Alice and John said that their goal was to travel in retirement. They laid out detailed trips to exotic locations, opportunities to explore and soak in new cultures and customs. It was clearly very high on their list. After they finished waxing poetic on their various dream destinations, we started to talk about their three kids and seven grandkids. They were concerned about their kids’ ability to send THEIR kids to college. Further discussion revealed that while dreams of distant lands were wonderful, they cared more about helping out with their grandchildren’s college costs. It wasn’t even a mildly difficult decision—it was their values speaking.
If you talk to anyone who calls themselves a financial advisor or planner, you will undoubtedly hear the statement “Our advice is built on your goals” or some variation on the theme. “Your goals, your objectives” is a nice statement, but it’s all wrong. The conversation should not be about your goals, but about your values. Because it’s your values that move the needle past stop and get you moving in the right direction.
If you were physically out of shape, you might say your goal is to lose 50 pounds. But what you really value is feeling healthy and looking better. You value weight loss because you associate good health with a good life for yourself or some other equally important reason which helps you change your habits and behaviors. The GOAL—a number—is just a number. It’s the outcome that matters, not whether its 47 pounds or 53.