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Don’t Panic! Values-Based Financial Planning for Grownups

organized financial workspace

Society of Grownups is a learning initiative created to help people (primarily Millennials) put a plan in place and find the resources they need in order to achieve their financial goals. The Society offers classes, resources, and community for “Grownups” seeking advice and support on a range of financial literacy topics, like paying down debt, managing retirement, investing basics, salary negotiation, and saving for a big trip or a down payment.  Basically, Society of Grownups specifically addresses the hard parts of adulthood that people rarely talk about, but assume everyone else has already figured out. They make it fun, too, with well-designed swag, classes like “Getting Better with Age” and “Loans and Groans,” and supper clubs and special events that offer networking and community for like-minded Grownups.
Last Tuesday, I attended one of Society of Grownups’ pop-up events at Workbar Boston called “Your Values, Your Money, Your Life.” The workshop created a safe space for attendees from diverse backgrounds to talk through their goals, their good and bad financial decisions, and the values that drive them. Here were my top three takeaways:

1. Financial planning is not one-size-fits-all

"alt= financial planning, society of grownups"A common theme throughout the workshop was that everyone’s priorities in life are different, and no financial plan fits every person. When asked to share some of our top financial goals, answers from the class ranged from learning the basics of investing and saving enough to buy a rental property, to taking two big trips every year and quitting a job to travel for six months. Though it’s tempting when talking about finances to jump to numbers and formulas, your plan should be customized to your priorities. Instead of starting with how much money you should contribute to your IRA each month, start by asking yourself what you’d like to accomplish in life, what your short and long-term goals are, and what made you start to think about finances in the first place. Your answers to those questions will set a much better starting point for making a financial plan that you’ll stick to.

2. Let your values be your guide

In order to know your goals and priorities in life, you have to know the values that drive them. As part of the workshop, each attendee received a stack of 50 custom cards with words and phrases like “helping others,” “achievement,” “family,” “adventure” and “meaningful work” printed on them. The financial planner running the workshop asked us to pick our top 25 values from the stack. That financial planning cardswas relatively easy, until we had to narrow those 25 to 10 and then to only 5. I found myself hemming and hawing about whether or not to discard “helping others” or “happiness,” and it forced me to think about what mattered more and what values were a means to an end for another value. By the end, I had my top five values in front of me. Though I felt like a bad person for choosing happiness over helping others, I had a sense of clarity and a roadmap for guiding my short and longer-term goals. Making a short list of your top values, and understanding that those values may change over time, is a great way to focus and feel good about your financial decisions. Next time you make a purchase, ask yourself if it’s supporting or contradicting one of your top five values. You’ll make fewer regrettable purchases and feel good about the ones that do support your end-goals, whether that means putting money into an IRA or buying a leather jacket that makes you feel happy.

3. Financial Planning is Fun

"alt= financial planning, society of grownups"Financial planning sounds intimidating and boring, but it shouldn’t! If you set aside all the jargon and pressure to do the “right” thing and realize that there is no one right way to manage your money, your  finances start to feel more like a fun game than a necessary evil. It’s up to you how you prioritize your life, and your finances are just a means to help you do what you love and care about.

To register for the next free Society of Grownups pop-up event and happy hour at Workbar Cambridge and to see other upcoming events in the Workbar Network, visit

About the Author: Alexa Lightner is the Director of Community Development for the Workbar Network. She loves people, innovative ideas, and connecting the two. Contact her on Twitter at @alexalightner


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