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Roadmap for financial planning

When I say that being a financial advisor is a lot like being a therapist, you probably think I’m joking. In fact, there’s a lot more overlap between the two professions than you might imagine!

We all have different values and emotions around money. For many of us, these attitudes start in our childhood. Some people grow up with plenty of money; some people grow up with constant scarcity. Some families talk about their finances, and others don’t. For most people, these different childhood experiences shape us and our relationship to money—earning, saving, investing, budgeting, goal-setting—for the rest of our lives. 

That’s why the first conversations I have with my clients usually don’t start with my advice on the best investment products or the state of the stock market. I start by asking my clients what brings them to me. What are their goals? What feels like scarcity to them? What feels like security? 

The life planner and teacher George Kinder developed the Three-Question Test years ago to assess his clients’ needs. I don’t do this with all of my clients, but for some people, this is a great place to start: 

Imagine you have enough money to satisfy all of your needs, both now and in the future. Would you change your life and, if so, how would you change it? 

Your doctor tells you that you have 5 to 10 years to live, and you will feel fine up until the end. Would you change your life and, if so, how would you change it? 

Imagine that your doctor tells you that you have just one day to live. Look back on your life. What did you fail to experience? What did you neglect to do? What are your regrets? 

My clients’ answers are as different as they are. These questions are a great way to assess individual needs and plans. Most of my clients come to me because they want to know what they’re supposed to do—but the first step is really to find out what they need. Maybe you’re happy with the life you’ve lived so far, and your main concern is a secure retirement. Your needs will look different from 

someone who’s dreaming of traveling the world the second they leave the workforce.

Ask yourself Kinder’s Three Questions, either by yourself or with your financial planner. Make a list of your answers. That’s your roadmap for financial planning.

Michael Garry Yardley Wealth Management

Author Michael Garry Yardley Wealth Management

Michael Garry is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner and a NAPFA-registered Financial Advisor. He is a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and the Financial Planning Association (FPA).

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