This week’s guest post, from life planning expert and author George Kinder, resonates really strongly with me for several reasons:
- It’s about personal credibility, which is something that matters to me and to most financial planners I know.
- As readers of my weekly articles will know, Deb and I have reinvented our lifestyle dramatically over the last few years. It was due to George Kinder’s three questions which are featured in the post below.
- My mission is to help financial planners advise better and live better, and answering George’s three questions is the perfect place to start.
As I’ve said many times, all advisers should be asking these questions to learn some of these amazing life planning skills.
Over to you George:
Three Life-changing Questions
As the Life Planning movement has grown, I’ve met thousands of financial planners across the world who use Life Planning techniques with their clients. Many of them are Registered Life Planners – graduates of our Kinder Institute professional training programs who proudly carry the RLP® (Registered Life Planner) certification. Others have studied elsewhere. But I’ve found through the years that the most effective Life Planners – the Life Planners whose businesses succeed and whose clients thrive – are all living their own Life Plans. This means that they have gone through the Life Planning process themselves.
I strongly believe that one can’t be a Life Planner unless they have been Life Planned. Only when lit from within, by passion for the life they are called to live, can Life Planners be of genuine service to their clients.
To discover and connect with those passions, after open-ended questions and time just listening to client concerns, my method begins in earnest with The Three Questions. They form a foundation that will inform all of the future work and decision-making. Each question must be fully considered and answered before moving on to the subsequent question. Here’s how I asked the questions in my 2014 book, Life Planning for You.
1. I want you to imagine that you are financially secure, that you have enough money to satisfy all of your needs, now and in the future. The question is…how would you live your life? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back your dreams.
Would you change your life and how would you do it?
2. This time you visit your doctor who tells you that you have only 5-10 years left to live. The good news is that you won’t ever feel sick. The bad news is that you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining to live? Your finances remain as they currently stand.
Would you change your life and how would you do it?
3. This time your doctor shocks you with the news that you have only one day left to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Reflecting on your life, both all your accomplishments to date and all the things that you will leave unfinished or undone, ask yourself:
- What did I miss?
- Who did I not get to be?
- What did I not get to do?
Finding the answers
Naturally, these questions take time and effort to tackle. They’re not ideally presented in a short blog, because one might quickly move from one question to the next and skip the difficult work of exploring how profoundly different the answers might be for each. When approached properly, the answers that emerge point to what’s most important in one’s life, which helps to define the steps necessary to actualise the eventual Life Plan.
Most people find The Three Questions to be inspiring. They instantly understand the importance of aligning their life with their passionate pursuits. Others may focus instead on the disconnect between what they value at the deepest level and how they spend their time. But in all cases, it helps move the conversation to a place of considering how to accomplish the dream and live the vision for their life. The exercise helps make sure that when confronting any of these questions in the future, the answers will be more and more inspiring.
Connecting with your clients
Try for a minute to imagine asking the above questions to a client without having asked them of yourself. How would it be possible to recognise which answers are most meaningful? Would it be possible to encourage changes in the client’s life without having challenged yourself to make similar tough decisions in your own, or would the client see right through you? Unless you’ve gone through the process, it’s going to be all but impossible to connect with clients on this level. The authenticity won’t be there. And that connection—that deep trust—is what makes Life Planning so powerful and effective.
The good news is that financial planners have everything to gain from getting Life Planned and living their Life Plans themselves. The wisdom gained from the experience of confronting the difference between what we value and how we’re living will deliver freedom into our own lives. It will also engender deeper, more meaningful client relationships, and will catalyze a career of successfully delivering freedom for our clients. And after all, that’s what planning is all about.