Five Things I Think are More Important than Money

Photo of person laying on a rock looking over their hiking boots across a lake with mountains across the lakeThe personal finance blogosphere has thousands of articles about money. That’s as it should be. The FIRE community talks about becoming financially independent and entering “early retirement” at an age much sooner than the norm (often in their early thirties). Here are five things more important than money.

There is talk about paying off student debt, investing, saving, credit card hacks, side hustles, and numerous other topics. For anyone interested in becoming financially independent, there are resources galore from which to choose. ESI Money and my blog, Money with a Purpose are among the many voices available.

However, life isn’t all about money. It might be much simpler if that’s all we had to consider.

Of course, it isn’t.

What if our pursuit of financial independence and early retirement bring other problems to our lives? How do we keep from obsessing over every little expense? How do we make space for living today while pursuing our financial goals?

I’ve thought about these things a lot recently. I examined my own life to think about my values and what things for me are more important than money.

What follows is my top five list of things I think are more important than money.

The list isn’t in any particular order except the first one – health. We get so wrapped up in the business of our lives that we neglect taking care of ourselves.

I could have easily written a full post on any one of these topics. I started with a list of ten and whittled it down to these five.

With that background, here’s my list.

Five Things More Important than Money


Having financial independence and wealth won’t do us much good if we can’t enjoy it because we haven’t taken care of our health. And it seems that more and more people are ignoring this critical aspect of life.


One of the significant contributors to our health problems is stress. Stress, quite literally, is killing us.

A recent article from the Mayo Clinic on Stress Management lists three areas where stress can affect us – body, mood, and behavior. There are seven effects listed for the body (like headaches, muscle pain, fatigue, etc.), six for mood (like anxiety, restlessness, sadness or depression), and six for behavior (like overeating, drug or alcohol abuse, social anger outbursts).

What can we do to deal with stress? Here’s a partial list.

  1. Slow down – Start with simple breathing exercises or meditation. Slow, deep breathing lowers your heart rate and can calm the mind. Add quiet reflection to it, and the benefits increase even more. My wife uses an app called Calm. I don’t use it, but she loves it. You may have to try a few things before settling on what works for you.
  2. Exercise – Everyone knows this helps. Don’t think you have to join a gym or buy equipment. A simple twenty to thirty-minute daily walk will help. Start with a few sit-ups and push-ups. But start somewhere. There are tons of exercise apps, YouTube channels, that have anything you want to try. Search, and I’m confident you’ll find something that works.
  3. Diet – Again. It’s not complicated. You don’t have to be on some hard to follow diet whose goal is fast weight loss. Cut down the portions you eat and stay away from processed food. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables. Drink lots of water.


The American Cancer Society cites excess body weight as a major cause of multiple health issues affecting Americans. They say that one in three Americans is obese. Another one in three is overweight. That’s two-thirds of the country struggling with their weight.

Intellectually, we all know being overweight is not a good thing. Food is a natural elixir when we’re feeling stressed, down, or in a funk. And unlike illegal drugs and alcohol, food is an easy way to self-medicate when we’re in that funk. They don’t call it comfort food for anything.

I’m not suggesting that we’re all addicted to food. We need it to survive. What I am suggesting is that many of us may not realize the impact our diets have on our overall well-being.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excess body weight increases our risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Stroke
  • Liver and gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Arthritis
  • Abnormal menstrual periods and infertility in women
  • Certain Cancers

By no means is this an extensive list. To me, stress is the number one problem with our health. It leads to numerous health issues. Self-medicating with food leads to weight problems and all the problems that come with it.



Not everyone comes from a healthy family or has healthy relationships with family members.

Statistics tell us that many marriages end in divorce. Others stress over financial and other issues. Even if it’s messy and relationships strained, it’s worth it to work on improving broken family relationships.

I don’t know of any perfect family, do you? However, we all know people who have good relationships with their families. These family relationships help us live a healthier life.

My parents divorced when I was twenty. Even at that age, it was hard. I held resentment for years after the divorce. My brother had an even harder time of it.

I found it hard to trust. My wife shares the same issue. We both brought that issue into the marriage. Because of the baggage, our first several years of marriage were hard.

In time, and through counseling, we were able to identify the issue and began to work on it together. Unresolved anger toward our parents was the culprit for both of us. Once we identified the problem, we had to figure out what to do to keep it from doing further damage. The solution was to have an awkward conversation with our parents – individually. It was one of the most challenging things either of us had ever done.

I’m proud to say that in February 2019, we will celebrate thirty-five years of marriage. The work and effort along the way are worth it.


I’m so glad we made the difficult decision to do it. It changed our relationships with our parents and helped us better understand our behaviors. As a result, we repaired these broken relationships that held us back from fuller relationships with our families.

What’s the point of all this? Families are important. They are also messy. In our cases, things that happened in our families in the past shaped who we are today, both the good and the bad. We learned that our parents loved us, even though we didn’t feel it at times. We learned the importance of forgiveness in repairing the brokenness.

Unresolved anger toward family member damages us far more than the offending person. We can’t control their behavior and reaction, only our own. Don’t let past hurts keep you from repairing broken relationships in your family.

I’ll leave this topic with a quote from one of our favorite television shows, Criminal Minds (don’t judge me)

“Our scars define where we’ve been. They don’t have to define who we are.” SSA Rossi (Joe Mantegna)


All our relationships are meaningful. I know lots of people who claim large groups of friends. But how close are those friends? Can you talk to about anything? Or do they keep things on a surface level?

Either way is fine. We all need different kinds of relationships. We are built to be in relationships with one another. When we deny that to ourselves, it can create problems.

I have lots of friends and connections, personal and professional. I’m grateful for that. However, there is only a handful with whom I share my life. And that’s all I need. These are the ones  I know I can call on any time day or night, and they will be there for me, and I for them.

I’ve seen friendships broken over silly things. The political climate today and the hard-line positions some take destroys long-standing friendships. I’ve heard stories of it tearing apart families too. Digging into a particular viewpoint combined with the inability to listen to another’s view damages relationships. We seem unable or willing to consider changing the way we think about things. When we do that, our relationships suffer.

Facebook seems to be taking over as the platform for political rants. It’s full of people shouting at each other. I don’t know about you, but having someone yelling their view to me doesn’t make me inclined to change mine. Quite the contrary, it makes me go the other direction. I know of a couple of friendships lost in political arguments that take place on the news feed. Does that make sense to you? It doesn’t to me either.

So, the next time you’re tempted to enter into this kind of discussion, ask yourself this question. Is digging in my heels on a position worth running a friendship? I think not. If we paused before reacting, we would all be better for it.

Developing and nurturing essential friendships will help us live a healthier life. Don’t take them for granted. We should put in the effort to keep them healthy.


Values are foundational to the decisions we make in life. They should define how we live. Going through life without values leads to a shallow existence.

Everyone has values, whether stated or not. It’s essential your values align with your money.

It’s even more critical that you know your purpose, your “why” in making decisions.

Another way to look at values is to look at your passions. What excites you to jump out of bed in the morning and start your day? If you can’t answer, here’s another way to ask the question.

What are you working to accomplish? Is it to get a paycheck? If so, there is no passion in that, and you will quickly become dissatisfied and hate getting out of bed and going to work.


A recent MoneyWatch article titled Why so many Americans hate their jobs cites a Gallup survey which shows that 2/3 of American workers “are disengaged at work, or worse.”

Another finding is that “51 percent aren’t engaged at work — meaning they feel no real connection to their jobs, and thus they tend to do the bare minimum.” That means that over half of those who work for employers don’t like their jobs!

If you feel trapped in your work and get your self-worth from your job, that’s a dangerous path to follow. If that describes you, think about where your passions lie. Is there another job that would be more suitable for your passions? If not, is there a way to turn your passion into a business?

Being stuck is not a fun way to live. If you are miserable in your job, it will carry over into the other parts of your life – your family, your hobbies, and other leisure activities. Take some time to pause to think about what’s important to you. If married, include your spouse in the exercise. Make a list of those values. See if what you think about, how you spend your time, and how you spend your money align with those things.

If they don’t, develop a plan to make the changes necessary to get them aligned. You’ll likely feel much better about life, improve your relationships, and lead to a happier life.


Have you thought about what kind of legacy you want to leave? For the moment, let’s not talk about a financial legacy. How do you want to be remembered? What will you leave behind so that people will know?

For many parents, their legacy is carried on in the lives of their children. Equipping them with an education, and passing along their values cements that legacy for many parents.

Others have a passion for a particular cause like breast cancer, helping abused children, or another worthy cause that makes people’s lives better. I know people who have composed and left behind their life’s manifesto for posterity. It’s something their kids, friends, and others can turn to for inspiration and guidance.

By definition, legacy is long-lasting. Something long-lasting takes time to plan. It takes time to develop and mold to the way we desire. It has to be intentional.

Our values will shape our legacy. They define who we are and should guide our decisions in every area of our lives.

Of course, if someone has wealth and wants to leave a financial legacy that represents those values, then, by all means, use the money for that purpose. Build a wing on a children’s hospital. Set up a scholarship fund for kids who can’t afford to go on their own.

Donor-advised funds

Funding a wing on a children’s hospital is out of reach for most of us. Consider a donor-advised fund that you can contribute to regularly. The funds allow you to donate small amounts of money at regular intervals to build up a fund over time. When you’re ready to give, you can have them send the money to the charity of your choice.

Public foundations,  many universities, and community foundations offer donor-advised funds. Most mutual fund companies now offer them too. A recent article from Drew ad FI Introvert does an excellent job of describing the ins and out of these funds.

You don’t have to be wealthy to leave a meaningful, lasting legacy to the next generation. You do have to think about and plan for how you want people to remember you.

Final thoughts

There are many essential things in life. And the pursuit of financial independence is a worthy and noble goal.

I’ve seen too many people let the pursuit of all things financial cause health problems due to stress and lack of attention to diet and exercise. I’ve seen it strain marriages, relationship with kids, and other people we once thought essential to us.

If nothing else, I hope this list will help you think about what you’re doing. I hope it will encourage you to examine your priorities. I hope it will lead to a healthier, more fulfilling life in your pursuit of FI.

If our pursuit leaves us alone in our efforts and damages relationships, what have we gained?

Now it’s your turn. What’s missing for you on this list? What are things more important than money to you? How do you find balance in pursuing your goals?

16 thoughts on “Five Things I Think are More Important than Money

  1. Great article Fred. Thanks for the reminders. For me, my faith and my family are the most important things and everything else is pretty far behind.

  2. Great reminder that while we are all seeking riches and wealth in this world. Our most valuable processions have already been provided for us, and the only cost is that we remember to be grateful for them.

  3. Well thought out article, Fred.

    Love the quote from criminal minds. Our scars really don’t have to hamper our future.

    The pursuit of financial independence/money is fine as long as you don’t put any of these points you listed at risk. No amount of money is worth damaging that

    1. Hey Xray, I love that quote too. It hit me when heard it several years ago. I appreciate your reading and always appreciate your insight.

  4. This is a such a thoughtful post. To your first points about health + stress, these are so important to me because how can you enjoy your money, spend time with your family, build relationships, etc if your health is in poor condition? It is so much more difficult. Same with stress – which I’ve found to be closely tied to money. When I was working a high-stress job, I found myself spending so much more money. On what?! Couldn’t tell ya. My stress levels were so high and debilitating that I couldn’t think rationally or clearly about my financial or long term goals. I just needed to spend to make myself feel better in the moment. What a wild time. Thank you for this very raw and thought provoking post!

    1. Hi AK,

      I so appreciate the kind words and your story. I think we’ve all been caught up in consumerism at some point in our lives. Media and the advertising industry make sure to pound the message into us over and over again. It gets us into the comparison game, which is one we can never win. There will always be someone who has more (seemingly) than we do.

      Glad you righted the ship and got on track.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting,.

  5. A great article indeed.
    We often tend to lose the sight on what’s important and designing our life around uselessness and making money with the only goal of making money.

    And then one day…. it will be game over

    1. Thanks, Melissa. I include that in another post that is kind of part 2 of this one. It’s titled Why Money is Not the Most Important Thing in Life. The post was originally a top ten post. When I started writing it that way I realized it would be a 5,000-word post. So I split it up.

      I appreciate your reading and taking the time to comment.

  6. Great list. Yep, it really comes down to people – my family, friends, and people I help in recovery. God could enlarge my territory (and is) but it still comes down to people.

    Excellent stuff, Fred!

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