Let’s say you have a day off of work and you wake up with no plans. How do you spend that day? The activities we choose — a refreshing hike, a restful afternoon on the couch, visiting with friends, etc. — are often an indication of our personal values. Values lie deep in our psyches, embedded in our worldviews and vision for living a good life. When we act in line with our values, we usually feel pretty good about ourselves.

Many of us spend little time actively thinking about our values, particularly our financial values. Day-to-day money management is stressful, especially when times are tight. Thinking about how you relate to money just doesn’t make the to-do list.

But it should.

Practicing money mindfulness — exploring our attitudes and values about money — is a worthy exercise. Awareness of our financial values is information we can utilize to improve our financial habits by implementing tips and ideas that are in sync with what matters to each of us.

What Are Financial Values?

Put simply, financial values are your beliefs about money. Those beliefs began forming in childhood and influence the way you manage your finances today. Your financial values are unique to you and reflect your lived experiences and, ultimately, become the lens that you use when engaging with your finances.

Consider this: have you ever wondered — or judged — someone for the way they spend money? That feeling is linked with your financial values and perception of spending, saving, investing or borrowing.

Remember, there’s no “correct” way to manage your finances. Rather, it’s a question of selecting different strategies that are aligned with what matters most to you. Financial values vary from person to person, naturally making some financial strategies and tips helpful for some but not all.

How to Identify Your Financial Values

You could spend a lifetime thinking about your financial goals but, quite frankly, most of us want actionable advice now. Learning how your mindset and values impact your finances can help you be more successful and more fulfilled. We’ve identified five broad categories and key questions for determining your financial values.

  • Achievement & Success. To what degree do you see money as a symbol of success or a measure of freedom? Are you driven by the need to achieve results?
  • Order & Security. How important is it to your mental well-being to have order in your financial life? Do you need to feel in control? How much satisfaction do you gain with a sense of security or making progress?
  • Relationships & Money. Do you define yourself through the responsibilities you feel toward those around you (family, friends and even strangers)?
  • Self-focus & Awareness. Do you need financial independence to feel at peace? Do you intuitively feel that you must take care of yourself as a prerequisite for other decisions?
  • Stress & Anxiety. How much do you worry about your financial life? Is your interaction with money plagued by frustration?

Each one of these categories is distinct, and you can score high or low on any number of them. For example, you can score high on your self-focus while also scoring high on your relationships and money. Understanding which of these categories drives your thinking, behavior and personal fulfillment can help you chart a course toward a successful financial life.

The Money Mindfulness tool aids you in identifying those values and gives you ideas that will align with your values for how you can be more successful in accomplishing your financial goals.

The Bottom Line

You can find both fulfillment and success in your financial life, but it starts with understanding what makes you tick. This awareness can lead to insights about how you can chart a course that is uniquely yours through some of the most difficult financial decisions.