A view of money: It is a tool, not an end

Published 9:12 am Tuesday, March 31, 2015

By Steve Zenk, Guest Columnist

If you were to ask people what distinguishes a financial winner from a loser, you’d hear some pretty predictable responses, “The size of their bank account,” “the performance of an investment portfolio” or maybe “an impressive net worth.” Yes, all these things are important, but I believe they miss the main point. That is, money is a tool, not an end in life.

Steve Zenk

Steve Zenk

Our values should be an integral part of how we make financial decisions. Asking the right questions upfront can help. What mindset do I bring to my possessions — scarcity or abundance? What activities give me energy and make me feel really alive? How do I want people to remember me? What causes and organizations do I care deeply about? Does the way I manage my money reflect my priorities?

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I once heard it said, “show me your checkbook and I’ll tell you who you really are.” Knowing the answers to these questions can help us connect our personal values with financial decisions.

In the real world, how do we integrate our personal values with our finances? Some choose to express their support of particular causes or organizations in the form of charitable gifts. Others are more interested in leaving a legacy to their children and grandchildren and still others direct dollars to their own personal development and pursuits.

In my years of helping people with financial matters, I’ve noticed that those who tend to be most satisfied with life, whether enormously wealthy or just getting by, usually have found a way to connect how they manage their money to their core values. They understand that money is a tool, not an end in their life.

Their finances typically support their values linked to faith, family, legacy, care for others, leisure and everyday living.

True financial success comes from examining what’s in your heart and what’s in your portfolio. When our values and our money are in alignment, we can be sure that the way we manage our money is supporting who we are and what we believe in.


Steve Zenk is a financial consultant for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.