8 Smart Personal Finance Moves in '08 by Don Taylor, Ph.D., CFA, 12/27/07

The financial planning field is moving, ever so slowly, toward the ideas put forth by George Kinder and Susan Galvan, the founders of the Kinder Institute of Life Planning. Kinder and Galvan focus on helping clients identify and prioritize their goals and dreams before working on a plan to help the clients achieve those goals. I think that's a good thing. Link.


Financial Advisor Magazine, October 2007

Kinder Institute Co-Founder Goes Solo

    Susan Galvan, who teamed with George Kinder to create the Kinder Institute of Life Planning, has left the organization to start her own company aimed at promoting life planning among financial advisors.
    Galvan’s new company, Galvanic Communications, provides consulting and training to financial services firms who want to incorporate more holistic communication skills into their practices.
    “George is really focused on the training and methodologies we’ve created and articulated,” says Galvan, who co-founded the Massachusetts-based Kinder Institute in 2002 and served as its chief executive officer. “I have a much broader view of how I can contribute to what I see gaining momentum—the shift from product sales to client service. I think that’s a monumental shift and a culture change for most companies.”
    Galvan says she wants to go beyond the life planning mantra by exploring what comes before and after. Regarding the former, Galvan wants to teach the relationship skills and techniques that can enhance client service without necessarily going all the way into life planning. For those who adopt the life planning approach, she wants to help advisors fully realize their aspirations.
    Galvan runs a virtual office from her home in the San Francisco Bay area, and her daughter, who is based in London, works with European clients. She plans to tap into a network of advisors she helped train at the Kinder Institute.
    “Susan made wonderful contributions to the Kinder Institute,” Kinder said in a statement. “While we will miss her many talents, we wish her well in her new endeavors.”

CFP Board Report

October, 2007

Recently, the “client-centered” philosophy has been championed by the Lifework$ Collective, a think tank of industry leaders comprised of Carol Anderson (president and CEO of Money Quotient), Susan Galvan (president of Galvanic Communications, co-founder and previous CEO of the Kinder Institute of Life Planning), Sheryl Garrett, CFP® (founder of the Garrett Planning Network), and Marie Swift (president of Impact Communications). The group outlined its approach in “Heart of the Matter,” an article in the March 2007 issue of Financial Planning. “A client-focused approach requires that you examine and nurture four interrelated dimensions of your professional life,” the Lifework$ founders wrote: “that you be true to yourself (Authenticity); that you explore the values of each client (Understanding); that you commit to the highest standards and activities (Implementation); and that you communicate your unique value proposition (Articulation).”

Inside Information, by Bob Veres

For two days following the FPA conference, financial planning business coach Tracy Beckes hosted 60 of her clients and various influential friends in the planning world at various venues near her base in La Conner, Washington (north of Seattle), beginning with a reception at her home where the deck and windows offered spectacular views of the ocean. Most conference attendees have heard Beckes’ business tagline, which invites people to strive for an “Effortless Business/Outrageous Life.” Based on the successful industry members in attendance, and on the fun everybody seemed to be having on the whale watching tourboat the next day, she is attracting people who believe that both are possible. Event attendees were able to see that Beckes does indeed “walk her own talk.”

For experienced advisors, the hallway buzz becomes the most valuable part of a conference experience. At this event, the buzz occurred next to the scenic Puget Sound instead of in a conference hotel. Anyone who believes that advisors get tired of talking about financial planning could have caught Susan Galvan’s conversation about life planning with Elissa Buie and Susan Bradley, San Diego planner Jim Freeman talking about middle-market planning opportunities with Sheryl Garrett, or Rick Kagawa and Bryce James talking about how fractal analysis can be applied to the equities markets.

The Back-to-Nature Boomers, by Bruce W. Fraser

Financial Advisor Magazine, September 2007

Susan E. Galvan, co-founder and CEO of the Kinder Institute, worries that many people are too innocent when it comes to this existence. “You’re living with nature, which is not always considerate,” she cautions. Galvan recommends that advisors help clients “research what’s actually involved in trying to be self-sustaining on the land. It’s very labor-intensive. Unless they’ve grown up on a farm or ranch, people need to experience it in some way for a year or two” before taking the plunge. “You don’t want to crush the dream, but the dream needs to be rooted in reality.” Read full article here.

Specific Elements of Communication That Affect Trust and Commitment in the Financial Planning Process

Deanna L. Sharpe, Carol Anderson, Andrea White, Susan Galvan and Martin Siesta

Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning (AFCPE)

This study used survey data from 554 planners and 128 clients of those planners to examine the relationship between specific communication tasks, communication skills, communication topics, and client trust in and commitment to their financial planner and to the financial planning process. Communication skills significantly correlated with client trust and commitment were identified, providing an empirical basis for best practices in the financial planning process. Results provide empirical support for CFP Practice Standards relative to planner-client communication tasks and for planners taking a life planning approach to the content of planner-client discussions. In AFCPE's research journal, Financial Counseling and Planning. Read it here.

Don't Worry, Be Happy by Jeff Schelegel

Financial Advisor Magazine, May 2007

The relationship between money and happiness has been debated by philosophers, studied by psychologists and increasingly considered by financial advisors when it comes to handling clients. “I think the planner must begin by answering the question of what matters most to the client,” says Susan Galvan, co-founder of the Kinder Institute of Life Planning. “If you haven’t listened well enough to hear what matters most, the connection between money and happiness in the financial plan won’t ever be met.” Read it now.

Psychology and Life Planning by George Kinder, CFP®, and Susan Galvan

Journal of Financial Planning, March, 2007

Because of the depth of mutual trust, the sense of intimacy, and the encouragement of positive life changes that occur in the life planning relationship, many planners express concern that such an approach implies that they would somehow be taking on the role or functions of a psychotherapist. This article, adapted from the recently published book, Lighting the Torch: The Kinder Method™ of Life Planning, addresses those concerns. Read it online here.

The Client-Centered Advisor by Susan Galvan, Carol Anderson, Sheryl Garrett and Marie Swift

Financial Planning Magazine, March, 2007

"What matters most?" This question lies at the heart of the four relationships that anchor the client-centered advisor in a richly fulfilling professional practice. What matters most to me, my clients, my peers and my prospects? A professional who embraces these types of questions is grounded and client-centered. This article will attempt to communicate key philosophies and best practices for client-centered advisors to give financial planners a new way of thinking about fiduciary duties, service delivery and public communications. Read it here

Retirement Conversations, by Marie Swift

Research Magazine, March 2007

All participants agreed that they, as financial advisors, are more likely to create successful planning relationships by drawing out their clients’ true passions. “This is one of the reasons that George and I wrote Lighting the Torch, ” says Susan Galvan, CEO and co-founder of the Kinder Institute of Life Planning ( “Planners know they need to be doing something more, something beyond just crunching the numbers, but they’re not sure how. They need a methodology to follow.”

What's Different about Holistic Financial Planning? by Howard Wolosky

Cover Story, Practical Accountant Magazine, November, 2006

Some planners, especially with regard to retirement planning, are taking a so-called "holistic approach" to counseling clients. A great deal of time may be spent exploring the individual's lifestyle, what makes them happy, and how they picture the "perfect" retirement. Susan Galvan, co-founder of the Kinder Institute of Life Planning, and Kevin McGirr, a CPA and financial planner who has trained with the Kinder Institute, weigh in on how their brand of holistic financial planning is different. “It’s not just a menu item to Kinder-trained life planners,” says Galvan. Read the entire article now.

Article: The Evolution of Life Planning by David Drucker

MorningStar Advisor, August 18, 2005

If life planning is all about discovering one's passions and executing a plan to realize them, that's exactly what George Kinder and Susan Galvan have done by creating the Kinder Institute and training other advisors. So says industry guru, David Drucker, in his feature length article on this respected industry Web site. “If we can train 100 advisors each working with 100 clients, Susan and I have much more leverage than if we just do life planning with our own clients,” says Kinder. “We want to see advisors living rich lives, taking the work they've done on themselves and helping clients do the same thing. When we hear about people completely shifting their lives around, that gives us meaning."

Media Review: EVOKE™, A Life Planning Methodology, by Bob Veres

Inside Information, April 2005

Industry sage, Bob Veres, reviews the EVOKE™ article written by George Kinder and Susan Galvan and published in the Journal of Financial Planning (April 2005). The article includes a brief description of Kinder's personal journey in formulating the life planning concept and a mini-case study of EVOKE™ in action, “but the real meat is the procedural process that advisors can follow or adapt,” Veres says.  If you subscribe to Inside Information, you can read the entire media review at If you are not an Inside Information subscriber, contact us to request a copy of the full media review.

Feature: EVOKE™, A Life Planning Methodology, by George Kinder and Susan Galvan

Journal of Financial Planning, April 2005

Financial planners have always consulted with their clients concerning their goals, typically from the point of view of money goals rather than life goals. Quantifying future goals and doing a technical analysis of factors such as risk tolerance, age, and retirement income needs have been the norm. Moreover, a client's internal messages about money can sabotage even the best of these financial plans. Today's economic environment is, however, complex, and inspires an approach that is both more nimble and more penetrating. Views of retirement—what it is and how it may look—are rapidly changing. Opportunities to re-vision the future at any age exist for both client and planner, allowing a joint exploration of meaning and purpose in the client's life. To allow this deeper and more realistic approach, the advisor and the client must build higher levels of rapport, a relationship based on trust and greater self-knowledge. Read full article now: Article

Article: When is enough…enough? by G. Jeffrey MacDonald

Christian Science Monitor, Work & Money, March 28, 2005

In an ironic twist, the very factors that allow for material success can and sometimes do undermine the ultimate goals: personal fulfillment, good health, strong relationships, and other things that make life worth living. Faced with that pattern, some planners are becoming part-counselor, part-philosopher, as they ask clients: What is the purpose of money? Do you acknowledge the limits of what it can achieve? How much money is enough, anyway? In Life Planning, the brainchild of Massachusetts financial planner George Kinder, the process for knowing what's truly enough begins with an introspective inventory. "You can only come to that figure of how much is enough when you know what will truly fulfill your client," says Susan Galvan, CEO and cofounder of the Kinder Institute. Read full article here.

Article: Improve Your Relationship Skill Set, by George Kinder and Susan Galvan | Review by Bob Veres

Inside Information, March 10, 2005

Industry Guru Bob Veres gives good marks to "Improve Your Relationship Skill Set," an article written by George Kinder and Susan Galvan for Financial Planning magazine (March 2005). "This was written by two people to take seriously in the life planning world," he says. "But half a page is simply not enough space to give meaningful advice on how to deal with clients in a high emotional state around a money issue. About all they can do is tell you not to rush in with a solution, because that will bottleneck the flow of emotions, leading to intensified emotional distress. Just listen at first, and then empathize with the feelings." Read the entire article here.

Article: It's Never Too Early to Save by Caille Millner

San Jose Mercury News, February 11, 2005

Financial advisers are unanimous on this point: People in their 20s are in the best position to save, because they have so many years ahead of them for interest to compound. It's possible even with debt, advisers say, if young people make the right choices. Credit card debt is cited as one of the major crises our culture is facing. "And many don't even realize that they're digging themselves a hole", said Susan Galvan, executive director of the Kinder Institute. "To save money," Galvan says, "it's necessary to shut out the noise of advertisements and peer pressure and ask: What do I really want from life?"