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Published by: Wes Brown, CFP® Date: January 04, 2015

As the 2014 holiday gift-giving season comes to a close, I’ve found myself stopping to think about the best Christmas gift I’ve been given over the years. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t a sweater, tie, or a toy. Instead, I’m reminded of the gift of my son, who we nearly lost as an infant on the day after Christmas seven years ago. Had he not had emergency heart surgery on that cold, gray December day, he wouldn’t be here with us now. I remember seeing him in that giant hospital bed and feeling overwhelmed, yet determined. I knew that there was nothing more important to me than being with my son and his health.

I had just begun working at a large Wall Street firm. In the months that followed, I struggled with being focused on the market each day when what was most important to me was my son’s recovery. That is until I changed my perspective. I realized I wasn’t just making money for my clients-I was giving them peace of mind knowing that I was crafting a financial plan that would give them the opportunity to focus on what was most important in their life.

There is nothing more elusive, more compelling, more personal, more a part of society, more anguished over, or more difficult to talk about than money. Money buys medicine, it builds homes, and pays for dreams. It can also cause envy, resentment and conflict. Although often over-valued, money is almost always important. Yet, it’s often the case, that chaos or calamity will cause us to reevaluate the things that are most important to us and simply making money typically isn’t identified as one of them.

A few years ago, a large brokerage firm asked investors if they wished they had done anything differently in light of the 2008-2009 economic downturn. Overwhelmingly, the response was that they wished they had focused more on their relationships in life than on financial and material wealth. I think the responses to this survey represent a positive outcome of the Great Recession. More and more, people are recognizing that it’s not so important how much money you have, but rather what you do with it. Money has a wonderful power to bring people together as well as tear them apart.

As you begin this new year, I encourage you to really think about what money means to you. Toys? Status? Freedom? Whatever it is, understand that having money won’t change who you are deep inside. Simply put, what you choose to do with your money and how you use it is an extension of your values. Things that you are concerned about now would still concern you if you had more money. It’s not the money, it’s who you are. Understanding the “why” behind your pursuits will help determine if your goals are aligned with your values. Ultimately, that’s where your greatest sense of peace and satisfaction will come from.
Wes Brown, CFP® is a Senior Financial Advisor for Rather & Kittrell, Inc. He can be reached at