What if your Financial Goals don’t agree with your Life Goals?

By Jimmy Turner, MD
The Physician Philosopher

The sister of one of my best friends went off the deep end in college.  We will call her Trinity. She got caught up in the wrong crowd, made some bad decisions, and ended up dropping out of college.  The direction that Trinity ended up going was really distressing to her parents.  The crazy part?  They blamed it on the college that she attended.

This was completely ironic, because she originally wanted to go to a different college, which aligned more closely to her parents’ values.  You know why they didn’t send her there?

It cost too much.

Whether this was true or not, they said that if they could jump into a time machine, go back, and send Trinity to the other college…they would do it in a heart beat.  This is a lesson on making sure our life goals play nice with our financial goals.

We have to keep the right perspective

Building wealth is important.  Hell, I made this website where two thirds of my posts deal with building wealth.  However, I didn’t forget the other part, which is making sure we live a life well lived.  After all, what’s the point in building wealth anyway?

It is not uncommon, though, that we let frugality cut so deep that we begin to forget the perspective we should be maintaining.  Let me give you an example from my life:

My wife (an elementary school teacher) is determined to get my daughter out of her current school by third grade.  The reason is unimportant, but suffice it to say that it is important and I agree with my wife.

The school has a very important change that takes place in third grade, which we feel will negatively impact her education.  My daughter is currently in the second semester of 1st grade.  So, if we want her in a different school by third grade, then that gives us a year and a half.

Bocce Ball

Not everything in life is fun and games. Sometimes tough decisions must be made.

But I’ve also always said that I want to be out of debt before we buy the next house.  So, what am I to do?  We have a little less than $140,000 left to pay off.

For a while, I felt like we had to make a choice between my daughter’s education and our financial success.  That was not a fun place for me to be.  What is a dad to do?

Put the Big Things first

Don’t think for a second that I would sacrifice my daughter’s education for a little financial security.  Fortunately, we can often achieve the goals that make both our head (finances) and our heart happy.

I made the decision to pick up a few extra shifts and perform some expert witness legal work on the side to help supplement my income.

This way, we will be able to pay off our debt by the time my daughter needs to be in a new school.

In doing this, I am accomplishing the compromise between our heart values and financial values; or our life goals and financial goals.  However, this has taken and will continue to take planning and intentional decisions.  It will not happen by chance, and it requires our financial goals to “play nice” with our life goals.

Living the Moderately Frugal Life

One of my first posts on this site discussed the moderately frugal life.  While my saving habits and investment options may change, my view that the right life is the moderately frugal life will not.

I think it is incredibly important for so many reasons to make the head and the heart happy, and to not forget that this can be done.  You don’t always have to choose between financial success and happiness in life.

I encourage you to think about where you can save, where you can earn, and where you can splurge.  Plan for your expected expenses when at all possible.  Do you have any items in your life that make it tough to strike the balance between financial success and happiness?  Leave some examples in the comments below.




  1. FullTimeFinance

    Money is a tool to assist you in reaching your life goals. Money is not the ultimate goal. As such if it doesn’t align with your life you shouldn’t follow it. But I find often we setup a false dichotomy of choices. Take your child example. Is the solution to move? Home school? Private school? Charter school? How do all options align with your financial goals?

    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      Completely agree, FTF.

      I think it poses two problems depending on which direction we swing in the false dichotomy:
      1) choose finances… You may feel like you are sacrificing life goal when an equally good opportunity is present that you aren’t considering.
      2) you use the life goal as an excuse to not achieve your financial goals (getting on the hedonic treadmill or paying increased expenses for something that isn’t worth it).

      I think keeping the perspective that money is a tool used to reach your goals, and not the goal itself… Is exactly the right perspective to take.

  2. DocG

    Some things are just worth spending on! If it’s important, you usually find a way to have both the needs of your heart and mind met!

  3. Gasem

    My wife was a pediatric OT who worked in some pre-school arenas as a private practitioner. We determined it was going to be impossible to send our kids to public school given the state of affairs in that system so she quit and we home schooled. Absolutely the best choice ever and worth every nickle it cost, probably close to $1.5M in lost income. (yes they are thoroughly socialized and delightful people)

    When you purchase a portfolio you are merely purchasing a product to provide you long term future security. It’s a totally customized item. If it takes 10 years or 20 years to construct, it is what it is. There really is no true production schedule only a proposed plan. Suppose Mr. Market decides to return 2.5% for 10 years instead of 10% Suppose we get 10 years of 4% inflation. FI is entirely dependent on that environment. Your kid OTOH has only one fixed period of childhood and adolescence.

    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      Sounds like you guys made the right choice, Gasem. At the end of the day money is a tool. It is not the end but the means. There are a lot of ways to get to where you want to be.

      Thank you for a great example!

  4. Dr. McFrugal

    Interesting thoughts. It’s like a different perspective on “your money or your life”. Money comes and goes. But you only have one life to live. And life is precious. When choosing between money goals and life goals… I always choose life.

    For example, 3 years ago my wife and I bought a new house. It was way more house than we needed. But we liked it a lot. It was in a great area with an excellent school district. We had always planned to have kids (2 or 3), so we knew we would eventually grow into it. Would it have made a lot more financial sense to buy a duplex or triplex in an “okay” area at the same price as our house and rent out the other units? Definitely. But I don’t think we would be nearly as happy if we had to live in a less desirable area and dealing with needy tenants. So in this case, we’re glad we chose our life over money. Luckily, most of the time, life and finance priorities/goals are aligned. 🙂

    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      I hear you, there.

      When this next move comes, we are thinking of buying a house versus building. I’ve always wanted to save up the money from bonuses to destroy my debt… But it seems that building a house requires a much larger down payment. I am looking into doctor construction loans to see if that’s a thing because of this haha.

  5. aGoodLifeMD

    Moderately frugal… Is that like a moderate atheist?

    I like your quote:
    “It is not uncommon, though, that we let frugality cut so deep that we begin to forget the perspective we should be maintaining.”

    I’m guilty of letting the frugal knife cut me deep. Or just cut me smaller 1,000 times. Now that we’re FI we plan to loosen the purse-strings, my wife is good for keeping me from being too Scrooge McDuck. We are moving soon (cross country) will buy a nice house and send to private school, get some nice hotels and start to travel a lot.

    Like the Fed, I want some “lifestyle” inflation, just a bit though, over the next 18 years before the kids leave. We will have periods of frugality and periods of spending, but the trend will be to increase spending over time. Envision an elevator (up/down) on an up escalator.

    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      Haha I like that last part. An elevator on an escalator 🙂

      Sounds like letting loose will be good for you where you are. You’ve done the work early and now you can reap your reward slowly.

      I am not sure what a moderate atheist looks like 😉 I think that’s called agonostic.


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