YOLO is more than texting shorthand for you only live once. It can also explain the movement toward making life planning the first and most important step in financial planning.
Traditionally, financial planning has essentially been a math exercise involving a series of educated guesses about future spending habits. It’s an exercise that starts with a fiscal exam that can be about as pleasant as a physical exam and even easier to postpone.
Enter George Kinder, a financial planner who works from a different perspective. Over a decade ago, he began a quest to shift his profession’s focus from life savings to life goals. The thinking here is that financial planning shouldn’t be so focused on what you accumulate in life—but more about funding what you ultimately get out of your life.
“When you get on a plane to go skiing, you need to know whether to pack water skis or snow skis. It’s the same when you start working on a financial plan, you should have some idea of where you want to end up and what you want to do when you arrive,” says Kinder, founder of the Kinder Institute of Life Planning and author of five books, the most recent being, Life Planning for You: How to Design & Deliver the Life of Your Dreams.
Delivering a dream life is a tall order, but Kinder has a plan. Or rather, he wants to help you develop your plan by first identifying your most deeply held life goals.
Kinder’s move away from a numbers-only approach to planning, is accessible online at LifePlanningforYou.com. The site is available to anyone to use without cost, though registration is required.
The process starts with three questions intended to help you clarify what you are really meant to do—and want to do—during your lifetime. From there, you may be able to piece together your own financial plan or choose to work with a financial planner who specializes in life planning.
Here are the three questions, though slightly abbreviated:
- If you were already financially secure, how would you live your life?
- If you were told you only have 5 to 10 years to live, would that change things for you?
- What if you find out you only have a day. What would you regret not having done?
“After going through the first three questions of the EVOKE® process, people are either really motivated or really depressed,” warns Kinder.
Why this makes sense
Staying true to ourselves and our life goals and dreams seems like it wouldn’t require intervention and planning, but it is easy to lose touch even when you have a strong vision of what you want to accomplish. Often we are so busy getting started—focused on getting a job and pursuing a career—that we forget the list of things we wanted to do. We meet someone, marry, and it is easy for that vision to take a low priority as we follow the path we think we should be on.
“When you are young, you have ideas and a fresh perspective, there are few habits that have had a chance to form. Life planning is about regaining that spark and embracing new habits,” says Kinder.
While following your dreams is likely to lead to a personal sense of fulfillment, it is also likely to cost you. This is where life planning segues into financial planning. Only now, that financial planning process signifies something more than math. It becomes a means to achieving your goals. And it’s a lot easier to commit to and pursue goals infused with personal meaning, than meaningless numbers.
George Kinder is the founder of the Kinder Institute of Life Planning. He has been a practicing financial planner and tax advisor for over 30 years, and is the author of Life Planning for You.