What are the “most important” financial issues with which we need help? Isn’t the answer to this question highly subjective and individually unique? Well, yes and no. Many times when discussing needs v. wants I have posed the following question to my students: “What are the most important human needs?” Rarely does the most fundamental need get mentioned, so I follow up with another question: “How long can you hold your breath?” After a brief pause (and a few duped giggles or sighs) the realization sets in that we often overlook the obvious. Then it is easy to build a list of the most-important needs, which are common to all people: air, water, excretion, sleep, food, shelter, and clothing. (Beyond air, the order of importance is debatable and may vary for each individual.)
As Maslow espoused in his Hierarchy of Needs theory, individuals who don’t meet these basic phsyiological (or survival) needs can’t worry much about “higher” needs. This concept can easily be applied to questions of financial importance. For example, it won’t do any good to talk about retirement planning to a person who is suffering from hunger; without adequate food there will be nothing to retire. Those providing Financial First Aid–for themselves or others–must always start with the money issues relative to meeting fundamental needs.