At the heart of the Natural™ Wealth Process is Vision. We see Vision as the “Why” of the financial life planning process; the reason people engage in the process and stay committed to it over time.
In reality, most households will have many “whys” for financial life planning. They may be short term in nature like saving for a family vacation or medium term in building a fund to pay for our children’s post-secondary education or long term like investing for retirement. Many households have finite financial resources and several, sometimes seemingly competing financial priorities at any given point in time, which can lead to stress and anxiety. Working with someone skilled in financial life planning can help prioritize our various goals and develop strategies that can help you realize the most important ones in a timely fashion.
The key to a successful planning experience is being able to articulate our vision for ourselves and our families, and then communicate it to those around us who can help us make our vision a reality. This can be difficult at the best of times but particularly difficult when our lives are at their busiest. The time between Christmas and New Years can sometimes present a bit of downtime, the time we can use to reflect on what is really important in our lives how we want to make our lives and the lives of those around us “better”, whatever that might mean to you and your household.
Vision or, goal-planning as it is sometimes referred to, is a very personal exercise. No two households share exactly the same vision. Many outside influences will try to tell us what is important but what they are suggesting as essential goals and priorities may not be important to you or your family. Many individuals and families will adopt financial writers and advisors opinions as to what is important rather than stop and figure out what is really important to them. As I say often, “Either you have an agenda in life or you risk adopting someone else’s agenda, or worse, becoming part of someone else’s agenda!” The former can be the least damaging but still stressful because we know, deep down our finances and investing activity are not in line with who we are as an individual or a family. The latter is more nefarious in that there are many operators out there who are selling the equivalent of financial snake oil, get rich quick schemes, and quick financial fixes to the more vulnerable among us. Having your own agenda gives you a filter through which to view various strategies and products to make sure they make sense for you and your family and hopefully, avoid situations that could be harmful to your personal and financial well-being.
What follows are my humble suggestions for articulating your personal and financial vision. If you are part of a family or other household arrangement, you can expand the exercise to include everyone who might stand to benefit from the success of a broader plan and resulting strategies and actions.
Start with Core Values
If your financial life planning strategies and activities do not align with your values then sooner or later you will feel some measure of stress and/or anxiety and, ultimately, you will likely disengage from the process. What are values? The Oxford English Dictionary defines values as: “a person's principles or standards of behavior; one's judgment of what is important in life”. I could not articulate the meaning any better. The issue is articulating values. A quick Google search generated 163,000,000 results for the search “defining your values”. A quick filter of the first couple pages of the search resulted in a few, what I would deem to be, helpful articles to start the exercise. If you need additional help, we can point you in the direction of a few tools to help in the process, including a digital values discovery tool from our partners at Morningstar Incorporated and The Legacy Company LLC. If you would like an invite to complete the online exercise or on your Android or Apple device with the downloadable app, please contact our office for an emailed invite.
Or you can use the Values discovery exercise in our own Vision self-planning tool, which you can download here: https://360pwm.com/resources/natural-wealthr-toolbox
Determine Your Life Purpose
Your values will determine your life purpose or your aim or reason for doing things on a day-to-day, weekly, monthly and annual basis. Think of it as a sort of compass by which you live your life and make choices as far as life, work and play are concerned. In the Natural Wealth™ Process, we see it as your over-arching reason for embarking on a financial life planning process.
Articulating a life purpose can be extended to a household as long as everyone is aligned on values. An understanding of values and life purpose can be a powerful energizer and teaching tool in families for those who take the time to share the concept with their children. It can be articulated in a sort of “Family Mission Statement” shared with all members of your household. In my humblest opinion, it can sometimes make parenting easier when everyone understands and agrees on what guides choices and actions in various situations within a family. Articulating it should leave no surprises as far as consequences in the event of bad choices by a member of the household.
Set Goals in line with your Values and Life Purpose
With an understanding of what makes you and your household tick, emotionally and philosophically speaking, you are now much better equipped to set goals and objectives for yourself.
I have adopted a three-question approach in my life This approach keeps me aligned with my values and purpose and helps me filter and prioritize my goals in real-time. I go through the exercise regularly, sometimes weekly, often monthly and quarterly, and always yearly, each year at the end of the calendar year. I have shared this three-question exercise with many of you over the years. I have had enough personal experience and feedback from clients over the years to know it works. For those of you already familiar with it, forgive me for repeating it but I just think it is too beneficial an exercise to not share it with those not doing it or something similar to make sure “they are climbing the right ladder”!
The three questions are:
- What/Who do you want to BE?
- What do you want to DO?
- What do you want to HAVE
The answers to “What/Who you want to BE?” are about who you wish to be and what you wish your family to be known for collectively. If contemplated correctly it will often include answers like “I want to be happy. I want to be a good spouse or life partner. I want to be a good parent. I want to be helpful. I want to be successful. The list goes on… Just keep writing answers. You can categorize and simplify the list if you like later. Just write things down that resonates with you. The answers you right down here are, in all likelihood, “values and life purpose” focusers.
The answers to “What do you want to DO?” are made up of the activities you want to do and experience in life. Call it your “Bucket List” if you like. It is essentially a list of things you want to accomplish and experience, given enough time health, and where necessary, money, in your lifetime. Your “Do’s” can be career-oriented, family-oriented or lifestyle or travel-oriented. There are no boundaries as long as they are legal (because if they are not there may be consequences for you and those around you!) and they are not harmful to anyone around you. Have fun with the question. No answer is silly. Dream big. You can filter them later. Sometimes a “DO” answer might even reveal another value you had not previously articulated in a previous exercise….
The answers to “What do you want to HAVE?” are the possessions you want to own in life; things like houses, vehicles, cottages and camps, boats and other recreational vehicles, furniture, art…. In short the “stuff” we want to have. We need a roof over our heads in Canada in the winter, but whether one buys a residence or rents will be a function of their values. Once we get past a home, functional clothes, and adequate food, everything else is probably optional, if you really think about it. I know people who live without a car... By choice. They seem to be quite happy renting one when they need one. In fact, a car (or two or more!) in every garage is a very North American phenomena. This is not the case in other parts of the world including some places which have a higher “happiness” index than we have here in North America. The point I am trying to make is that more stuff does not equate to more happiness. In fact, in many cases, it leads to less happiness! It takes life energy to earn the money and pay the taxes to buy possessions and take care of them over their serviceable life. We can easily become hostage to our stuff if we are not careful. Think carefully about what new things you want to have. To clear, I am not advocating for an austere life where you don’t own a home or other possessions. On the contrary. In some cases, our lifestyle requires we buy and own certain possessions to live the life we wish to live. All I am asking is that we are mindful when we make purchases of new possessions of both the upfront cost and, the ongoing expense of owning possessions and, the trade-offs we might have to make, in time and income, in order to own each of our possessions.
I can’t emphasize enough that the critical element in the BE-DO-HAVE vision planning exercise is the order in which you answer the questions. BE before DO. DO before HAVE. It is essential you ask them in the order I am proposing in order for the exercise to work the way, I think, it should. Again, the first question, “What/Who do you want to BE?” is the values and life purpose focusing question. It can serve as a filter for the answers to the DO and HAVE questions. You will quickly identify any DO’s or HAVES’s that are not aligned with your values if you take the time to use your answers to the BE question (which will often include values and life purpose insights) as a screening tool and prioritizer for DO and HAVE answers Your gut will guide you on which DO’s and HAVE’s are aligned with your BE answers. Trust me on this!
Call or email me if you have any questions about the Values, Purpose, and Vision exercises discussed here. Building a Vision and sharing it with people you trust, who are empowered to help make it happen can yield significant results! If you work through the exercises and articulate goals and objectives you want us to help you achieve for yourself or your family, please feel free to share your work and notes with us. We will incorporate your Vision into a wider financial life plan and develop strategies to make your Vision a reality!
David J. Luke, CFP, RFP, CLU, CH.F.C., CIM, RIAC | 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