Values and Financial Behavior

Exercise: Understanding the link between your values and your choices

Use this format to consider how your values can drive your choice of financial behavior.

  1. Values: It is important for me to be…
  2. Behavior that fits with my values: I feel a sense of integrity and am at peace with myself when I…
  3. Behavior that does not fit with my values: I feel dissatisfied with myself when I…

Example one:

  1. Value: Security.  It is important for me to feel secure.
  2. Behavior that fits with my values: I feel at peace with myself when I make regular contributions to my emergency fund.
  3. Behavior that does not fit with my values: I feel dissatisfied with myself when I spend every dollar of my paycheck rather than saving some money for the future.

Example two:

  1. Value: Freedom to enjoy my life.
  2. Behavior that fits with my values: I feel a sense of integrity when I invest myself in side businesses that will eventually be able to replace my traditional office job.
  3. Behavior that does not fit with my values: I feel dissatisfied with myself when I agree to take on additional work projects that keep me bogged down and prevent me from pursuing side interests.

Try to complete this exercise three times.

  1. Value:
  2. Behavior that fits with my values:
  3. Behavior that does not fit with my values:

Identifying Obstacles to Financial Success

Exercise: Understanding what gets in the way of your efforts at financial change

Circle which of the following obstacles undermine your efforts at good financial behavior:

Faulty memory

Lack of motivation

Failure to be supported by the environment

Getting discouraged that “nothing works”

Feelings that “it should be better/easier by now”

Lack of encouragement from those around you

Increased personal stress


Time constraints/being too busy



Lack of knowledge of how to manage finances

Other: ________________________________

Other: ________________________________

Now for each item you circled, consider how you could get yourself back on track:


Plan for getting back on track:

Unpackaging Problematic Financial Behaviors

Exercise: Disassembling problem behaviors and deciding what we would like to keep and what we would like to get rid of

Consider some of the financial habits or behaviors that you would like to change but have been unable to up to now.  (For instance, overspending, disorganization, or failure to diversity your portfolio.)

Write down some rewards of each problem behavior.  (For example, “a sense of status” might be the reinforcing factor/reward of overspending.  “Not having to face the facts of my financial situation” might seem like the reward of being disorganized when it comes to your financial paperwork.  An “increased sense of stability and security” might be the reward for your failure to diversify your portfolio.

Now, considering what you wrote above, elaborate on what it is about your behavior that you would like to change and what you would like to keep.  Is there a way to have your cake and eat it too?  For example, can you cut back on overspending, and find a way to increase your sense of status without using money?

Eliminating Excuses to Changing Your Relationship with Money

Exercise: Identifying and challenging the excuses you use most frequently

Dr. Wayne Dyer, in his book Excuses begone: How to change lifelong, self-defeating thinking habits, catalogs the excuses that are most commonly used to avoid action toward a goal.  Do you recognize any of these common excuses?  Which one(s) do you use to avoid action toward your financial goals?

-It will be difficult/risky/too time-consuming/too energy-consuming.

-I am not old enough/young enough/smart enough/strong enough/brave enough.

-It has never happened before.

-No one will help me.

-I am too scared/busy/tired.

Now take a moment to challenge your excuses.  Ask yourself:

-Is my excuse true, or is it a convenient story that I tell myself to avoid going after what I want?

-Where did my excuse come from?

-What would be different in my life if I couldn’t use my excuse?

-Can I create a powerful reason to let go of the excuse and move forward with positive change?

Planning for Future Financial Obstacles

Exercise: Anticipating what obstacles may arise in the future, and planning ways around them

Just when we think we’ve succeeded at making an important life change, circumstances will arise that challenge our commitment and our confidence.  We can learn to identify the signals or clues that we are regressing in our change efforts, and design the plans needed to get back on track.

What will you do when you have a bad day and cannot seem to get back on track with your financial goal, no matter what you do?  Be careful how you are thinking about, judging, or labeling yourself or your efforts.  Remember that we all have setbacks.  Change is a winding road.  Tomorrow will probably be better.

What I will do when I have a bad day and cannot seem to get back on track with my financial goal:

Coping thoughts that I will think when I have a bad day and cannot seem to get back on track with my financial goal:

Not all possible problematic circumstances can be anticipated.  Rather, the goal here is to enable you to develop the belief that you have the skills to respond appropriately to problems.  Write yourself an encouraging statement about your confidence in your ability to cope with challenges.

Minor setbacks are inevitable and do not signal total failure.  Watch out for hopeless thinking or all-or-nothing thinking (for example, “Well, my financial picture is not responding to my efforts to manage it, so I might as well give up on my active coping efforts.”)

How to remind myself that minor setbacks do not signal total failure:

Enlist the assistance of significant others.

Who are the supportive people in my life to whom I can make myself accountable for further practice of my new skills?

Achieving Greater Perspective on Your Financial Situation

Exercise: Taking a step back and looking at things from a different perspective

When you find yourself frustrated by your financial situation, how can you achieve some emotional distance and look at things from a fresh perspective?  How can you shift your thinking to allow for better problem-solving?  Consider these strategies:

(1)   Try to see some humor in the situation.  Is there some aspect of the situation that is genuinely funny?

(2)   Talk to someone (preferably an objective party) about the situation.  Sharing it with someone often helps you widen your perspective.

(3)   Ask yourself: “How important will this situation be in one week? One month? One year? Five years?”

(4)   Complete this statement: “I am certainly glad that I am not _______________.”

(5)   Take a helicopter ride or a hot air balloon ride above the situation.  See your problems beneath you on the ground getting smaller and smaller.

(6)   Consider the distressing thoughts you are thinking.  Ask yourself:

  1. Are my thoughts based on fact?
  2. Are my thoughts protecting me?
  3. Are my thoughts helping me to achieve my goals?
  4. Is my thinking in my best interest, or can I change it?