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Posted on March 30, 2020

Setting Financial Goals? Focus on a Life Vision Instead

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By Abbey L. Henderson, CFP®, RLP®, CPCC®, Wealth Advisor –

My client looked at me and said, “I want to educate my children and retire at 65.” This is the kind of answer I hear every day when I ask my clients what they would like to accomplish with the rest of their lives. They answer me by telling me about their goals. This is not surprising since we’ve all been taught that setting specific financial goals is important.

But have you ever considered the limitations that come with setting financial goals?

This may surprise you, but when you think about it, goals do not motivate or inspire. Why is that? Merriam-Webster defines a goal as “the end toward which effort is directed”. Notice that there’s no mention of creativity or greatness. With goals, there’s no sense of “dreaming big,” or dreaming at all for that matter. Goals carry with them a weighty sense of obligation and are often dictated by society’s conventional definition of “success”.

It’s no wonder many view setting financial goals as a means to an end. Instead of enjoying the process, it ends up being a mundane series of steps you take to check all the boxes on your financial planning to-do list.

Knowing Your Why

When you know “why” you’ve set certain financial goals, creating your financial plan will fill you with eager anticipation for the future.

Author and speaker, Simon Sinek, in his TED Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” talked about the importance of asking “Why.” He said, “Knowing your WHY gives you a filter to make choices at work and at home that will help you find greater fulfillment in all that you do.” That absolutely holds true when it comes to finding fulfillment in our financial choices.

Let’s take my client who wanted to retire at 65 as an example. I asked him, “Why do you want to retire at 65? Why do you want to educate your children?” In answering those questions, he saw that making connections with his family and leaving a legacy were the “why” driving his desire to retire. For him, retirement meant creating experiences with his children and grandchildren and teaching them about philanthropy.

Before he considered why he was setting these financial goals, they weren’t particularly motivating to him. He had just looked at his retirement expenses as a function of current expenses and then calculated what he needs to save in order to create that cash flow. But now he had a detailed vision, which made his approach to savings more meaningful and tangible than the traditional method.

Vision, Not Goals

Your personal financial vision, not your goals, should drive your wealth plan. 

Try asking yourself “why” when it comes to setting your financial goals. You’ll find it gives you permission to go beyond the standard answers of “educate and retire” and really tap into what you truly desire for yourself. Until you achieve this insight, there will be a disconnect between your goals and your fulfillment.

On the other hand, when your vision is so detailed that you can see it, feel it, hear it and taste it, you’ll be motivated to take action and enjoy the journey.

What I’m describing is a very results-oriented approach called financial life planning. I’ve seen time and time again how clients who use this approach leave the office excited to implement their plan. Not only have they clarified their values and vision, they also have a clear roadmap on how to get there.

Instead of setting humdrum financial goals, are you ready to join me on a fantastic journey? Feel free to schedule a complimentary Financial Life Plan Discovery Session with me to learn how to make your personal financial vision a reality.