Research shows four categories of human values corresponding to people’s concerns in life:
Inner values: psychological and spiritual
Social values: family, friends and communities of interest
Physical values: health and environment
Financial values: sufficiency, sustainability, appropriateness
Inner LifeValues are personal. They include our identity and our social identity, the desire to worship (or not) as we please, our need for safety and security, and many other aspects of the “real me.” Inner values constitute our desire for freedom and independence, and for control over our life, our goals and our priorities. Strong feelings of autonomy and security, for instance, help us feel in charge of our life. From a financial perspective, inner values frame the behaviors that lead to financial security and the resourcefulness than can help us to survive a sudden money crunch that blindsides us.
Inner values also shape our sense of purpose and meaning in life, and the principles by which we live. We vary from person to person in our need for personal space, our desire for autonomy at work, and the need to achieve or to feel accomplished. We all have such values, and they are rooted in how we see ourselves and how we believe others see us.
Social LifeValues are about “belonging” and relatedness. They concern our parents, spouse, partner, children, other family members, neighbors, friends and community at large. Our desire to be with others or to be a loner affects our living and working habits. Providing for others, budgeting jointly and sharing expenses are part of this domain. How we handle money is in part tied up in our unique family history. Habits and cultural preferences are rooted in family and other social relationships.
Social LifeValues also resonate on a broader level with our communities of interest: peer groups, organizational groups with which we identify and/or interact, our relatedness to political parties and representatives, and even whole nations.
Physical LifeValues are about the tangible aspects of life: the external world as well as the state of our physical health and well-being. Such values relate to the amount of space we need to feel comfortable and the degree to which we are satisfied and fulfilled by aesthetic stimulation and material possessions. Physical values involve the actual health of our bodies and the measures we are willing to take to secure that health, but they also are about our desire for beauty and comfort.
These values can be seen in our pursuit of art and artifacts, clothing styles, vehicles, and architectural preferences in the home we select to buy or rent. Physical values are about feeling physically satisfied and comfortable in our home and our environment.
Financial LifeValues are are about money and finances. They are unrelated to how much money we actually have. These values reflect what we think or believe about our money and financial affairs. They reflect how we value money and what it can buy or how it can grow as an investment.
Financial LifeValues may or may not be related to what we actually know about money and finance. As with any deeply held value, we might intend action to increase savings or decrease debt, but choose instead to reinforce our self-esteem on “needs” manufactured in the marketplace.
Nearly everyone, regardless of educational level or affluence, is concerned with:
- The sufficiency of their money (“Do I have enough?”)
- The sustainability of their resources (“How long will my money last?”), and
- The appropriateness of their financial decisions (“Is this the right choice for me?”)
The answers to those questions have different meanings for different individuals based on their financial values. Individuals less concerned about appropriateness of purchases are less likely to be prepared for financial emergencies. Those who think more about the sustainability of their money generally have a healthier bank balance. And what is “enough” to one person can differ greatly from the “enough” of the person standing next to him or her.