Like many families now, my family doesn’t have cable TV; we have streaming services, which means my kids almost never see commercials. However, each week, when we visit my parents’ house, my kids are exposed to commercials. And not just any commercials, the commercials on the kids’ channels, which are specifically designed to appeal to their little wants. For nearly every commercial, my four-year-old son says, “I want that”, “Can I have that?”, and all other variations of this same question. Again, it’s automatic. They don’t think; they just want. Even when they don’t really understand the toy or trinket, they want it. Sometimes I think there is no end to how much my kids can want. However, it occurred to me while observing this in my kids, that money actually does act as the bridge to connect desire to fulfillment. For this reason, it is incredibly important to understand our own desires so that we can more appropriately spend and save money to achieve them.
While I’m quick to see how commercials bring out desire in my kids, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also recognize this tendency in myself. Of course, I am not sitting in front of a TV saying “I want that” audibly each time a commercial ends (Or I don’t let the kids hear it anyway…), but it is foolish to assume that advertisements do not pull on our own personal desires in subtle ways. If I’m not careful, I can find that I spend money on something that shows up in my Facebook feed only to find that it really wasn’t as valuable to me as I thought it would be. The difference between me and my children is that, while they lack the bridge to close the gap between desire and fulfillment (i.e. money), I have that bridge available to me.
But we do a disservice to ourselves and our kids if we neglect examining our desires to make sure we’re building the right bridges—to ensure that the bridge we construct actually leads to a fulfilled desire that satisfies us.
In her influential book Your Money or your Life, Vicki Robin notes, “Having more is an endless horizon. No matter how much you have, that voice of ‘more would be better’ drives you to make acquisition the name of your game. Greed is one of the many strings in the human heart, and it can be pro-survival, but unchecked by a sense of fairness, balance, and love, it can gut our capacity for joy.”
The difficult truth about some of our money problems is that we have not taken the time to reflect on the underlying desires that shape how we use our money. Unbridled desire results in closets full of clothes we don’t wear and garages packed with gadgets we have long forgotten while our long term financial goals are left unfulfilled.
It’s hard work, and it takes discipline to be honest with oneself regarding our short-term and long-term desires. Perhaps this is why we often overlook this step or are only aware of it after-the-fact. Nevertheless, it is important, no matter where you are in your financial journey, to take time to reflect on why you desire the things you want now and how that affects the things you desire for your life in the long term. Does the immediate value of the thing you want outweigh your long-term desires for your financial goals? Sometimes the answer will be “yes,” and that’s okay as long as you’re asking the question. However, many times we can forego short term luxuries if we realize that it will cost us something that we desire in the long-term.
If we start with the end in mind, we can better evaluate our financial decisions without sacrificing the joy of seeing our true desire fulfilled.
Please feel free to reach out to us at Accruent Wealth Advisors if you have any questions about the content of this article or any other financially challenging issue you may be facing.
Nathan Snow, CFP, is an associate Wealth Advisor at Accruent Wealth Advisors located in Winston-Salem NC. He and his wife Kayla and their 2 children, Lily and Bennett reside in Yadkinville, North Carolina.