Something life changing happened to me…

2nd December 2016

I heard about Life Planning from some very experienced Financial Planners who told me how engaging with this process can facilitate ‘freedom’ for an individual.  Now, freedom is something which is very close to my heart and anything that can be used as a tool in facilitating that freedom, in my eyes is fantastic! I wanted to know more.

So there I was early on a crisp and sunny November morning, walking from Euston Station towards Regents Park to begin a two day course on Life Planning during which I would come to learn 3 really important things….

I found myself in a room with 25 Financial Planners of all different ages and with varying degrees of experience. George Kinder (the father of Life Planning) was presenting…wow!  I’ve read a few of George’s books and have been really enthused with his writings.  This was my time to meet him in person and really engage with this process.  This was going to be great!

I had feelings of excitement but also nervousness as I didn’t know what to expect.  Some of the things George talked about sounded a little weird…but I knew I was about to learn something new; in order to make the most of it I had to engage with the process.

During the course, I paired up with different people and we discussed a range of subjects.  But there was one big difference…the other person had to stay silent and really engage in listening.  So the first really important thing I learnt was about listening, I mean really listening.

Listening is about letting your thoughts and distractions go and really engage with the other person as if they are the only person in the room; it’s all about them.

I always thought I listened well, but one thing I found in the exercises was that I had thoughts and I usually found myself formulating my response as the other person was speaking and therefore not really listening at all.

Another exercise involved exploring attitudes around money which stemmed from childhood experiences.  Through this process we came to understand that the way we deal with financial issues today is often a result of things we observed as children.

For example, some people said they hoard everything through fear of losing what they have, as they grew up in poor families.  Others would spend money excessively to the point that they didn’t have anything left at the end of the month.  This was because as a child, they felt they never had anything and therefore they wanted to live their lives to the full (as far as they saw it!).

So the second really important thing I learnt is that, while my financial behaviour has been influenced by my perception of my parents and others around me during my childhood, I am in control of whether or not I hold on to those “childlike” habits.

On the second day of the course George demonstrated how, with a combination of great questions and good listening skills, we can help our clients identify what is really important to them. We practiced these techniques in our pairs and I was amazed at the outcome. As a result of this process many people in the room realised that they were putting a lot of time and energy into things that are actually not really that important to them.

So the third, and most important thing I learnt is that it’s amazing how we can live our lives focusing on areas which, in the grand scheme of things, are not important at all when we should be  paying attention to the things we truly value; our heart’s core!

Now, what has ‘Life Planning’ got to do with Financial Planning?  Well, George Kinder argues that “Life Planning is Financial Planning done right!” and I agree with him.  What seemed weird to me before doing this course is not weird at all.  Isn’t it right that I understand my clients’ values and what’s really important to them before we talk about their money?

Well…this whole experience has been a real eye-opener for me and one which will stay with me forever.  Financial Planning done right really puts the client at the heart of the process!

Richard