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Life planning is an opportunity to think more deeply about what is most important to us as individuals as families. If we do the process correctly, we can design a life that’s going to be fulfilling. 

What does financial life planning look like?

During the life planning process, you identify your core values, things that bring you intrinsic reward, and what brings meaning and fulfillment to your life. When you do come to a financial planner or are looking at various financial decisions that they are aligned with this vision of what a fulfilling life might look like. 

Once those values are identified, you can create a vision of what an ideal life might look like. After you clarified that vision, you can usually filter down to some very specific goals. When your tasks are tied to goals that stem from your values, you are much more likely to find success in your financial planning efforts. With this foundation, a financial advisor can help you zero in on specific financial strategies that can help you get there. Frankly, many people find working on these financial goals exciting. They are motivated to move toward the future that they have chosen.

Benefits of financial life planning

People find success when they look to their personal finances as more than just numbers in a spreadsheet. Our personal finances should be a tool for living a good life. And personal finances are tightly bound up in general well-being, including our health and relationships. When we align our financial lives with our values, our life satisfaction goes up. Our money starts to have a purpose and we understand how it fits into our overall life goals. 

Without a defined life plan, many resort to chasing retirement or investment numbers without ever understanding whether you have the resources you need to live the life you want. Financial planning loses its meaning without it anchored to your values and life goals. You need an actual purpose for what your working towards. Without that purpose, it can be difficult to develop the motivation for adopting healthy financial behaviors.

Financial planning can be enjoyable. You aren’t just chasing numbers. You are seeing the future you want for yourself take shape in the decisions you make day-to-day. 

Life planning can bring financial clarity

When you actually take the time to really focus on life planning and gain clarity around your personal ideal life, you find that you do less comparing of your situation to others, as well. When you have a clear picture of what’s going to bring life satisfaction, suddenly you’re not distracted by what the Joneses are doing. You are less likely to feel bad about your own life because of what everybody portrays on social media. 

The life planning process creates your own measuring stick. You know what your ideal is and you have a clear path to accomplishing it. You are less likely to be distracted by the cultural influences around you. And you can just compare where you are right now with your plan and avoid being influenced by external factors. 

One of the most important keys to the financial planning process is looking inward. 

One of the topic areas in a life planning process to explore is your own biography and your own experiences as you were growing up. How did you observe money being used when you were a child and how has that influence your perspective of your own money life? How does your past affect your current decisions and beliefs? 

People can have real aha moments when they start to understand that the patterns about money that they have adopted are in large part an extension of their past. Most of the time they don’t even realize it. Throughout your life, especially in childhood, you unconsciously absorb money lessons that can determine both good and bad habits in adulthood. The next step is to realize how you have been influencing your own children without even being aware of it. Getting your personal life plan together can influence generations as you model the behaviors needed realize your values through your personal finances. 

How life planning can be liberating

When people delve into thinking about the life planning process, establishing their values, and looking at a vision of an ideal future, they often gain clarity about what they really want in life. Sometimes they will find that they have been chasing a lifestyle that doesn’t actually make them happy. Many people realize that what makes them feel fulfilled does not cost a lot. When they realize this, it shifts their perspective. 

Instead of working to make more money, they can identify what is “enough.” They find contentment in what they have. I have seen people get off the rat race and enjoying life a little more. They focus on the things that bring them real joy instead of this unclear notion of chasing more and more money with no clear vision of how that money will deliver the things that will truly bring them life satisfaction. 

Do you need a financial planner to do life planning?

One of the reasons doing this on your own can be so challenging is that it can be hard to see through the fog of your own experiences. A trained professional can help us see when our personal biases are getting in the way of seeing a better path forward. I believe it’s so important to have an actual structure to help guide your thought process. I am a big believer in practical process. Even still, it’s also important to take a multidisciplinary perspective.

An effective facilitator will not only help you look at the role of emotions in your financial decisions, but will help determine the level of anxiety a person feels around their finances. The best plan forward for someone who experiences a high level of anxiety around their finances will be different than someone who does not. 

What’s the difference between a life coach and financial advisor?

I highly recommend that you have a thinking partner while you’re working on a life plan. Having somebody facilitate the process for you can be extremely helpful when we are thinking about our own lives.

Life coaches definitely will help you with life planning, but they won’t include the financial planning. Combining the life planning with financial planning is hugely beneficial because you tying the life that you want with financial habits and strategies. A financial advisor who is trained in life planning can also help you come up with ways in which to talk about finances with your family. That can make those conversations a lot easier, especially for managing money within the household. Having the combination of life planning and financial planning sets people on the path of success. The financial side can be really tricky without having a financial professional who can guide that side of the puzzle. 

Not all financial planners are doing life planning processes so it’s really important to not only ask about the advisor’s process when you are going to interview various financial professionals. 

Where can I find someone who can help me do financial life planning?

Our organization, Money Quotient, offers a very specific model that advisors can follow to guide their clients through the thought-process. It also creates a structure for couples to talk about their values and their vision together. We have a directory of advisors who are using this life planning model within their practice at our our website.

Other organization offer a life planning type model as well. But, traditional financial planning does not include this type of life discovery. So, it is important that if you want a wholistic approach that comes with a life planning process that you make sure that you ask financial professionals what their discovery process is like.  

Conclusion

Life planning represents a profound opportunity to delve into your values and aspirations, both as individuals and as families. Then ensure that your financial lives are serving your values. By engaging in this process, you can design a life that is truly fulfilling and aligned with what matters most to you. Ultimately, by embracing the intersection of life and finance, we unlock the potential to live lives rich in meaning, purpose, and contentment.

About the author

Amy Mullen is a Certified Financial Advisor and president of Money Quotient. 

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Amy Mullen