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By Carl Richards

Practice Asking the “Why” Questions

I have a question for you.

Now, this will work best if you grab a piece of paper, and write out your answer.

Here's the question:

Why is your money invested the way it is?

Before you go on, write down your answer on that paper.
Practice Asking The Why Questions2


I've had a blast with this question over the last few years.

I've asked it on planes and trains, in coffee shops, and over lunch, and the answers I get are crazy.

Things like:

"There was an article in the New York Times about it."


"My buddy told me about it."


"They talked about this investment on The Financial Pornography Network. Oops, I mean CNBC."

But none of these answers are correct. There is — and indeed only ever will be — one right answer to the question.

"My money is invested in a way that gives me the greatest chance of meeting my goals."

Of course, the hard part is pausing long enough in this crazy world to even hazard a guess at what your goals are in the future.

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Note: I know, I know, ain't nobody got time for that!

But I'd submit that without that, you can't invest at all (but you can speculate).

Without a diagnosis, you can't get a prescription.

There are other, fun "why" money questions:

  • Why do you spend the way you do?
  • Why are you saving as much as you are?
  • Why do you think you need X before you do Y?

These are all useful questions, and they all have one thing in common:

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Note: The answer that matters is yours!

Not your buddy's.

Not what you see on Insta-Twitter-Book.

Just yours!

So, back to your piece of paper.

I suggest keeping it around to act like an annoying little reminder to get clear and stay clear, about the reason you're doing what you're doing with your money.

About Carl Richards Carl Richards is a Certified Financial Planner and a columnist for the New York Times, Morningstar magazine and Yahoo Finance. He is author of 2 books, The Behavior Gap & The One-Page Financial Plan. Carl lives with his family in Park City, Utah. You can find his work and sign up for his newsletter (which has an international audience) at
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