The Disconnect Between Purpose & Finance

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There are innumerable personal finance blogs, books, podcasts, and other resources out there that provide advice on how to improve your financial situation.

There also exists a myriad of resources that offer self-help and self-improvement advice – how to become a better communicator, how to find purpose and master a craft, how to understand the power of habits and the importance of discipline.

I draw wisdom on how to live a better life from both of these sources.

But there exists a disconnect between the personal finance community and the self-improvement community that should not be there:

Personal finance aficionados fail to mention the importance of finding your purpose, while self-improvement gurus fail to mention the role that finances play in pursuing your purpose.

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Combining an awareness of purpose with financial knowledge is the key to an awesome life.

To Run From Or To Run Towards?

Most personal finance resources – whether it’s a blog, book, podcast – provide a multitude of ways you can save money, earn money, and invest more efficiently. But rarely do they explain why it’s important to conquer your finances.

The common undisputed attitude in the personal finance community is: accumulate as much money as possible so you can say no to the bullshit that life throws your way. Become rich so you no longer have to go to a job you hate 5 days per week for 40 years. This is all well and good, but the one drawback to this approach is that we are constantly running away from a life we hate towards a life…we don’t hate.

Shouldn’t we be running towards a life we love?

Shouldn’t we be seeking to create a life that makes us excited to hop out of bed in the morning instead of just a life that lets us lay in bed because we no longer have to report to a job we hate?

Wealth Without Meaning 

I will never forget a quote from the book “How to Get Rich” by Felix Dennis, an entrepreneur whose net worth was estimated to be between $400-900 million before his death.

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He spent the entire book explaining how he accumulated his wealth and offered viable strategies on how one can amass wealth. The book was packed with sound financial advice…but in the final chapter there was a paragraph that left me stunned:

“I have been very poor and I am now very rich. I am an optimist by nature. And I have the ability to write poetry and create the forest I am busy planting. Am I happy? No. Or, at least, only occasionally, when I am walking in the woods alone, or deeply ensconced in composing a difficult piece of verse, or sitting quietly with old friends over a bottle of wine. Or feeding a stray cat… I could do all those things without wealth.”

One of the wealthiest self-made men in the history of the UK could not find happiness amidst all the wealth surrounding him. The moments in life where he says he actually experiences happiness are exactly what I attempt to emphasize in depth through this blog:

Happiness and meaning are a result of producing meaningful work, impacting the world in some way, and connecting with other human beings.

Don’t Forget About Purpose

The grand focus of the personal finance community is primarily on two broad stages: 

Stage 1: You have a full time job. You have bills to pay. You should accumulate as much money as possible to quit this job and be free.

Stage 2: You have reached financial independence. This is it. This is the pinnacle. Life is good forever now. Congrats, you made it.

But there is a third stage and I would argue it is the most important:

Stage 3: Now that you have freedom over your time, find your purpose. Find out how you can make an impact on others. Pursue this purpose relentlessly until you become so good at it you can produce something meaningful to give to the world. Master this purpose, this craft, this art.

I have listened to countless podcasts with people who have achieved early retirement or financial independence and nearly all of them preach the same message – run towards something, not from something. Shoot for F.I. so you can pursue something you love full time instead of simply aiming to quit your job.

Therein lies the crucial knowledge gap in the personal finance community: We forget about purpose. We easily forget that financial independence is not the end goal in itself, but rather it is a tool to gain freedom to do what we love each day.

To be clear, I do think it is wildly important to understand the principles of saving, earning, and investing. But to acquire wealth without purpose is like shooting an arrow towards a vague, unspecified target. We need purpose to make the wealth accumulation meaningful.

Don’t Forget About Finance

Just as the personal finance community is prone to neglecting the importance of purpose, the self-help community is prone to forgetting the role personal finance plays in the pursuit of goals, dreams, and a quest for a better life.

Most self-help books focus on overcoming obstacles, developing positive habits, and figuring out how to find what you love. All these things are great. But they often fail to mention the fact that it is overwhelmingly difficult to improve the state of your life if you’re in a constant financial struggle.

A new college grad burdened with exorbitant amounts of debt needs to know what a 401(k) is, how to keep an eye on their monthly spending, why they need a freedom fund, and how to create side hustle income before they begin to think about the psychology of happiness.

The point is, a lack of financial knowledge won’t always prevent you from achieving your goals, but it will make the road to your goals much harder. No matter what you aim to accomplish in life or who you aim to become, there is no denying the fact that bills are bills are bills and they must be paid. Likewise, debt isn’t going away until you develop and implement a strategy to pay it off.

Finding and pursuing your unique purpose is hugely important. Developing an understanding of personal finance will allow you to keep financial struggles at bay so you can pursue this purpose more effectively.

To anyone that says “Life isn’t about money, it’s about making memories”, I am in complete agreement with you. But knowing how money and finances work gives you freedom to make more memories! 

A Beautiful Symbiotic Relationship

Placing an importance on discovering your purpose as well as understanding the world of finance is a potent formula you can use to create an amazing life. It’s wonderful to always strive to become a better person and it’s equally wonderful to seek to conquer your finances. But when you decide to do both, you become unstoppable.

Purpose and finance have a beautiful symbiotic relationship. They mutually increase the benefits of each other. Gaining complete control of your financial situation lets you pursue your purpose to your full ability. Finding your purpose forces you to focus on  intentional living, which shortens the path to financial independence. These two forces feed each other, creating a constant cycle of growth and improvement.

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Focusing on both purpose and finance creates a constant cycle of growth and improvement.

 

Understand personal finance to pursue your purpose. Understand your purpose to conquer your finances. Work towards placing importance on both purpose and finance to create an incredible life.

Feature photo credit: mountains

I strongly suggest using free financial tools like Personal Capital to track your net worth, spending habits, and cash flow to help keep an eye on your money. The more you track your finances, the better you get at growing your wealth!

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4 Replies to “The Disconnect Between Purpose & Finance”

  1. Excellent point! I do think many personal finance blogs touch on topics like fulfillment and happiness. For me, it’s relevant because you’re much less likely to burn through your money when you’re content with your life and live simply.
    The goal is financial independence, but that’s just a means to an end. You still need to have a plan for what you want to do when you retire. For me, that takes the form of working part time on things that I love, volunteering, and writing. And lots of cooking would be in there too, I’m sure. 🙂

    1. I completely agree you’re less likely to “burn through your money when you’re content with your life and live simply.” It’s great that you are aware of what you’d like to do after financial independence, and the best part is that you can do all those activities – volunteering, writing, cooking, while you’re still working towards F.I. 🙂

  2. Agree with what you’re saying here, feels like if you have all the money in the world without purpose, this is likely to cause you unhappiness however the same can generally be said about purpose without the finances (there are exceptions)..
    It’s similar to becoming an entrepreneur, sure it’s great to have a passion and purpose although it no-one is passionate about snail racing (terrible example) then you won’t be able to support yourself using that..
    There is a disconnect there although Carl Richards does well with this 🙂

    Nicely written Zach!

    1. You would have to be a talented film-maker and editor to make snail racing something worthy of attention…haha that’s not a terrible example, you proved the exact point I was trying to make in this article. Purpose is great but it can be derailed so easily without financial knowledge.

      I completely agree, Carl Richards is one of the best at pointing out that you should optimize finances for the sake of optimizing your life and not the other way around. The Behavior Gap by Carl Richards was actually the first time I was introduced to this idea of figuring out what you want in life first, and THEN figuring out how finances plays a role in that optimal life.

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