I’m still buzzing from the Financial Life Planning conference, which took place in London at the end of January. The minute I walked into the conference room it felt like a family gathering. There was a sense of familiarity, warmth and openness there, and I felt a sense of belonging that’s not usual in the world of financial services!
I was also excited about having a chance to participate in a panel discussion covering how I’ve integrated Life Planning into my work to meet the needs of the mass-market.
Life Planning is a new approach to financial advice, developed by the US-based Kinder Institute. It offers a radically different perspective, with a focus on the client as a person rather than financial products. The process involves working together through a series of exercises and questions to get to the heart of what is really most profoundly important in someone’s life, and only then assessing what financial architecture is needed to make it happen. So money is put in its rightful place – as the means, where the end is a fulfilling life, rather than treating money as the end in itself.
I came away from the conference full of ideas, and inspired by the many stories that had been shared about the impact of Life Planning on client’s lives. It made me think about my own story and the process I went through in discovering who I was and what I had to offer.
Back in 1999 I was living in London and working as an Independent Financial Advisor. Superficially I had it all: good earnings and lifestyle, lovely flat, great circle of close friends, yet I felt that something was missing. What followed was a bit of a journey of personal development. I began to understand myself more and uncovered some of the blocks to my own self limitations. Six months later I decided to quit my job to fulfill a life-long dream of travelling the world. I declined the offer of a sabatical, so that I could take a clean break and be free of any ties.
I returned after a year away and had a different perspective about my work. I didn't want to compromise in any way and created my own unique definition of success. What evolved for me, amongst other things, was a clear vision that I wanted to use my financial knowledge and skills to help people in a different way. It was no longer especially about helping people increase their wealth, it was much more about helping people use money to help them live their dreams and overcome barriers that got in the way.
Slowly the Wise Monkey concept took shape. The financial advisory world was never quite me – I can now see that I always offered more of a coaching service alongside the advice I provided. Shaping my vision was like putting a jigsaw together and one of the final pieces was the word ‘coach’. What I wanted to do didn’t exist so I had to create it, developing the language, tools and processes to fit the way I work with clients. I then trained in areas that would best support my clients – including coaching and NLP.
I became interested in Life Planning through the work of the founder, George Kinder. His interpretation of people’s journey with money really resonated with what I was doing - there was a synergy there so we met to explore how we could work together. I took part in one of his workshops and seeing the power of the questions and exercises, I decided to undertake the training myself.
I completed the training in 2011, including a six-month mentorship programme, and I’m now one of about 100 Registered Life Planners® (RLPs®) in England. I love feeling part of a team with the common aim of helping people live fulfilling lives, and the depth of trust and friendship that develops with clients through sharing their hopes, dreams, fears and pain. For me the life planning process is one new tool in my tool kit, and a very powerful one. I use the techniques in my own way, integrating them into my financial coaching practice. Because I take a flexible approach, I’m able to be open to new developments in the field and use them to respond to the needs of my clients, so my work is constantly evolving.
Click here for more information on Financial Life Planning.