Initially, we must make it personal and ask directly: Where do you want your heart to be? What are the values and goals you would like to serve? Do you feel that your allocations of treasure reflect your personal priorities? Does your money resonate with your own perceptions of your heart's core? If not, what is missing or incomplete? Pick your own words, of course. It is the asking that is key.

We can use some obvious templates in our questioning. Where is "family" on the heart/treasure continuum? Work? Sharing and charity? Long-term savings? Look at the bigger tickets: travel, children, living environment, education, cultural experiences, clothing and play. And, of course, professional advice. We cannot impose our will. Nor can we fear the answers. To each client we observe: "It is your money. You are entitled to your own priorities as well as your limitations and imperfections. But I want to know: Is your treasure allocated where you would like to find your heart?"

Be prepared for tears.

Understanding requires awareness of the individual and her contexts. If nothing more, the simple act of understanding is, itself, empowering. What is your client's personal history with money and how does it influence her relationship with it at this moment? Where does she self-sabotage? What are the ambiguities and uncertainties in her relationship with money? Her use of treasure will reflect them.

For understanding personal relationships with money, we must be aware of contexts. Culture, family, and experiences all filter through to the individual's value systems and goals. This is a process of self-discovery. Numerous tools are available for help. For homework, this process can include work on "Money Autobiography," questions designed to elicit priorities, available at my Web site It might also include the exercises suggested by George Kinder in his book, "Seven Stages of Money Maturity" or Bill Bachrach's book "Values Based Selling." The emerging literature for coaches, self-help and spiritual growth also provides excellent tools for these sorts of inquiries.

For example, the "Money Autobiogra-phy" consists of looking intently at questions exploring one's money history. Examples: "What is your first memory of money?" "What is your cultural heritage?" "How did your forebears make important decisions-like coming to America or making the move from country to city?" "How did your parents deal with money?" "Was money a source of stress in your family?" Ask the same questions of partners. The answers inevitably yield data rich for understanding values and goals.

To fully benefit from any of these explorations, it is imperative they are addressed in writing, preferably long hand, which enables a wonderful mind/body/spirit connection. Personally, I recommended people first answer these questions individually. However, many people relate that they have enjoyed the experience of sharing their work with their significant others.

Finally, no exercise in understanding can be complete without fully grasping the tools available. This means fully perceiving articulated needs, getting a handle on resources and then synthesizing the process into a cohesive whole. In other words, understanding necessarily engages the traditional financial-planning process.

Obviously, the numbers must make sense. This process is what Susan Bradley calls "Reality Check" in her book, Sudden Money. Money forces us to examine our priorities. As money skills do not come naturally to humans, neither are there any built-in controls on our "wants." In theory, our wants could be nearly unlimited. Of course, matching needs and priorities with assets and resources brings us full circle back to Matthew 6:21.

Remember that our definition of "treasure" includes "time" and "talent" in addition to "money." When checking reality, we must understand that a so-called "net worth statement" will not accurately reflect the full extent of financial resources or potential demands. If assets are those tangible and intangible pieces of life that stand between the individual and financial disaster, we need to look at all aspects of the client's life. These include earning power together with self-control, knowledge, experience and other intangible resources. Brains count. Muscles count. Habits count. Opportunities and connections count. Talents count.