What is Life Planning?

The creation of a life-centered financial plan focuses on the client and is designed to help him or her establish financial well-being as well as a meaningful life. In order to create a comprehensive financial plan, the advisor must first of all get to know the client. This of course includes gathering all the relevant financial information: investments, account statements, legal documents, tax returns and such. But even more importantly, the advisor also needs to gather personal information from the client such as goals, aspirations, dreams and values. The management of money assets is then guided by what is most important for the client to accomplish in living a richly meaningful life, and the financial plan is structured to support the realization of those life goals.

The process of getting to know the client in this deeply personal way is what has been called “life planning” or “financial life planning.” Some say that it is simply financial planning “done right.” It is planning that clearly focuses first on the human being who has financial assets, rather than the assets themselves.

Money touches every aspect of our lives. It can act as a facilitator for accomplishing our most significant goals, or it can seem to be the greatest obstacle to living the life we envision. Decisions around money and finances are often highly emotional as a result, and particularly when they arise as a result of either experiencing or planning for such painful life changes as death, divorce, disability, job loss, or natural disasters.


Every advisor has had client meetings where emotions ran high, but few have had any training for how to assist the client through these difficult life transitions. Training in the skill set for being effectively present with highly emotional financial discussions and decisions is the other primary feature of the life planner, along with guiding clients through the goals exploration.

The life planner serves the client by guiding the comprehensive planning process to include what is most exciting, most challenging, and most potentially painful, while riding the waves of feeling generated by the engagement with confidence, competence and empathy for the client.

By merging meaning with money, life planning allows individuals and couples to review value and purpose in their lives – to assess whether their current lifestyle is as rich within as without. Incorporating meaning, passion and purpose into a life design becomes the dream of midlife – a dream that is often blocked because of money issues or concerns. In the life planning relationship, the advisor is able to help the client not only unearth the profound and meaningful dream, but to devise a strategic financial plan to make the dream a reality.