3 Questions That Can Provide A Spark For Your Financial Plan


I’m a financial planner, and I have a confession to make. During the early stages of my career, I didn’t really have my own personal financial plan. Sure, I may have had some good intentions and most of the meaningful aspects of a financial plan were in place such as a budget, insurance, and investments. But I lacked a written plan to help me stay focused on things that matter and avoid distractions from things that could get me off track.

Admittedly, I was never really interested in personal finances until my first real job out of college working as a clinical counselor at a local hospital. In fact, I remember the feeling of slight confusion as the benefits enrollment counselor gave us a brief explanation of our 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plan options. As a financial educator, I work with hundreds of people each year in similar situations and empathize completely.

My curiosity led to an information-driven desire to read as many personal finance and investment books as possible. Then I took a leap of faith and started investing outside of my employer’s retirement plan with a discount broker. Suddenly, I was “all-in” and completely enamored with the exciting and complex investment world. Eventually, I found myself more interested in learning about the investment markets than I was in continuing my pursuit of a doctoral degree in psychology.

Looking back to the tech bubble of the 90’s, I realize that I wasn’t alone. Countless other investors were also caught up in the wave of the dot com bubble. Online trading made it easy to trade stocks and people were seemingly throwing money at any growth stock or IPO regardless of company fundamentals. Initially, I focused too much time and energy on choosing the right stocks and getting the highest return possible on investments. Very little time was spent on things that matter such as the life goals that I wanted to achieve.

That’s when I completed my first financial plan for the most stubborn and challenging client I’ve ever worked with – yours truly. What sparked my own desire to get real with an honest financial life plan? The combination of high-interest credit card debt, student loans, and occasional money arguments during the first few years of marriage were the wake-up call that I needed.

But it can be difficult to incorporate our goals and values into a genuine financial action plan that meets us where we are in life. Traditional approaches used by financial advisors only scratch the surface of identifying meaningful and purposeful goals. George Kinder, often referred to as the pioneer of financial life planning, highlighted three essential questions in his books and training sessions designed to put our core life values at the heart of the entire financial planning process. If you are struggling to follow your financial plan or just need some help prioritizing your goals, take some time to consider these important questions:

1. Imagine you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. How would you live your life? Would you change anything? Now is the time to let yourself go and try to not hold back on your dreams. The goal here is to describe an authentic life that is completely yours and not hindered by financial barriers or other obstacles.

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