Posted by Dave Young, President

Adapted from articles:  Financial Life Planning:  What do you want to be? By Diliberto and Anthony and 20 Tough Questions for an Easier Future by Liz Pulliam Weston

A new school of thought among investment advisors and financial planners is “financial life planning.” Financial life planning takes an in-depth look at the bigger picture– not only considering a client’s investment goals, but a client’s investment goals in conjunction with their life dreams, values and happiness. Instead of isolating only the monetary side of things, the life planning approach is more holistic and considers a client’s most deeply-held values.

The objective is to assist clients in visualizing their goals, then home in on what’s really most important in their lives. With the core values identified, an investment plan can be built to help make the dream an eventual reality, while helping the client incorporate those ideals into day-to-day living.

While writing the book, “The New Retirementality” by Mitch Anthony, Anthony would gather groups of professionals and half-kidding ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” He was always amazed at how many of these individuals, many in their fifties, dreamed of doing other things–of being something other than what they currently were.

An accountant talked about being a consultant. A consultant talked about being an investment advisor. A marketing executive talked about being a creative director, and a creative director talked about being a speaker and trainer. A speaker and trainer talked about going into television. A television personality talked about going into sales. A sales professional talked about being an executive coach.

When these people, who said they weren’t fully engaged, were asked why they didn’t just do what they dreamed of doing, without fail, they cited money issues as the reason. How many people have mortgaged who they are in favor of what they could get, and later wished they had made a more informed decision? Some estimate that it may be as much as 70 percent of our society. If it is indeed a money issue holding an individual back from his or her ultimate dream, then it may be permission from a financial professional that helps them move forward.

George Kinder, in the goals-setting portion of his “Seven Stages of Money Maturity” distinguishes between having, doing and being. What do you want to have? What do you want to do? What do you want to be? Americans have put who they want to be on hold for what they can have. The fact that so many people wish they were doing something else cannot be good for individuals, the family, the workplace or society as a whole. Change can be brought through a meaningful dialog around client goals.

For example, someone who thought he wanted an early retirement may find instead that the most important thing to him is spending time with his young children. He may decide to throttle back on his career and retire later so that he doesn’t miss out on his kid’s formative years.

Or a physician who focused on working harder and creating a more aggressive portfolio in order to retire earlier, when what he really wanted was to get out of medicine because he felt the stress was killing him. The doctor’s fear of stress was creating much more stress. Ultimately, he decided to work half-time and reallocate his portfolio to be slightly more conservative, which reduced stress in his life.

The real work comes in trying to figure out how to change your life to reflect your values. Here are some questions to help accomplish this task:

* What’s standing in between me and what I want?

* What’s my plan for overcoming each of these obstacles?

* What do I have, in terms of personal strengths and outside resources, that will help me deal with these obstacles?

* What skills and knowledge do I need to add to accomplish this change?

* Are there other people I can call on for help in overcoming these obstacles?

* How can I make these changes happen sooner?

* Do I need my family’s support for making this change?

* If so, how can I rally that support?

* How can I evaluate and monitor my progress toward my goals?

One of our goals at Paragon is to implement financial life planning with our clientele. Not only discovering your goals in regards to retirement, funding college educations, estate planning and family protection, etc., but also discovering what your desires are. Instead of the obvious “I want to retire in five years”, “I want to double my money in 10 years”, etc., the goal discovery process will include questions about a client’s core values and what is most important in your lives. This begins a dialog between us and our client that results in a process that will help merge your money with your life.