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Are Your Priorities Really What You Say They Are?

She looked me straight in the eye and said that she wished she didn’t have to work. Instead, she desperately wanted the financial ability to stay at home with her newborn son. My heart ached for her a little. A new mother that longs to be with her children should be able to do exactly that, no questions asked. Unfortunately, our economy today has made this nearly impossible for many young couples. At least…that’s what I figured was the issue…until I saw her pull away in her brand new $30,000 Honda Odyssey…

Your True Priorities on Display

If someone asked what your priorities were, what would you tell them? If you are like the majority of the population, your list might look something like this:

  1. Spiritual
  2. Family
  3. Financial
  4. Career
  5. Intellectual
  6. Physical
  7. Social

But, how often do we do things that represent none of the seven items above? And, how many times have we spent the majority of our money on items that we claim are unimportant? No matter what our claims may be, there are two areas that display our true priorities.

1) Your Time Priorities

Let’s say that your priorities are ordered like the setup in the paragraph above, but do we typically allocate our time according to our list of priorities? In other words, do we spend the majority of our time studying religion? Do we then spend eight or so hours with the family? And then do we allocate 4-6 hours of our day to our finances? Ummm, this is highly doubful.

What is more likely is that we spend our morning eating breakfast by ourselves, watching the news. Then, we head out the door in a hurry, barely saying goodbye to our kids. We work a full 10 hour day, drive home, eat dinner with the family (again, probably parked in front of the TV), we head out to play golf or softball, and then we – yes, you guessed it –  watch some more TV.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a very detailed survey shows a day in the life of an employed person between the age of 25 and 54.Not surprisingly, over two thirds of our time is spent in bed and at work, followed by leisurely activities, caring for others, household chores, eating and drinking, and another 1.7 hours for randoms which fit in the “other” category.

20150518 - average day charted

So what does all of this tell us? Basically, our time allocation shows the world what we actually value. Within the 24 hour day, we spend the most time working a job. Why do we choose to work so much when finances and career are number three and four on the list? “Well duh, Derek,” you might say, “we have to work to stay alive and provide for our families” I somewhat agree, but partially disagree as well.

Yes, work is necessary to create an income, but do we really need to work the long hours that we sign up for? Couldn’t we work just as hard to create a passive income that would allow us to work fewer and fewer hours as the money continually drips in? Or, couldn’t we live a more minimalistic lifestyle that would require less money, and therefore fewer hours at that job? Yes, both of these options are possible, but why are so few people taking action on them?

And then what about sports and leisure? 2.5 hours every single day! I guess all of your top seven “priorities” are taking a backseat to “having a good time with your buddies”.

Take note of how much time you are spending on your priorities this week. Chances are that you need to let your actions speak much louder than your words.

2) Your Spending Priorities

As if I didn’t beat you up enough already, let’s take a look at what you’re spending your money on. Does your spending match your priorities?

According to Visual Economics, the majority of our spending goes toward housing, then transportation, and then food. No big surprises there, but how do these align with our priorities? None of them have anything to do with our spiritual lives, so we’re missing the boat there again. You could argue that some of the food is obviously for the family, and of course a portion of the house and transportation as well. The question I want to ask is, “Do we really need our large homes and our luxury cars?”  What if we would downsize our house and spend $200 less on the mortgage. Instead, why don’t we give that money to a worthy cause? Would that help our priority alignment?

20150518 - average spending

I started this post with a story that actually happened to me a couple of years ago. People are so blinded by their wants and so-called “needs” that they totally miss the boat on their priorities. I believe the woman I spoke with was entirely sincere in her longing to be at home with her child. However, she was asking the wrong people for advice.

According to her family and friends, the only way to keep your kids safe in the vehicle was to lease a brand new one. If they want to be good parents, then they should buy a house that has plenty of room for their children to play, both inside and out. If you really want what’s best for your children, then both the husband and the wife should be working so they can earn the maximum potential income.

These are lies. Every one of them.

If you truly value your family, then wouldn’t you want to save up your money for a fantastic education, a well-planned family vacation, and a fully stocked emergency fund? These can all be done with a smaller house, a less expensive car that you pay cash for, and an occupation that allows flexibility in your schedule, and could let your spouse to be at home with the children.

Based on your time and your spending, are your priorities really what you say they are?

Battle of the Mind Money


My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. Interesting article. I tend to agree about lining up priorities with your spending habits. I had a co-worker tell me perhaps I shouldn’t have children because I was worried about finances. We are in fact waiting to have children until we pay off our debt (in about two years), have an emergency fund and can afford child care while saving for college. We are not waiting for the perfect time, instead we are working toward the right time for us. I would argue that we do in fact care just as much about our future family and therefore are focused on healthy finances. The same person on the other hand has $75k+ in debts, isn’t even capable of covering the minimum but is trying to have a baby! Ugh..

    • So the same person that gave you advice to wait is trying to have a baby herself even though she has a mountain of debt? Did I read that right?

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