Early last month, I wrote a short piece about how to write an awesome personal executive summary. One of the components of that summary was a financial mission statement, and I teased you about writing an entire post devoted to the topic. Here it is!
First let me give you a caveat, and it’s a big one–writing a mission statement is so personal that no one should tell you how to do it. You need to figure it out. That being said, there is a big opportunity to discuss strategies, approaches, and question prompts you can use to guide you on your way.
What is a Mission Statement?
Before diving head-first into the world of mission statements, let’s take a look at what one is, and what it does.
At the core, a mission statement is any conscious recording of what guides your decision-making process. It can be a list of goals, a description of values or overall life philosophy, or any other form of expressing your ultimate purpose in life.
A financial mission statement does essentially the same things, but specific to the area of finance.
- Why do I need a mission statement? You don’t–and I won’t tell on you to Mom. But defining an overarching life philosophy for managing your money is the only way to assure that you’re headed in the exact direction you want, and in the way you want.
- I already have a mission statement. Why write another one? I view money an an enabler of everything else in life–and in addition to how we spend our time, the definition of what we prioritize. It’s so important that I think you need to write a separate statement for it.
- How do I get started? Well, I’m about to tell you.
What Should It Look Like?
What do I think a mission should look like? In my mind, a mission statement is short, dense, and very meaningful. You should be able to read it regularly and remember most of it, and it should be incredibly inspirational. So inspirational that it prompts you to take action or reminds you of sacrifices you’re making regularly.
Is that what you mission statement will look like? I suggest you at least my advice into consideration. It shouldn’t “cramp your style.” Just look how many formats your mission statement can take:
- One giant paragraph.
- Several smaller, but equally important paragraphs.
- A list of things.
- Unrelated words of sentences.
- Affirmative statements.
- An idea cloud.
- A video (or an audio recording) – for the creative crowd.
- A cartoon or sketch or piece of art.
- A list of quotes to live by.
- Any combination of the above.
- Something else entirely.
What jumps out at your first? Go with your gut instinct–the ultimate goal is to inspire your soul to act.
How to Get Started
Once you have an idea for the format your mission statement will take, my suggestion would be just to start. Pick a random hour, an evening, or even an entire weekend, and find a place where you can think without interruption.
Start by examining some of the question prompts I’ll share with you below and see what path this leads you on. Write down your answers. See if you spot any surprising trends or patterns in your thinking.
If you have a spouse willing to go through the exercise with you, my suggestion would be to do it individually first. Once you have a general idea of what you would like to communicate with your statement, come together to discuss your thoughts before drafting a final mission statement together.
Sometimes, you may have a spouse that isn’t interested in going through this exercise. Without getting frustrated, explain the importance of what you’re doing and how critical you believe it is to your success. Then go through the exercise yourself first. Share your answers with your spouse and you will probably get a reaction (positive or negative)–now you’re “writing” it together. Encourage your spouse to do their own introspection once they’ve bought into the concept.
Let’s move on to some of the concrete ideas for what to consider:
The executive summary post gave you a few ideas on question prompts for your mission-writing sessions. Today, I’d like to share a more comprehensive list of questions with you. First, let’s recap the past question prompts that did a great job of taking care of the basics:
- Looking at life as a whole, what do you consider to be your primary financial objectives?
- What are your major career and family goals in life?
- What do you hope to accomplish in your lifetime and how will money play a role?
- What do you believe are your major skills and ways you can contribute to the world?
- What exists at the intersection of all of your financial goals, objectives, and skills?
- How do you view money and the place and function it holds in your life?
That should give you a good framework to work from. Here are some more questions to prompt your thinking:
- What kinds of income levels do you hope to reach during your lifetime?
- What would you like to do with your money, generally speaking, while you’re alive?
- Does charity play an important role in your plan? How about family? Supporting community?
- What will happen with your money when you pass away?
- Are there important dates in your life that relate to your money? For example, do you want to consider yourself financially independent by 2015?
- What’s your philosophy on preparing for financial storms? Do you subscribe to “live in the moment” or “save for tomorrow?”
- If you have a spouse, how will you marry your financial goals? If you don’t have a partner, how will you do it in the future?
- How will you react when your financial situation goes downhill? What if it does extremely well?
- How do you define financial freedom? Are you interested in trying to reach it?
- What’s your philosophy on insurance? Would you consider self-insuring for certain things?
- Imagine you’ve just gotten a $1,000,000 windfall. What is your first reaction? Be completely honest.
- Consider some of your life roles. How do they impact and interact with your financial goals?
- If you could give your money to a single charity, what would it be?
- Do you already have life goals in place? Check out item #4.
- Play with your income–imagine you’re earning 50% more. How about half of what you make now? How does each scenario impact what you consider priorities?
- Of your goals and dreams, what are the most important 20%? What is really important but doesn’t have a sense of urgency?
- What are the reasons you go to work every morning? How does that impact your life?
- Is home ownership in your future? Further education? Kids? Extensive travel?
- How do you view the concept of loans at their very core? What are you willing to borrow for and when do you have to pay cash?
- Do you view things with a reactive eye or a proactive one? Would you rather invest in preventative health care or wait until something breaks?
I’m sure you’re already churning some great ideas in your head right now. Take a moment to write them down before they disappear.
It’s very unlikely that you’ll draft your mission statement in one sitting. If you expect to, you’ll be setting yourself up for failure.
Speaking from personal experience, it takes three to four drafts to come up with a mission statement that really resonates with your very core. And the editing never stops…you’ll want to revisit your statement every so often to make sure your life goals and values are still in alignment with what it preaches.
That’s the advice I leave you with today–stay very patient. Writing a statement may take a day. But it might take the span of a year or more–looking for inspiration, careful consideration and self-reflection. Best of luck to you.
Here are a few more posts to read if you enjoyed this one:
- Writing an Awesome Personal Executive Summary
- 7 Ways to Find Your Financial Heart
- Optimizing Your Contact With Money
- How to Set Joint Financial Goals With Your Partner
- Using Life Roles to Organize Your Budget
- Hurricanes and Planning for Financial Disaster
- X Marks the Spot: Navigating Financial Treasure Maps