We all have goals in life that we want to achieve. Most of these goals are predictable – like children’s education, a home, vacations, comfortable retirement etc. We spend our waking hours, working for a living. We feel satisfied when we are able to provide the creature comforts to our family. However, our goals keep moving up, up & away. The shifting goal posts of life ensures that we are constantly on the treadmill, working some more to earn more.
This endless pursuit of material goals tires us out. Some of those goals make us stretch ourselves to the fullest and add stress & anxiety instead of a sense of purpose and to achieve them. That is why even many acknowledged high fliers are not happy with their lives, even though they are respected, are earning quite well and have more than taken care of all their family needs.
That is because the really important things in life have been relegated to the background while we sleepwalk through life without truly living our life. Hence, many actually feel an emptiness in life, a feeling of being chained & seriously lacking in vigour as we are not doing those things we truly cherish.
If we discover those things that would truly inspire us, empower our spirit, fill our hearts with happiness & help us experience a tremendous sense of freedom - how would it be?
Needless to say, it will be transforming. Having discovered those things that would transform our lives, who would want an ordinary life of plodding & drudgery? But is it possible to live such a life? What about the financial goals that we as a family have?
The life that we want for ourselves can be decided by us. That would include financial goals as well. One needs to ponder over the sort of life they would want to create for themselves. Based on this, a financial plan would be created to help one live a life that’s energising, elevating & blissful. This whole exercise is called Financial Life Planning.
This may look esoteric, idealistic & philosophical at first glance. Many have accepted that life is a zero-sum game – when we go after money one needs to be prepared for an uphill climb, filled with agonising work, onerous responsibilities & attendant stresses. Many even sacrifice their ideals at the altar of financial gains & material comforts. But, life need not be that way at all – unless we want it that way.
How Does Financial Life Planning Help?
In financial life planning, the first portion would be to deeply explore what is it that would count as an exciting life – a life well lived. The truly important goals are often things which are not necessarily about money. We have found that people want to better the quality of their relationships, spend more time with the family, learn an instrument, pursue hobbies, give back to the society/ environment, take care of their parents, get back in shape etc. Most of these things do not need money – at any rate not too much to pursue any of these. But pursuing these would significantly improve the quality of their lives for these are truly important to them.
Simultaneously, we would be working on the finances after incorporating the important, heartfelt goals and have a financial plan in place that would make it all work.
The Life Planning Process
To start with, the client needs to be able to articulate what a meaningful life will look like for them. They will need help here.
To facilitate their thinking and to help them clarify what is important to them, there are resources to assist in getting their thoughts together, focus on what they want in their lives & get energised about the wonderful possibilities. This needs to be done by the couple, individually.
There are thought-provoking questions which will direct one’s thinking in certain directions & help in clarifying as to what is important in one’s life. There are also worksheets which help in crystallising one’s thoughts and be able to put together one’s ideal life.
The process followed
Once the client has completed the questionnaires & worksheets, the Life Planner will first go through all the resources to get to understand the client’s and their aspirations.
The first meeting would be an exploration session to understand what the client truly wants in their lives, what they are missing today, their pain points and what kind of lives they want for themselves.
Having understood the client’s innermost heartfelt desires, the Life Planner would paint the ideal life for the client. This is called the Visioning process. All the elements which the client feels are vital to have in their ideal life will form a part of the visioning process. The client looks at it and gives feedback & the vision for their future may be refined further.
In the next meeting, the possible obstacles that may come in the way of the client achieving their idea life are brought up and discussed. The Life Planner gives the client the courage & energy needed to see them through the obstacles they see in their path. The quality that the client seeks in their lives is emphasised so that the client gets the vigour to pursue their ideal life.
At various points when Life Planning is going on the financial plan also gets drawn up, side by side. This is very much needed to have a financial architecture in place to support the new vision for life that the client is seeking to create.
Lastly, for the Financial Life Plan to become a reality, one needs to ensure that the recommendations given are executed in a timely manner. This implementation may look like a minor thing; but without this, it is not possible to get any results from the Life Planning process and hence very important.
What if my spouse is not interested in participating?
It is ideal that the couple participates in this process. After all, what we are discussing is about the kind of life that they would want for themselves. If the spouse does not want to participate, s/he can at least sit through the sessions to understand what is getting discussed. Many times, they warm up during these sessions and start participating.
If the apprehension stems from the fact that this may be somehow difficult to understand & follow, it is completely unfounded. It is after all about one’s life and there is no chance that one may not understand something here.
What can one expect out of Life Planning process?
What would come out of the process can be quite different for different people. In some cases, it may just be some small tweaks in their life. In others, it could entail major changes in their life due to considerable changes in the way they want to live their life.
Either way, they would get a sense of what they may be missing in their life currently and what is it that they need to bring into their lives to make it wholesome & interesting for them. A Life Planning exercise would help in either situation to arrive at the ideal life that one may want to live. A few examples of this can be found in the next topic.
Is Life Planning for everyone?
This is a logical question which arises in the minds of most people. People assume that Life Planning is a luxury which only those who have sorted their finances & have provided well for the goals can indulge in. The fact is that many of the goals are default choices. We have not given thought about whether these are our real goals and even if they make sense. Even these goals keep changing as many of them are not well thought through goals, in the first place.
Many goals people have may not be the ones that would add value & meaning to their lives. Most times, they add to the stress, without adding any joy or fulfillment in their lives. That’s because many pursue the wrong goals and would be expending their time and energy on them, which would actually be taking them away from the life they want for themselves.
Hence, Life Planning is important to do, right at the start, for everyone – to clarify to themselves about what that they want to do in their lives. Only then the true goals will be evident and one will find vigour & vitality to create that fulfilling life, they always wanted. Their energies will then be well directed & the life will be truly worth living – every moment of it!
Who will be my financial life planner?
A person who has undergone the training, preparing him for being a Life Planner, is the one who can help. Suresh Sadagopan, Founder, Ladder7 Financial Advisories has gone through the Kinder method of Life Planning and is a Life Planner. He will lead the sessions and assist clients with life planning. The financial portions would be done by the team under his guidance.