The Human Side of Financial Planning

What would you do if money was no object? As a Buckingham Wealth Advisor and Registered Life Planner® (RLP), this is one of the first questions I ask my clients. As you may guess, responses include retiring early, spending quality time with their toes in the sand, sending their child or grandchild to their dream college and volunteering for a favorite cause. While these are all great answers, I encourage my clients to dig a little deeper … and think about what they really want out of life. You see, as a Registered Life Planner, I am passionate about aligning your wealth to what is most valuable to you. As we all know, money is important; but it’s just a vehicle to help you live a full, enriched and rewarding life. For me to create a personalized financial plan for you, I need to understand your values, motivations, aspirations, dreams and hopes.

Before I go any further, I would like to provide some background on how I develop personalized wealth strategies for my clients. A few years ago, a colleague introduced me to George Kinder’s Life Planning process. The practice of asking targeted questions is driven by the human aspect of financial planning rather than by the dollar amount of a client’s portfolio. As I love connecting with my clients, this method really struck a chord with me. I enrolled in Kinder’s immersive training session to receive my Registered Life Planner designation. I encourage you to look at the Institute’s website for more information on this fascinating planning process.

The Kinder Institute’s Life Planning method is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Whether your strategy is separating the edge pieces first or starting with the corners and working your way in, it’s nearly impossible to correctly put together a puzzle without seeing the completed image on the box. In the same vein, I help my clients bring clarity or focus to their ideal future picture. Then and only then, am I able to put the pieces of your wealth plan together.

What does this process look like? During our first meeting, my goal is to discover what motivates you to get out of bed every morning. Instead of droning on about the market, inflation and interest rates, I believe the first step is to ask you what is most important to you and your family. This can be anything from building your dream house, spoiling those precious grandbabies, providing for a loved one with incapacity issues or buying that beautiful car you’ve been eyeing. There are no right or wrong answers – this is a safe place of unbiased, open communication. My goal is to listen, sometimes helping to push you to dig deeper as you share what really is your vision of future happiness.

To create a financial plan that supports the important “puzzle pieces” of your life that I mentioned earlier, I begin by asking these questions:

  1. If you had unlimited wealth, what would you do differently with your life and what would you continue to do?
  2. Imagine you just learned that you have five to ten years to live. What would you do – or no longer do – with your remaining time? Would you change anything about your life? How would you do it?
  3. Now imagine you just learned that you only have 24 hours to live. Notice the feelings that arise as you confront your very real mortality. Reflecting on your life, accomplishments and lost opportunities, ask yourself: What did I miss? What did I not get to do? Who did I not get to be?

These queries may make clients uncomfortable, lead to an awkward silence and even tears. Our emotions are real and often become the energy that motivates us to live our better lives. Many times, this uneasiness leads to deep inner reflection – and draws out an important piece of the puzzle. To prepare for the discussion, I suggest you think about three considerations:

  1. Remember, this is a non-judgmental discussion for your advisor to discover your deepest wishes, ambitions and objectives – all with the goal for you to live your best life. Forget about keeping up with the Joneses and think about what is in your heart’s core. You may even learn a few things about your spouse and even yourself too!
  2. Come to the meeting with a clean slate and leave your notions at the door.
  3. Be open. By being vulnerable and honest with yourself and your advisor, he or she can build a wealth strategy to help you achieve your goals.

You deserve to live your most rewarding, authentic and full life. A Registered Life Planning advisor can be a vital component of getting you to your happy place. If you are not currently working with such an advisor, we would love to show you how Buckingham’s Design | Build| Protect™ methodology of wealth planning can help you reach your life goals.

About the author:
Connecting with clients isn’t just part of the job for wealth advisor Ken Rosenbaum. He is proud when he’s able to work alongside his clients and their families, applying a holistic approach to wealth management and an evidence-based investment philosophy to help them make smarter financial decisions. Life Planning is financial planning done well. As a Registered Life Planner®, Ken is passionate about helping his clients align their money with what is most important in their life and bringing their dreams alive.

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