Do Your Financial Values Define Who You Are?

Michael F Kay financial values
Michael F. Kay November 26, 2020

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Do your financial values guide your investment decisions? Financial values are the things that are important to you: the goals you have for your money. Before any investment or purchase, ask yourself, “What do I value?”

Certified financial planner Michael F. Kay explains how a person’s background affects their financial choices. He asserts that our parents are our first models of fiscal behavior. We can rise above the nature vs. nurture debate, and not blindly follow the path of a fiscally poor role model. You can break the cycle and create good habits moving forward.

Learn how to identify your financial values and use them as guidelines. The author of The Feel Rich Project assures listeners that you don’t have to “go cold turkey” to make a positive change in your financial life.

Financial independence is not just finding investments with high cash flow

Doug explains that finding investments with high cash flow is not the only way to feel financially secure. There are other ways to get a positive cash flow. Download a list of other ways you can increase your income here.

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To learn more about Michael F. Kay, read The Feel Rich Project: Reinventing Your Understanding of True Wealth to Find True Happiness, or visit his websites and You can also find Michael on Twitter @MichaelFKay or @FinLifeFocus.

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Watch Do Your Financial Values Define Who You Are? on YouTube.

Read the Transcript

Interview with Michael F. Kay

Michael F. Kay, a Certified Financial Planner, talks about how to develop good money habits in a practical way. He also talks about “money musts.” What does this mean, and how can it help you make better financial decisions?

Douglas Goldstein: I’m very excited to have on, The Goldstein on Gelt Show, Michael F. Kay, who like me, is a Certified Financial Planner.

He’s also an author, except he did not write Rich As A King. He wrote a book called The Feel Rich Project, which is about transforming your relationship with money.

Michael, in my book, Rich As A King, one of the things we focused on was the concept of behavioral finance.

From my experience, the reason why people often do badly with managing their money is not because of technical things. It’s because they get so emotionally messed up about it that they end up making the wrong decisions. Is that your experience as well?

How Your Family’s Attitude to Money Affects Your Attitude to Money

Michael F. Kay: Yes, Doug. There’s a lot of things that go into the mistakes we make, or the direction that we take in our lives, and so much of it is formulated based on what we’ve learned about money, growing up from a child’s eye and a child’s ear, as to what becomes our normal.

For instance, if we grow up in a family where our parents teach us it’s important to save for a rainy day, or don’t buy something that you can’t buy with cash, or don’t go into debt, those are supportive money habits and messages that children receive.

A lot of children grow up where parents never talk about money at all.

It’s a taboo subject, so they grow up with this mystery around money, or they grow up hearing things like, “It’s important to show people that you’re successful through your trappings, through what you wear, what car you drive,” or whatever else.

Those things become what’s normal to us, and that becomes a kind of “hardwired operating system.” The idea behind the Feel Rich Project, is to take a look at that kind of wiring, that money story that goes on in our heads, and see. Does it support us, or does it not support us, and if it doesn’t, how can we rewire our mindset so that we think differently?

Douglas Goldstein: Can people really rewire their mindset if their parents were bad with money?

The problem is that you can look at the debt in America, for example, and see that it shows that parents, on average, are probably pretty bad with money, and they’re the ones teaching the next generation. So what hope does someone have?

Let’s say you discover your parents are bad with money and you say, “I don’t want to do the same thing. I don’t want to fall into that trap.” What would you suggest someone do, other than obviously buy your book?

Can You Rewire Your Money Mindset?

Michael F. Kay: That’s a good place to start.

The idea here is to start to create for yourselves those ideas of, what is it that you value so highly that you’re willing to make changes for?

What will allow you to put your head on the pillow at night and feel that you’re moving in the right direction?

It becomes a matter of choice, and a matter of the choices that we make. Would I rather, kind of, fall into this pattern of destructive behavior or would I rather install new habits that will allow me to move closer? For example, one might say, “My normal course of action would be to go online and order something that catches my eye because I like it, or I when need some retail therapy, I’m going to go to the store and go shopping.”

This is vs. the idea of saying, “You know what? I need financial security, and I can’t have people calling me because I owe them money, or I’m late on the credit cards, or on my mortgage, so I need to start putting money aside.”

I need to create new habits that will bring me closer to each little step and again, go ahead.

Douglas Goldstein: This sounds easier said than done, you know what I mean? It all sounds well and good if your parents messed up with money, then you have to make sure that you have good money habits.

I think that a lot of people here, guys like you and me, are saying this. You and I are saying all the right things, and some of them are saying, “Yeah. Yada, yada, yada.”

How do you get someone to understand that you can’t have so much debt? Stop charging everything on the credit card. Don’t do the retail therapy that you’re talking about. Come on, man! Straighten yourself out. How do you get someone to change those habits?

The Process of Changing Bad Money Habits

Michael F. Kay: That’s a great question, and the fact is that, when you have a conversation with someone where they’re able to share that pain, what is it that they go through on an ongoing basis?

Are they getting phone calls? Are they getting threatening letters, and how does that feel? How would your level of satisfaction with your financial life be different? What would make it different?

Well, I don’t get the calls, or I have money in the bank, or I don’t owe the credit card companies money. How would we make that happen? Where are the choices?

The first stop, along this continuum, is to take a look at where we are now. What money comes in the door? Where’s money going out the door? What are our fixed costs? Where are our discretionary costs? What are the things we can make choices about?

If we make some small choices, we can say, okay, instead of doing X, we’re going to do Y. We’re going to shave down some of our decisions, so we’re not going to go cold turkey. It’s not like going on a diet and eating nothing but carrot sticks and celery sticks, because that’s unsustainable. What are the small things we can do to say, “Okay, let’s cut out dessert, or instead of cake, let’s have a bowl of fruit.”?

Let’s not feel like we’re completely in this denial mode, but let’s make small financial steps that will give us a taste that we’re not going to die from not being able to do these things. We’re improving our lives. It’s the small shifts that occur that support us in making bigger changes as we go.

Douglas Goldstein: Michael, I know one of the things you talk about is what you refer to as “money musts” and how they work day to day. Tell me what you mean by “money musts.”

What Are “Money Musts”?

Michael F. Kay: When we operate our lives on a daily basis, we are on auto pilot and we don’t even think about it, because our minds are elsewhere.

In creating your musts, you’re really creating what I call “a billboard of your standard” of what it is that you stand for.

What is it that must happen, that’s so powerful in your life that you’re going to carry it with you in your moment-to-moment decisions?

I recommend that people write down these “musts” down and read them multiple times a day, and keep reminding themselves, if it’s something important.

For some people, it might be getting out of debt, while for other people, it might be, “I want to save money so that I can help put my kids through college, or be able to retire and not be dependent on my children.”

What are those things that are so important, so deep inside of your guts, your marrow, your brain, your soul, that will help move the needle for you, in making those moment-to-moment decisions?

Douglas Goldstein: I think the issue with a lot of people is that maybe two people come in, and before you’ve trained them on how to be good clients, they say, "Tell me Michael, how much money can you make me on my investments"?

Then you have to say, "Whoa, back up a little bit. Let’s get started with some of the basics." How does that conversation go for you?

Understanding Who You Are and What’s Important to You

Michael F. Kay: In our practice, we are what’s called financial life planners, so we’re dealing with the quantitative aspects of how you increase return on a portfolio.

What’s missing from your estate plan or tax planning, etc.?

We’re dealing with the qualitative aspects of life satisfaction, money history, and where we are today, so we’re kind of bringing the past, present, and future together in conversation.

In helping clients walk through this process, are we understanding the transitions they’re facing? What are the things that are happening now? What do they expect to happen in five years or in ten years?

We are seeing a lot of people who are parts of the sandwich generation, where they’ve got older parents and younger children, and they’re caught in the squeeze.

What are these things in their lives that fill up their concern, that fill up their desires, and how do we change the conversation away from the nuts and bolts of what’s really driving them in their decision-making?

Are those important transitions in their lives?

The nuts and bolts of, is your allocation towards small-cap stocks too heavy, or are you sitting too much in U.S. stocks, is not really a factor.

It really focuses on those occurrences in life that drive the car for them.

Douglas Goldstein: I think that’s a great point. I think that people get mired in the details of things like, what’s the specific asset location?

I have a manager, and that’s something they can outsource, but what they can’t outsource is understanding who they are and what’s important to them.

Michael, you’ve covered a lot of very important things for us. Unfortunately, we are just about out of time today. In the last few seconds, could you just tell us how people can follow you and follow your work?

How to Follow Michael F. Kay

Michael F. Kay: Sure. Well, they could find me on They can read about the Feel Rich Project and what we do there, or if they want to see some of the work that we do on the planning side, they can certainly look at, and they’ll find the links if they want to follow me on Twitter or read my columns in Forbes or Psychology Today.

Douglas Goldstein: Okay, great. Michael F. Kay, thanks so much for taking the time.

Michael F. Kay: Doug, it was my pleasure.

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