The inspiration behind this column was a recent conference in Edina on Living & Leading with Purpose and the questions asked by the audience following my talk on money and stewardship at the Mayflower United Church of Christ in Minneapolis.
Thinking about those two meetings was a timely reminder during this season of Thanksgiving that the core of personal finance has nothing to do with money. What matters is thinking about your values and learning how you want to live your life.
The word that best captures the values exploration is “purpose.” Speaker Richard Leider at the Edina conference said purpose is the answer to the “big question, why we get up in the morning.” The veteran executive coach and leading thinker about finding purpose in life went on to say during his fascinating talk that “purpose is not a luxury. It is fundamental.”
The legendary writer and broadcaster Studs Terkel captured how important is a sense of purpose in the broader society in his early 1970s masterpiece, “Working.” Terkel recorded the hardships and disappointments ordinary workers suffered during their daily labors.
Terkel chronicled the dignity in a job well done, and the sense of community and connection that came from work. He summarized what he learned: “It is about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor.”
In other words, the search for purpose and a paycheck are widely shared. We have different goals, values and talents. Yet we share the desire to know that what we are doing matters.
Financial planning is best thought of as household money-management tactics designed to support the purpose journey. A financial plan is a road map to help you achieve your goals.
You can always revise your plan, and you should with the passage of time. Strategies for saving more, adopting a frugal mind-set and putting giving at the core of household money management are practical ways to support the intentional life. One more ingredient to add to the personal finance mix: Conversation. You want to talk about money and purpose with your network of trusted friends and acquaintances.
The combination of savings, frugality, giving and conversation allows for the kind of intentional lifestyle experimentation and thoughtful work transitions that turn the desire to make a difference in our lives and in our community into reality.
Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor, “Marketplace,” commentator, Minnesota Public Radio.