.

Author's Bio: 

Anne Hartley is the author of four books: Love the Life You Live, Life Lessons, Love Your Money, Love Your Life, and The Psychology of Money. Anne works as a life coach and trains others to be life coaches using her values-based approach. She lives and works on the northern beaches of Sydney, Australia, and coaches and trains students by phone anywhere in the world. If you would like to receive her free newsletter, you can visit Anne’s Web site at http://www.hartlifecoaching.com.au, or write to Anne at P.O. Box 769, Mona Vale, NSW 2103, Australia.