Money, values, & ethical wills
Yes, paying attention to finances and ethical wills go well together.
Some people want their financial legacies to reflect the values through which they have lived their lives but when forced to articulate just what those values are, find themselves speechless. Writing a draft ethical will is one way to shed light on what those values are, and how you want your hard assets apportioned after your death.
The process of drafting an EW is not difficult, really, except for this part: people often find it difficult to confront themselves to see what it is they actually think and feel about some important issues. For example, couples might be reluctant because one of the two might harbor opinions rather different from those of their partner, and airing those opinions may be seen as risking an unhappy conversation. One couple I learned of appeared quite conservative, but later revealed one of the two felt considerably less conservative than the other, and never wanted to discuss it for fear of starting an argument. However, when the conversations were initiated at the lawyer’s about how to divide the estate, the less-conservative of the two balked at some of the assumed donations made in the Will. Thus ensued a conversation that was years in the making.
Discussions about money are as difficult as they often are because money so frequently conveys our values, whether we are conscious of that or not! What we spend on reflects necessity but also reflects what matters to us.
For example, I might value my day off spent volunteering more than I value having that extra hundred dollars in my pocket, so I might be willing to pay someone else $100 to do in two hours what would have taken me eight, and may still have cost me the $100 when I had to pay someone to come in and fix a problem I had only made worse! However, one of my parents might take me to task for “taking the easy way out” by refusing to make the repair myself. From experience, I may know that not to be true! I only have two thumbs….
We make those trade-offs all the time. How often do we buy take-out on the way home, instead of cooking when we get there? Doing that, we trade money — and sometimes health — to have more time for relaxing (or doing other chores) or spending time with the kids instead of spending that time chopping veggies and washing dishes.
A common technique in teaching people how to budget is to have them write down every dime spent each day for a week. At the end of the week they review the expenditures and put them into categories to help realize, or visualize, where the money goes. This exercise helps teach us where we are spending our money because we typically don’t pay much attention to where “a few bucks here and there” go.
Likewise, looking at that record of where we spend our money is a starting point for paying attention to what our expenditures say about our values. Having done the exercise myself, I ask myself different questions now. It isn’t a case of “do I feel like cooking or not” but rather “am I going to have more carbos/dairy (pizza — and I’ve already had it twice this week at lunch) or am I going to give my body that salad it needs and hasn’t had in three days.” For me, paying attention to health and seeing food as distinctly related to health has become more valuable than convenience.
That’s one of my values. What do your spending habits say about yours? Do they reflect what you think you value? And does your financial planning reflect your values, as well?