In the last post we discussed the importance of Vision in the Natural Wealth® Process, Vision being the “Why” of the financial life planning purpose. We left you with a few questions to consider after the year we have experienced. Countless systems and tools exist in the marketplace to help people set goals, budget, save and invest money, yet many households struggle to achieve true financial well-being. Why?
I have pondered this dilemma for 35+ years. Over that time, I have read countless articles and books and attended workshops and conferences on a broad range of financial planning and investment management subjects, including human psychology, especially as it pertains to decisions we make about money and life. I have been blessed to work with a large number of client households, many who have been successful in their financial life planning and wealth accumulation activities and some who have not. In the latter group, there have been reasons why they did not achieve financial well-being. Some include significant health, family, and employment and/or business challenges. In some cases, the issues were completely beyond the individual or the household’s control. Unfortunately, with the benefit of many real-life case studies in my own clientele, I can say with a great deal of confidence, most less-than-successful financial outcomes resulted from flawed decisions and choices made along the way.
Behavioural economics is a branch of economics which studies how and why we make the decisions we do individually and collectively when it comes to money, investment and finance. I personally find the whole subject fascinating. I see real-life examples of the behaviours people display and choices people make in situations. In time I get to see the outcome of those behaviours and choices, good and bad.
As part of our work here, we help individuals and households identify and frame their life and financial goals and objectives to create a vision of what they want from their financial life planning activities. Once we have a clear vision, we can determine what the gap is between where the household is now and where they want to go. The household vision and the gap guide all of our financial life planning activities with the household in question.
The hardest part of financial life planning is crystalizing our goals and objectives, making them measurable and actionable. Its human nature to resist boxing ourselves into a defined goal or objective. Frankly, for many, clear goals and objectives are scary! They require that we commit to actions and activities that will take away our flexibility to spend our time and money freely and in the moment. The fact remains though, that achieving something worthwhile, whatever that means to you and your household, requires that we make choices about how we spend our time, energy and money (for most households, all finite resources!) in the near term to get to where we want to be in the medium to long term. It really is that simple.
How do we determine our goals and objectives? How do we develop our own personal and household Vision? We start by determining what is most important in our lives. We all have values, hopes and dreams. We just don’t often take the time to frame and crystalize them, to discuss them with those that matter in our lives and develop life plan, including the financial considerations, to live our values consistently and bring our most important hopes and dreams to life.
One of the exercises we recommend to client households is a Vision focussing exercise they can use to make sure they are investing their time, energy and money on what matters most in their lives. It is by its very nature an aspirational exercise. It consists of answering three questions about what we want in our lives:
- What (who) do I (we) want to BE?
- What do I (we) want to DO?
- What do I (we) want to HAVE?
BE is about inside out; values, reputation, health and general well-being. DO is about accomplishments and activities. HAVE is about things (stuff!). In my humble opinion, it is important to ask the questions in the order they are shown here. My experience, both personally and in my work with client households, is that we tend to get more satisfaction in life from our BE and DO goals and objectives and less from the HAVE (things) goals and objectives.
The BE, DO, HAVE exercise sets up great conversations with our client households. It helps frame meaningful goals and objectives and articulate an inspiring and energizing Vision for our client households we can then use the Natural Wealth® Process to help them achieve. I would go a step further and suggest it might be the basis for great conversations within a household and help frame the more important goals and objectives a family might want to strive for…
I use the exercise often to make sure I am investing my time, energy and money in harmony with what is most important to me and my family. I test many personal and business choices I am faced with around my recorded answers and my own VISION I have for my life. It makes decisions easier because one can intuitively determine if a given option fits with the bigger picture I have for my life or not, allowing me a screening mechanism to make sure I am focussing my own resources on what matters most to me.
I challenge you to do the exercise, on your own and even with your family and trusted friends. It could be a great way to start a year! 2020 is now (thankfully for most of us!) in the rear-view mirror. 2021 beckons with all sorts of possibilities and hopefully with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic soon to be behind us… Its like we can see the shackles coming off! Use the opportunity to reflect on what is most important in your life and the lives of those around you. Frame what a life well-lived will look like going forward for yourself and those whom you care most about.
If you are comfortable enough with sharing the results of the exercise with us, we will carry the discussion further and look for ways to incorporate your answers into your financial life plan, so as to focus our wealth, tax and estate, cash flow and risk management activities for you in closer alignment with what you hope and dream to achieve in life.
Happy New Year!
David J. Luke, CFP, RFP, CLU, CH.F.C., CIM | Financial Advisor
360 Private Wealth Management | Manulife Securities Incorporated
Unit 1 – 25 Scurfield Boulevard, Winnipeg, MB R3Y 1G4
Main Office 204.925.5868 | Direct 204.925.2073| Fax 204.925.2263 | Toll Free 844.688.3656