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Seeking Better Alignment of your Money to your Goals? Try Values-Based Saving

Zack Hubbard, CFP®

In my last blog post, I discussed values-based budgeting as an alternative to traditional budgeting for those struggling to stick to a budget. But what if you have no problem sticking to a budget, but are wondering how to make sure that your savings are aligned with your values? Well, give values-based saving a try!

Just like in values-based budgeting, values-based saving starts with defining your core values. There are many different resources that you can use to help define your core values, like this one from Carnegie Mellon University. However, unlike values-based budgeting, values-based saving requires you to look forward rather than backwards.

When we are talking about saving, what we are really talking about is spending in the future. In order to appropriately use a values-based saving strategy, you will need to define your goals as they relate to your core values. This process can be tricky, as it is often hard to articulate exactly what your goals are for the future. Try asking yourself these four questions (and recording your answers):

  1. What do I want to accomplish as it relates to [core value] in the next year?
  2. What about in the next 5 years?
  3. The next 10 years?
  4. When I am looking back years later, what will I have had to accomplish as it relates to [core value] to feel satisfied with my life?

 

These are, without a doubt, challenging questions to answer. Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time and space to work through each question. If you are part of a couple working together on a values-based saving strategy, do these exercises separately first. Too often with couples one partner defers to the other. For this process to be truly effective, both partners need to come with their true feelings and desires so that a mutually agreeable strategy can be created. Once you’ve determined your core values and your goals for those values, it is time to work on the plan. Most diligent savers have one main bank savings account and one retirement savings account. While you are likely unable to effectively separate your retirement account into multiple different accounts, you are almost definitely able to do so with your bank savings. For value-based saving, this is crucial.

 

Values-Based Saving Account Framework

Many of us keep our savings in one account, which makes it nearly impossible to delineate the multiple purposes of the savings account. Instead, when creating a values-based savings plan, think about creating a framework of savings accounts to help ensure that your money is aligned with your values. For example, your savings account framework may look like this:

Savings #1: Emergency Savings (this account should ALWAYS be included)

Savings #2: Core Value #1

Savings #3: Core Value #2

Savings #4: Core Value #3

Savings #5: Core Value #4

By breaking your savings accounts out based on their specific purpose, you will not only be able to ensure that you are using the money for its intended purpose, but also keep your savings organized so that you are not dipping into emergency savings to pay, for example, for a family vacation. Instead, if “family” is one of your core values, you would have a savings accounted titled “Family” or something similar. If taking a big family vacation is something that reinforces this value for you, it would come from the “Family” savings account, which would then be replenished for the next expense. This will also help you prioritize your savings, helping you make sure that you are filling up the most important savings accounts first (emergency savings and the accounts that correlate with your top values), and not overfunding another. While it may seem overwhelming to try to keep track of all of these accounts, technology today makes it easier than ever to stay on top of your finances and see all of your accounts in one place. Your bank likely offers the service via a mobile app, or you can use one of many reliable apps to track your savings (if you need some ideas, check out this list of the best personal finance apps of 2020).

As you can see, a values-based savings strategy helps even the most diligent of budgeters and savers better align their money with their values, and provides a framework for not only maximizing savings, but maximizing life. If you are looking to create your own values-based savings strategy, contact Greenspring today! If you are a participant in one of our retirement plans, head over to www.greenspringadvice.com and schedule a 1:1 with one of our CFP® professionals on the participant advice team. Or visit our website at www.greenspringadvisors.com and contact our Private Client team.