Are You Planning Your Life Around Money?

August 4, 2009

Imagine a dark day in the future when you’re lying stiff and embalmed in a casket, your friends and family huddled around saying their tear-stained goodbyes.  What will they say about you?  How will you be remembered?

Begin With the End In Mind

Sorry for the unpleasant throughts but this is one of the exercises in Stephen Covey’s book, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Picturing your own funeral is something he discusses when covering the 2nd Habit, “Begin With the End in Mind”.

The premise is that you should start everything you do with a clear direction of how you’d like it to end and then take the steps necessary to get to that destination.  Dr. Covey recommends creating a Personal Mission Statement that hones in on what you want to with your life and who you’d like to become.

Life Planning at Ninety Miles an Hour

I remember I skipped that exercise when I first read his book in my mid twenties thinking, “how do I know what I want to be when I grow up?”  Now in my early thirties it still makes me uncomfortable because unlike Owen Meany, I don’t know what day I’ll die or what I should do to prepare for that day.

I do plan for the future finanancially but it’s hard for me to make any BIG life goals because “then” seems so far away and “now” just moves so fast.  I wake up each day to crying, whining, or fussing kids who eventually cheer up (usually) and see me off to work. At the end of the day I rush home to spend time with the little ones before they hit the sack; then I hop on the computer and work as long as my eyes will stay open.

Three Life Planning Questions

Last night I ran across financial planner George Kinder, of the Kinder Institute, and a video where he asks three questions that make you think about where you’ll end up.  They’re similar to Covey’s “imagine you’re dead” exercise but for some reason they seem easier to answer. I suppose because he breaks the questions down into different time frames and they’re a little more specific. Here they are:

1) If you had all the money that you needed, how would you live your life? How would you change your life?

2) If you only had 5-10 years left to live, what would you differently?

3) Imagine the doctor gives you 24 hours left to live. What did you miss?  Who did you not get to be?  What did you not get to do?

Kinder recommends forming your financial plan around the answers to those questions so that you plan the life you want to live rather than planning your life around money. It may be easier said than done but it sounds like a good approach to me.

What about you? Are you planning your life around money or around your goals?


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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3 Responses to Are You Planning Your Life Around Money?

  • ctreit

    My wife and I are careful not to have money run our lives or that our lives revolve around money. That is why we make sure our finances are in good order, which basically boils down to living within our financial limits. Money is only a means to an end to us. The end is a happy and fulfilled life.

  • Ben

    Jeremy, thanks for sharing. It seems there’s usually a dialogue between client and planner, I guess in this case the conversation is about what they want out of life as opposed to what dollar figure they’d like to retire with.

  • Jeremy Deedes

    I am a UK financial life planner using George Kinder’s life planning techniques with clients, who really appreciate what is definitely a life changing approach.

    Along with Kinder and Covey, Michael Gerber (The E-Myth) also proposes using a similar approach as the starting point for business owners and entrepreneurs developing a strategy for their businesses.

    The Kinder approach differs because it is based on a dialogue between the client and the planner. The three questions form the basis for a conversation called “Lighting the Torch” in which the planner helps the client work out what is profoundly important to them. One aim of this conversation is to uncover “secret sorrows”, those desires and plans that so often remain buried because of a fear they will never be possible – something a paper exercise may not achieve.

    The three questions is just the tip of the iceberg of the life financial planning process. Financial planners who have joined the nascent life planning movement believe that it is necessary to address the “human side of money” as well as the figures and financial products of conventional financial planning. To be at ease with money we must come to terms with the often emotive aspects of money, the pain around money and our past money experiences that influence the way we handle money today.

    We all have much to learn in this new approach to life and money, but the results so far are very promising.