True Life Financial Planning as a Case Study

When I work with clients through TLFP, I walk them through a process known as “financial life planning.”  I’ll save the history lesson about the approach for another time, but it should suffice to point out that it’s an approach that is very much focused on helping clients discover what a meaningfully significant life would look like for them, then removing the obstacles that stand in the way.  TLFP is very much a product of my own financial life planning work, and I’d like to share with you how I arrived here, as a framework for helping you think about what your life plan might look like.

My work with clients starts with three deceptively simple questions, followed by exercises designed to hone in on what really drives them in life.  What’s been buried down in the core of their heart, constantly pulling at them (sometimes despite their best efforts to squelch it in favor of a life more “acceptable” or “normal”).  Going through these exercises myself galvanized a few things that I already knew about and uncovered a few I’d completely forgotten.

I’ve been called to be a financial planner for over 15 years.  It’s a call that I tried to ignore for the first 5 years of my career.  Spiritually, I have a need to feel that I am serving others in my work; that both my clients are not just better off because we met, but that they’ve received no less than the full benefit that I am empowered to bestow upon them.  I want to serve more than just a small subset of the fascinating people that I meet.  At the same time, I have a deep longing for the sea, and a strong desire to share that love with my children.  I love being their soccer coach, and one of the dads who can show up to help out at school.

As I was deciding the next chapter of my life, I intentionally built my practice around the life that I want to live, instead of the other way around.  TLFP is a virtual financial planning practice.  Not only can I serve clients all over the world, I can do so from wherever I have an internet connection.  In a more traditional setting, I’d realistically only be able to serve clients in Dallas.  I’d be tied to the brick-and-mortar office, both in the sense of geography and time.

I work with clients on a monthly retainer, instead of the traditional method of only focusing on a percentage of assets I’m managing.  Shifting that compensation paradigm has allowed me to work with clients that other advisors could never take on.  If your livelihood comes from a percentage of the assets you put into the stock market, how can you afford to help clients who invest their money into their own business or their real estate?  How can you afford to help younger clients who have excellent cash flow, but who haven’t had time to build a sizable nest egg?

Most importantly, how can I consider my work to be the best it could be if I’m only looking at the “math and money” portion of a client’s financial life.  Money exists to empower lifestyle.  The life HAS to come first.  Nowhere else have I found this to be more clearly expressed than in this excerpt from George Kinder’s Life Planning for You:

“We have been conditioned to think that a financial adviser’s office is all about money.  This is a tragic mistake.  Human lives are at stake… Financial planning is not about money.  The human life comes first. Let’s find out… what the life is that is meant to be lived.  Then, and only then, can we apply the financial architecture to make it happen.”

It’s entirely possible to live the life that you’re called to, and probably much sooner than you think.  I’m living proof.

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True Life Financial Planning as a Case Study

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