Traditionally, financial advisors who create personal financial plans for their clients tend to focus mostly on the numbers in their clients’ lives – their asset levels, their cash flow, their savings plans, their net worth. This data-driven approach can be used to project their likelihood of “success” in retirement. And while this kind of planning can be helpful, we at Chicory Wealth know that this is just one aspect of the process and there is much more to a personal financial plan.
We actually use the term “financial life planning” to describe what we provide to our clients. Number crunching is important, but it is certainly not the entire measure of a life and is only the beginning of a life plan. A life includes values, beliefs, priorities, habits, stresses, anxieties, relationships, life transitions, unexpected changes, and much more. Our job is to help our clients better understand this interwoven tapestry so they can be proactive in creating and maintaining a full and meaningful life. We do this by meeting regularly with our clients and getting to know them on a deep level; helping them articulate their values, goals, and aspirations; gathering financial data as well as qualitative information; and helping them create a personal financial plan that is holistic, flexible, and life-affirming.
For us, this life planning process has five basic stages:
Looking Back. In the first stage, we seek to gain clarity about our client’s unique frame of reference, beliefs, perspectives, and preferences that have influenced their financial life to this point. Understanding the life events that have shaped a person’s engagement with money helps us to better understand them. This process can also help them understand themselves better, as well as their loved ones who may be impacted by their financial decisions.
Looking In. Here we focus on the client’s current financial and life circumstances. Then, using proven processes, we help them identify and clarify their true values and priorities. A personal financial plan should reflect a person’s most cherished dreams and aspirations and help them prepare for future transitions.
Looking Out. This is the stage in which we help clients identify and develop their intrinsic aspirations and goals, as well as their vision for an ideal life. We look at “what if” scenarios that could affect this vision. This process is important to creating a successful personal financial plan that links directly to the person’s goals and continues to inspire them to achieve these goals.
Beginning the Journey. This is the stage in which we articulate the financial life plan we have created together. We summarize and clarify the client’s values, goals, priorities, and potential transitions that have been uncovered. We provide specific, actionable recommendations that support their vision, specifically in relation to such things as cash flow, savings (how much and where), insurances (how much and what kind), overall asset allocation review (asset class and risk profile), legacy planning, and more. These are our recommendations for helping clients realize the vision they have created and prepare for the inevitable uncertainties that may arise.
Staying on the Path. We hope and expect that these first four stages will be the beginning of an on-going professional relationship with our clients. As our clients’ financial life planners, we help them implement their personal financial plan and maintain their focus on the goals and priorities they’ve named. We help them build resilience and confidence in dealing with the unexpected obstacles that inevitably come along. And we’re with them to nurture and celebrate their progress toward more mindful, financial decision-making and well-being.
Traditionally, personal financial plans have been limited to quantitative data. At Chicory Wealth, we believe people are better served by a financial life plan that provides much more than numbers, charts, and graphs. Instead it should be a holistic and flexible plan that can help lead to a more meaningful life and ultimately, a better world.